Jihad Watch Board Vice President Hugh Fitzgerald explains why Italy, out of all Eurabia, is a special case:
What makes Italy a special and hopeful case? All kinds of things. Compared to other countries in Europe, it has a much lower incidence of those two mental pathologies, anti-Americanism and antisemitism, which have been exploited so cunningly by those promoting Islam and the Arab cause, or causes. There is also the unusually high prestige accorded the profession of journalism, which goes back more to the days of Garibaldi. From Luigi Barzini to Indro Montanelli, journalism has been practiced as a high art. Montanelli’s “Stanza” (La Stanza di Montanelli) in the Corriere della Sera was a repository of his own, but also of collective, memories, about the Fascist period (il Ventennio) and after. If one wanted to know what Ciano had said to someone, or whether Croce was not blameless, or what Adolfo de Bosis, the father of Lauro de Bosis, taught, or what the Rosselli brothers did in southern France, or how the referendum on the monarchy affected De Gasperi, or why Forlani was around for so long, or what happened at the Fosse Ardeatine, or why Italy had to stick by its friend and protector the United States — well, La Stanza would tell you, and if you were a young Italian, you could learn a lot, in a very pleasant way, about the 20th century history of your own country.
And Italian newspapers, especially on the “terza pagina,” where cultural articles used to appear (and which today appear much further in), are of a level unknown anywhere in the English-speaking world. The poet Montale and the prose-writer Dino Buzzati both wrote elzeviri (feuilletons) for the Corriere; Buzzati was on its staff. And so many others might be listed — such as Manlio Cancogni. The word “journalist” in America means the lowly likes of Tom Friedman. In Italy it means something else. These things matter.
There has been a lot of nonsense in the Italian press about America and about Israel, but a lot less than one routinely finds in the English or French or Spanish press. What about Islam? Here the effect of two people stands out. One is the indomitable, high-cheekboned Oriana Fallaci, who in book after book has singlehandedly expressed what millions thought — but ne’er so well expressed — and what other millions had not thought, because they had not given a thought to the matter, but recognized in Fallaci’s description the truth of many matters. She is one of the most famous journalists in Italy and has been for forty years, because she traveled to the most dangerous places and interviewed all the heroes of the Italian Left. They were heroes, of course, merely because they were seen as anti-American and third-world, not because they had any intrinsic merit — such figures as Arafat, Castro, Khomeini, Khaddafy. But because of that, and because she herself had written a book about her lover, the Greek left-wing figure Panagoulis, who for years limped because of the bastinado inflicted on him by his Greek jailers, she had the credentials, all the credentials, she would ever need to fend off accusations of being “fascist” and “right-wing.” And she was, to boot, anti-clerical, the descendant of a long line of Florentine Republicans. As a girl of fourteen she even participated in the Resistance against the German soldiers who mined the trees and bridges of Florence when they retreated before the Allied advance.
And the second figure is the Egyptian-born “Muslim-for-identification-purposes-only” Muslim, Magdi Allam, who writes for the Corriere, who appears on the RAI (state-owned television), and who has been particularly good on exposing the taqiyya of local imams and Islamic leaders both in Italy (e.g. Adel Smith) and elsewhere in Europe. See his Lettera aperta a Tariq Ramadan — a fellow Egyptian Muslim by descent, but the real, Muslim-Brotherhood, thing.
There is Il Foglio, run by Giuliano Ferrara, whose belly belies his intelligence, and which is full of good articles on Islam.
There is a Pope who is not blinded to the nature, and therefore the menace, of Islam by single-minded focus on Soviet Communism — as was his predecessor The quiet cashiering of Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, who had headed the Vatican’s “dialogue” with Islam, a few months ago is not the only sign that those who have taken in reality are now on top, and are not about to give in.
This matters for Italy. But it also matters for French people touring Ravenna and Venice, and Germans on Capri, and British in Livorno, looking for Shelley in all the wrong places. For they will pick up, most likely, some of the local attitudes, and realize that yes, it is all right to be deeply suspicious, and even hostile to Islam.
And perhaps even more important is the effect on a certain American gratin, both academic and Hollywoodish, from the very strata of American society least likely to contain admirers of George Bush, and most likely to contain those mechanically opposed to the Patriot Act, Republicans, Christian fundamentalists and those who, as at this website, warn darkly and seemingly exaggeratedly of the dangers of Islam. Of course such people ignore the fact that the men they love to hate — Bush, Cheney, and so on — have not understood the full menace of Islam, and have sent others on the fool’s errand of creating a Light Unto the Muslim Nations through “democracy” and lots of toys and good things to eat delivered by the Americans, the hardworking and endlessly innocent Little Engine That Could.
These are the very people most anxious about appearing to do the right thing, creatures of intellectual and moral fashion. Willing to be against those who warn about Islam, but also willing, should those fashion winds shift, to take a different tack, and trim their sails to fit that fashion.
Now just imagine what could happen if George Clooney at his villa in Laglio, bought from Heinz Kerry (and where, to the outrage of the locals, Clooney tried to have the waterfront closed to the public so that he could have it for his own private enjoyment — George Clooney, who Dares Speak Truth to Power, as long as that power is the HUAC back in 1954 and not a member of it is still alive, George Clooney, affable man of the people, as much a man of the people as check-pocketing Bill Clinton, or John Kerry himself — all of them men of the people). There he is, sitting having his morning collation, his charming Italian servants bustling about, and perhaps he engages one in conversation about what’s happening in Italy, something beyond the crash of a Ferrari as it took a lakeside curve at 4 a.m. up the road in Moltrasio. Now perhaps he will open the discussion up to her (that maid) or to him (that waiter) to see what they think and feel about the world. And if he does, and if the conversation gets around to the war on Iraq, and then one of them begins to speak, animatedly, about how that war “e stupido” and he asks why, and instead of giving him the answer he would expect, begin to raise their voices about how “purtroppo, a problema e qui, in Europa, in Italia” and then begin to tell him of the Muslims who demand this and demand that, are to be found in all the big cities, and now are spreading out so that they are even in places like Como, and soon will be in Moltrasio, in Laglio, at the gates of the Villa Carlotta. And why, George Clooney asks, is that such a problem?
And then he will get an earful. And if he is intelligent (and he is intelligent) he might actually listen, he might take some of it in. He might begin to realize that you can keep all kinds of views intact, and still share the views on Islam of such famous former left-wing writers, or freethinkers, such as Fallaci or Fortuyn, and perhaps you ought to jettison your prejudices and prefabricated ideas about those who warn about Islam. He could, and so could all the other salon Bolsheviks, learn a thing or two for those who actually have to take the subway or ride the busses or walk the streets in Rome and Milan and Turin, or who send their children to public school in Marseilles or Lyon, or who live in small towns where the mayor, who is not a fascist, nonetheless wishes to ban the burqa. You might even begin to think — well, perhaps those who feel most keenly what fascism, what totalitarianism, is all about are those who most keenly sense what is so alarming about Islam. Clooney won’t learn about that in Hollywood, but he might, from his servants, and so might other salon Bolsheviks, as they are waited on in their European salons.
And if it could happen to the spoiled denizens of Hollywood, it could also happen to professors, even those who still read with pleasure The New York Review of Books, at that summer house near Lago di Trasimeno, or in a hill-town near Todi or Pisa, or perhaps while on a long or short stay at one of those places — I Tatti, the American Academy in Rome, Bellagio, where in the common room you can pick up a Corriere and make out what is written by Fallaci or Magdi Allam or someone else who agrees with either or both of them. You can discover that it’s okay to dislike, to fear, to worry about, the belief-system of Islam. It’s okay to wonder what would happen to the artworks, to the civilization, of Europe — and even to your ability to spend time in that Europe — if and when the demographic changes lead to ever more unpleasant and expensive and physically dangerous conditions for all of Europe’s Infidels.
And so you return home. Some to Hollywood, some to universities. And you see things now in a new light, a light that your daily life in America, where you must think as The New Duranty Times or Bandar Beacon instruct you to think, does not contain the only take on reality that is possible. Tiens! you say to yourself. And who knows — you then might, just might, begin to do a little reading, a little thinking, about the matter on your own. It’s been known to happen.
Most people, most of the time, have no thoughts about anything. Intellectual fashion, the received ideas of the age, can be followed — you can choose the Liberal Outfit for Autumn, over here, or the Fall Conservative Collection, over there. If you are truly daring, you can occasionally wear a conservative scarf with that blouse, or that suit. But don’t mix ‘n match too much — the colors and styles will clash, and we can’t have that.
So all those glasses of fashion (half-empty and half-full) and molds of form will return home with a new, a European fashion — a fashion picked up in Italy. So that’s where it stands, ladies and gentlemen. Be the first on your Malibu Beach block, or is it your ranch in Colorado, Montana, or Texas, or your villa in Laglio, or perhaps even a house a few hundred yards down the road from Beetlebung Corner, where you are working on your next book, after that wonderful summer in Italy. And you hope to be the first on your campus block who, having returned from that villeggiattura, will be surprising guests at dinner parties and Seders and commencement-week hilarities, with your new and surprising views on Islam. Learned at a waiter’s knee, the waiter who serves you the cafe and cornetto, or possibly from what you could glean from the Italian paper, or from the some animated discussion on television about the state of Italy and the world.
It may not matter much how people arrive at having, or at least pretending to have, the right views — the views that will push public opinion, and those who make the laws, in the right direction. Even if it just starts out as being fashion, picked up on a stay in Italy. The deeper understanding may, in some cases, follow.
In war, one uses every kind of available and effective weapon. The weapon of fashion is also a weapon. The realization that many people will never think for themselves, but will follow fashion, or what they think is fashionable, or what they think they should think, should lead one to embrace even this use of fashion to create support for what is, after all, the truth. In the case of getting people to support the right measures to deal with the menace of Jihad, it is not how people came to hold or express the right views, but that they now do so. It is not the journey, but the arrival, that matters. And through the artful exploitation of all kinds of indirections leading toward that final goal, one can give the right directions out.
Now don’t you feel like taking a rest after all this? I know I do. Let’s have a caffe con latte, or maybe even a cappuccino, if I can find enough change in my pocket — no, please, it’s my treat, right here, at this cafe, where we can sit and watch half of the town’s population walking, arm in arm, talking animatedly, as they perform the passeggiatta. That table looks free. Would it be all right if we sit here?