The rage of The Economist

I had to read this dispatch by a Rome correspondent for The Economist a few times to see if I had missed anything: some hint of parody or that refined British sense of irony perhaps. Alas, the report was just as humorless, shrill, and petulantly PC as I had thought.

The subject is author Oriana Fallaci, famed Italian journalist and author of a few books that challenge the prevailing notions of Islam (“religion of peace”; “a few extremists don’t speak for the vast body of believers”; etc.). Fallaci is subject to prosecution under an Italian law against insults to religion, and she has been embroiled in similar disputes in France and elsewhere. So now pay careful attention to how the writer chooses to frame the story:

There is nothing al-Qaeda would like more than for Europeans to turn on Muslims in their midst, uniting fundamentalist militants with those who are neither fundamentalist nor militant. In that sense, Osama bin Laden won yet another victory this week with the publication of another hate-filled, anti-Islamic diatribe by an Italian writer who has become noted for such diatribes: Oriana Fallaci. Over the past three years, the 76-year-old Ms Fallaci has carved out a role as the voice of what might be a new European racism — were race, not religion, her primary cause.

Lest readers think I’m yanking it out of context, that’s how the piece begins. And it ends with a shot across the bow to anyone who would have the audacity to reframe this as a free-speech issue:

Some support for her is purely libertarian, based on the right to express opinions even if they are offensive, incendiary and blasphemous. But a lot also reflects sympathy with her views. Paradoxically, such sympathy is often expressed by the same people who were most impressed by Britain’s measured reaction to the London bombings. And yet that reaction reflected in large degree a belief in the virtue of the same multiculturalism that Ms Fallaci and her friends so despise.

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  • Meg Q

    (roll my eyes)

    Another great reason why I (actively) don’t read the Economist. I’m sure I’m probably missing some great writing. But I’m more than repaid for missing deliberately obtuse nonsense like this.

  • Beacon

    The Economist doesn’t ‘get religion’ either. It’s especially negative about those US evangelicals who challenge its libertarian, profit-driven view of the world and homo sapiens with obscurantist views on lucrative enterprises like embryo research, the sex industry, ‘gaming’ and the rest. The only god The Economist serves is Mammon.

  • Justine Surrat

    I don’t get it. How is the Economist article inaccurate? As I understand it, the backward, radical Islamists want all-out religious war with the infidels, a category which for them includes modernized muslims who want to live a Western lifestyle. So yes, diatribes by infidels inciting their side to anger, hatred and violence pretty much fits the jihadi program.

  • Paul Grant

    The Economist has once again confused multiculturalism with what Britain’s sociologists are now calling “conviviality”. Paul Gilroy’s excellent essay in Jan. 7, 2005′s Chronicle of Higher Education ( – subscription required – sorry!) says: “the pleasures of clustering and enclave economies have had to compete against an unruly, untidy, and convivial mode of interaction in which differences have to be actively negotiated day by day because people share public spaces that bring their interdependency and their common citizenship sharply into focus.”

    The Economist mistakenly views cool British response to the bombings as an eschatological liberal witness to the power of non-judgement. No, what we saw was a pragmatic decision to go on living in a society so profoundly integreted that race wars would be about as successful as Yugoslavia’s.

  • Terry Tee

    In all fairness, if I recall correctly, The Economist had a cover issue last December on the subject of growing veneration of the Virgin Mary, and of her appeal even across religious boundaries (eg she features in Islam, for example).

    That said, the article seems to be impaled on the classic liberal dilemma, which the writer has oh so ironically failed to discern. The dilemma is this: liberalism says that all views and cultures are equal, can be expressed and developed. But supposing some views and cultures are hostile to the very values that nurture liberalism and want to bring liberalism itself crashing down? This is the multicultural nightmare, and I would have thought that an Economist journalist would have shown awareness of it.

  • Jeremy Lott (of Shreveport, Louisiana)

    Hey man we have the same name!!