December 4, 2005
Oriana Fallaci in New YorkBy Jack Kemp
Last Monday night, the Center for the Study of Popular Culture gave Oriana Fallaci the Annie Taylor Award (named after the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel) at a dinner in New York. I eagerly purchased a ticket to the evnt, expecting to like and admire her all the more, but was in the end disappointed at what I heard.
Ms. Fallaci, now 76 years old and suffering from multiple cancers as well as a throaty smoker's voice that makes her sound more like a Pole or a Russian than an Italian speaking English, divides her time now between New York and Italy. She is undergoing medical treatment in New York and the award ceremony was moved to that city so she would not have to travel.
Ms. Fallaci was introduced and lauded by both The Center's director, noted author David Horowitz, and Daniel Pipes, a Middle Eastern scholar who has come under his share of attacks on campuses around the US for his support for Israel as well as pointing out some things Islamists don't want to hear, particularly in public discourse.
I had previously read Ms. Fallaci's The Rage and the Pride, a passionate attack on Europe's political correctness, self—delusions and cowardice in the face of Islamofascism. She sees Europe becoming a colony of Islam. But I did not expect to hear her say Monday night, "I do not expect the West will win." Yet she did.
If someone has no expectation that the West to win, they have essentially given up on their fellow citizens of the West, the ones who have bought over one million copies of her recent book. I, for one, know whom I want to win: the West. But I cannot realistically assume that outcome will become reality. One thing I do know with certainty: if you give up on anything in life, you are through from that point on. And if you say a political situation is hopeless, you are de facto aiding the enemy, even if you hate them, as she wrote in The Rage and the Pride and repeated Monday night.
I must make some allowances for Ms. Fallaci's advanced cancer(s), but I can only allow for so much. If, in 1942, after the loss at the Battle of Kasserine Pass in Tunisia, the United States had concluded that the War was lost, that Germany controlled Europe and it was all over, Ms. Fallaci would not be free to publish her books or have her journalistic career. Churchill's advice to 'never give up' is the only realistic option when faced with an enemy committed to our destruction.
Good things have come from those who never give up. In the U.S., a teacher of the deaf and amateur inventor named Alexander G. Bell struggled though years of failed efforts to invent a device to help the deaf communicate. It became his telephone. We have seen a salesman with no higher education named Watson, who sold butcher scales and counting machines, grow his company into IBM. And we have seen a college dropout named Bill Gates create what is arguably a second IBM.
Ms. Fallaci, who said she that evening (and before) that she is an athiest, also voiced her support the public display of Christmas mangers and decorations. She understands what the prohibition of these displays is really about: a proxy fight for the public culture itself. She reported that
The evening's speech did not lead me to believe that Ms. Fallaci had changed any part of her old politics, but had just recognized people who wanted to take her homeland and kill her, an understanding that has not yet dawned on many other European leftists to this day. For all practical purposes, I contend, someone who says, in the middle of a war, that you will lose is hard to distinguish from an enemy who says you will lose. That may sound harsh and blunt, but harshness and bluntness is the coin Oriana Fallaci trades in.
Ms. Fallaci still found time Monday evening to lash out against Condoleeza Rice and the United States for supporting Turkey's attempt to gain admission into the European Union. With France's vote against allowing Turkey into the European Union, the short term possibility of Turkey entering the EU seems somewhat diminished. An article in the Washington Times quotes an anonymous Washington—based analyst as saying Turkey's game plan is to try to enter the EU in 10 to 15 years.
The United States has to balance various worldwide alliances, keeping friends close and, as the old saying goes, enemies closer. Turkey, an Islamic state bordering Syria and Iraq, is a very complex situation. Recently the US has gotten Turkey to let America use Incirlik Air Base for cargo shipments to Afghanistan and Iraq. While Ms. Fallaci can denounce Turkey for having a pro—Muslim outlook and radical political elements, I don't think Dr. Rice has that luxury. Israel has had good relations with Turkey for over 50 years, allowing regularly scheduled airline flights between the two countries, despite political differences. I believe the government of Israel is as realistic about Islamic states, probably much more than is Ms. Fallaci.
Ms. Fallaci also made the observation, while talking about her visit with the Pope, that the West wants nostalgia for religiosity, but not true religion. This criticism seemed myopic, coming from an athiest. It takes a lot of chutzpa to criticize someone else's lack of religious authenticity when you yourself have none, as stated by your own pronouncements earlier in the evening.
Ms. Fallaci definitely has plenty of chutzpa. She was an underground fighter against fascism as a teenager and never had a settled personal family life. She even wrote a book entitled Letters to a Child Never Born. Her life has been on the road, as it were, struggling against those in power, albeit with a pen and often traveling first class. And now she is fighting both European appeasement and her own physical cancers. I can only speculate what effect any medicines she takes may have on her, but I don't believe they change her basic personality or political philosophies. The only thing that seems to have changed is her current enemy.
Ms. Fallaci's speech's conclusions about what she is against (terror attacks, uncontrolled mass immigration, multiculturalism obliterating Judeo—Christian values, political correctness,, etc.), are easy enough to agree with. Perhaps she is saving her profounder conclusions, her best ideas, for a new book she is writing — one of the stated reasons why no recording devices were allowed that evening. I can only comment on what I saw and heard. She seemes to define herself by defining her enemies — and also by her pessimism.
It was a bravura performance by a self described "revolutionary" but the most difficult part of being a revolutionary writer is describing the new order and actually making the transition to being part of that new post—revolutionary order. We heard what Ms. Fallaci is fighting against, but we did not hear what system she is fighting for. Since she spoke of her right to personal passion and to hate people (mentioning Noam Chomsky and Ward Churchill by name), one can only guess at the limits of her hatred.
It was not Abraham Lincoln stating, "With malice towards none, with charity for all," but then again Lincoln was talking about people who shared a great many values and attitudes with his enemy both before and after the Civil War. Her whole life has been about the struggle for power.
I sensed that I was not the only person in the audience slighlt disappointed by Ms. Fallaci. The New York Sun described it this way:
Although some things are being saved for her book, her speech would have greatly benefited from at least a hint of the type of society she really would prefer after a victory over Islamic expansionism. In plain American practical terms, you can't beat something with nothing. And if you don't describe your alternative "something" to people, you are advocating fear without hope and inspiration. She has taken the woman out of leftist Europe and placed her in New York, but she hasn't taken the leftist European out of the woman.
Jack Kemp is not the politician of the same name. He lives in New York.