Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Last Night Alive

In the 50s sci-fi horror movie Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, a Professor Thurgood Elson is sent down in a diving bell to investigate the approach of a prehistoric rhedosaurus on the East Coast of the United States so that the Armed Forces can prepare for its defense. Momentarily forgetting his military mission, Professor Elson succumbs to his academic curiousity and delays having himself hoisted to safety while he continues to describe the morphological wonders of the monster until a break in the transmission informs the audience that he has left it too long. The absurd fixation on the irrelevant in the face of the impending was used by Dickens when he described Fagin's last night alive. The villain had almost tuned out the capital proceedings against him by occupying his mind with pathetic trifles.

A slight bustle in the court, recalled him to himself. Looking round, he saw that the juryman had turned together, to consider their verdict. ... He looked, wistfully, into their faces, one by one when they passed out, as though to see which way the greater number leant; but that was fruitless. The jailed touched him on the shoulder. He followed mechanically to the end of the dock, and sat down on a chair. The man pointed it out, or he would not have seen it.

He looked up into the gallery again. Some of the people were eating, and some fanning themselves with handkerchiefs; for the crowded place was very hot. There was one young man sketching his face in a little note-book. He wondered whether it was like, and looked on when the artist broke his pencil-point, and made another with his knife, as any idle spectator might have done.

In the same way, when he turned his eyes towards the judge, his mind began to busy itself with the fashion of his dress, and what it cost, and how he put it on. There was an old fat gentleman on the bench, too, who had gone out, some half an hour before, and now come back. He wondered within himself whether this man had been to get his dinner, what he had had, and where he had had it; and pursued this train of careless thought until some new object caught his eye and roused another.

Not that, all this time, his mind was, for an instant, free from one oppressive overwhelming sense of the grave that opened at his feet; it was ever present to him, but in a vague and general way, and he could not fix his thoughts upon it. Thus, even while he trembled, and turned burning hot at the idea of speedy death, he fell to counting the iron spikes before him, and wondering how the head of one had been broken off, and whether they would mend it, or leave it as it was. Then, he thought of all the horrors of the gallows and the scaffold--and stopped to watch a man sprinkling the floor to cool it--and then went on to think again.

Little wonder then, that when confronted with news that Oriana Fallaci's new book -- which sold half a million copies in hours -- warns that Europe is being turned into "Eurabia", the Left could find nothing better to say than cite it as proof that racism was on the rise in Italy.

"... the massive success of a new anti-Islamic tract by Ms. Fallaci, entitled 'Oriana Fallaci interviews Oriana Fallaci,' says Europe is being turned into 'Eurabia' by immigrants, added fuel to fears that unabashed racism is becoming increasingly acceptable in Italy.

Reuters continues the thought-crime theme. "Best-selling newspaper Corriere della Sera has come under fire for publishing a book by leading journalist Oriana Fallaci warning of an Arab invasion of Europe and criticising authorities for allowing it to become 'a colony of Islam'. In a full-page advertisement on Sunday, the newspaper said it had sold 500,000 copies of the book in a single day and had begun reprinting a second edition."  The Guardian spells it out:

Human rights groups warned yesterday that racism was becoming increasingly tolerated in Italy after the country's biggest-selling newspaper published a book by a veteran journalist which warns of an Arab invasion of Europe. The 126-page tract by Oriana Fallaci appeared on newsstands with the Corriere della Sera newspaper. In the book Fallaci makes sweeping criticisms of authorities for failing to stop Europe becoming "Eurabia" and "a colony of Islam", in a stealthy process she describes as the "burning of Troy".

Oddly, Fallaci interviews herself in the book, the third volume the New York-based journalist has written against Islam since the September 11 attacks in New York. The first two have been bestsellers in Italy and elsewhere. "This kind of argument does a lot of damage," said Luciano Scagliotti, head of the Italian branch of the European Network Against Racism. "We are very worried. Fallaci and others like her are using their popularity to create hatred. She is effectively telling thousands of people they must chase the Arabs out of Europe."

Instead of meeting these serious accusations head on, the Left declares the entire argument malformed, haram, taboo, inappropriate and therefore inadmissible. Fallaci's propositions are never allowed to evaluate to a definite value; they must remain, on pain of breaking the world, forever null. Like the old jailhouse story of prisoners being forced to drink out an unflushed toilet unless they confessed, where one prisoner complains that his rights are being violated because there's a fly in it, these newspaper responses miss the point by such a margin that one suspects they are on another planet; in a universe where Islam can never, like Christianity before it, consist of humans struggling to reform their faith. That would grant unacceptable equality to those who are fated to play the role of victims. In that twilight, blinkered world, Darfur, Kashmir, Ambon, Mindanao, Nigeria, Madrid and 9/11 disappear entirely while mock horror at racism fills every available space. And the toilet is fine but for the fly.