Oriana Fallaci, dead at 77

The boss remembers. Dan Collins says she “was in some respects the Christopher Hitchens of Italy,” a description Hitch would not appreciate.

I read “The Rage and the Pride” a few years ago and wasn’t a fan of it myself, for reasons Hitchens articulates. The New Yorker ran a mostly flattering profile of her in May of this year that included this passage, which captures the tenor of “Rage” pretty well:

She spoke of a new mosque and Islamic center planned for Colle di Val d’Elsa, near Siena. She vowed that it would not remain standing. “If I’m alive, I will go to my friends in Carrara—you know, where there is the marble. They are all anarchists. With them, I take the explosives. I make you juuump in the air. I blow it up! With the anarchists of Carrara. I do not want to see this mosque—it’s very near my house in Tuscany. I do not want to see a twenty-four-metre minaret in the landscape of Giotto. When I cannot even wear a cross or carry a Bible in their country! So I BLOW IT UP!”

She didn’t blow it up, though. Unlike the enemy, when it came to Islam, her bomb-throwing was strictly rhetorical. Indeed, Fallaci’s vogue these last few years was, I think, a reaction to western leaders mindlessly chanting “Islam means peace” even as it becomes increasingly clear that huge swaths of Muslims have a decidedly nuanced view of what “peace” might mean. If even the great crusader Bush won’t take sides in the cartoon jihad, don’t be surprised that there’s a market for Fallaci. Western culture needs champions; if she was more boorish about it than some of us would like, well, it’s better than nothing. From the New Yorker:

Fallaci’s virtues are the virtues that shine most brightly in stark circumstances: the ferocious courage, and the willingness to say anything, that can amount to a life force. But Fallaci never convinced me that Europe’s encounter with immigration is that sort of circumstance.

Not that it would matter to her. “You’ve got to get old, because you have nothing to lose,” she said over lunch that afternoon. “You have this respectability that is given to you, more or less. But you don’t give a damn. It is the ne plus ultra of freedom. And things that I didn’t used to say before—you know, there is in each of us a form of timidity, of cautiousness—now I open my big mouth. I say, ‘What are you going to do to me? You go fuck yourself—I say what I want.’ ”

As rallying cries go, you can do worse than that. RIP.