Oriana Fallaci, R.I.P. Back in the 1960’s, Oriana Fallaci was a “brave,” leftist, feminist hackette. Her iconoclastic interviews were praised by the chattering classes for bringing the genre to the heights of postmodernism: She was lauded for doing for journalism what Susan Sontag was doing for fiction. But whereas the latter progressed to become an apologist for jihad and died as a self-hating degenerate, Fallaci’s old age brought her wisdom and true grit. She died on September 14 as an outstanding defender of our culture and civilization against the onslaught of barbarity from without and betrayal from within.
For some 20 years, Fallaci was famous for her political interviews with the great and the mighty, including Deng Xiaoping and Henry Kissinger, who later wrote that his 1972 interview with her was “the single most disastrous conversation I have ever had with any member of the press.” On his own admission, he had been flattered into granting it by the company he would be joining in Fallaci’s “journalistic pantheon” but realized too late that it was more like a collection of scalps.
Fallaci’s once-famous reportage has not aged well, and, on the strength of it alone, her death would have attracted scant attention. In the aftermath of September 11, however, she became a fierce critic of jihadism and an outspoken opponent of Muslim immigration to Europe. Her book The Rage and the Pride—a provocative extended essay initially published by Italy’s Corriere della Sera—caused a sensation. While countless bien-pensants and talking heads were prompted by September 11 to explain to the masses the peaceful and tolerant nature of “true Islam,” Fallaci understood what was going on: “A war that they call Jihad. Holy War. A war that might not seek to conquer our territory, but that certainly seeks to conquer our souls. That seeks the disappearance of our freedom and our civilization. That seeks to annihilate our way of living and dying, our way of praying or not praying, our way of eating and drinking and dressing and entertaining and informing ourselves. You don’t understand or don’t want to understand that if we don’t oppose them, if we don’t defend ourselves, if we don’t fight, the Jihad will win. And it will destroy the world that, for better or worse, we’ve managed to build, to change, to improve, to render a little more intelligent, that is to say, less bigoted—or even not bigoted at all. And with that it will destroy our culture, our art, our science, our morals, our values, our pleasures.”
Fallaci had no qualms about contrasting Islam with the West, and she despised those who, in an effort to evade the truth, downplay and minimize the differences between the two civilizations: “It bothers me to even talk about ‘two of them,’ to put them on the same plane as though they were two parallel realities of equal weight and equal measure. Because behind our civilization we have Homer, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Phydias, for God’s sake. We have ancient Greece with its Parthenon and its discovery of Democracy. We have ancient Rome with its greatness, its laws, its concept of Law. Its sculptures, its literature, its architecture. Its buildings, its amphitheaters, its aqueducts, its bridges and its roads. We have a revolutionary, that Christ who died on the cross, who taught us (too bad if we didn’t learn it) the concept of love and of justice.”
Yes, I know—the old agnostic went on—there is also a Church that gave me the Inquisition, the torture and the burning at the stake. But Fallaci, who was granted an audience with Pope Benedict XVI last year, readily recognized the contribution of Christianity to the history of European thought, “the inspiration it gave to Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael, the music of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, to Rossini and Donizetti and Verdi, and to science that cures diseases . . . ”
The learning curve of Oriana Fallaci on the issue of Islam may be traced back to her famous October 1979 interview with Ayatollah Khomeini, soon after the fall of the shah, when she took off her chador in the middle of the proceedings. His political and social views were hardly a revelation to her, but his passing comments on the music of the West shook her deeply. The old man declared dryly that it “dulls the mind, because it involves pleasure and ecstasy, similar to drugs,” instead of exalting the spirit as it should. “Even the music of Bach, Beethoven, Verdi?” Fallaci asked, to which Khomeini curtly replied, “I do not know these names.” He went on to allow for the possibility that, if Western music could be found that does not dull the mind, it would not be prohibited: “Some of your music is permitted. For example, marches and hymns for marching . . . Yes, your marches are permitted.”
For once, she was genuinely horrified. As she told the New Yorker earlier this year, “I am known for a life spent in the struggle for freedom, and freedom includes the freedom of religion. But the struggle for freedom does not include the submission to a religion which, like the Muslim religion, wants to annihilate other religions. Which wants to impose its ‘Mein Kampf,’ its Koran, on the whole planet. Which has done so for one thousand and four hundred years. That is, since its birth. Which, unlike any other religion, slaughters and decapitates or enslaves all those who live differently.”
As an astute analyst of world affairs in her mature years, Fallaci knew that the Islamic genie, released by the United States (thanks to Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski’s “excellent idea” to support Osama bin Laden and his ilk in Afghanistan in 1979), had come back to us like a boomerang. She recalled, in The Rage and the Pride, the footage of mujahideen attacking Soviet positions: “Do you remember those bearded men with the gowns and the turbans who, before firing their mortars, shouted ‘Allah akbar! Allah akbar!’ I remember them very well. I used to shiver hearing the word ‘Allah’ coupled with the shot of a mortar . . . Well, the Russians left Afghanistan . . . and from Afghanistan the bearded men . . . arrived in New York with the nineteen kamikaze.”
Unlike her beloved New York City, European cities would succumb, she feared, because of the Muslim demographic onslaught on the Old World, an invasion unparalleled in human history. This was a key theme of The Force of Reason, the best-selling sequel to The Rage and the Pride, published last year. It made Fallaci the subject of several “hate-crime” lawsuits in her native country, where a court in Bergamo indicted her for “defaming Islam.” In her final months, she was gripped by deep pessimism, lamenting the decline of Europe, which refuses to confront the “reverse Crusade” by the “sons of Allah.”
Europe, she declared last year in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, is already “Eurabia, a colony of Islam, where the Islamic invasion does not proceed only in a physical sense, but also in a mental and cultural sense.” What actually occurred, she wrote four years earlier, “was not an immigration[;] it was more of an invasion conducted under an emblem of secrecy—a secrecy that’s disturbing because it’s not meek and dolorous but arrogant and protected by the cynicism of politicians who close an eye or maybe even both.” The tolerance level was already surpassed 15 or 20 years ago, “when the Left let the Muslims disembark on our coasts by the thousands.”
Of course, she prompted countless howls of rage from coast to coast and from one side of the Atlantic to the other, from among the degenerates, cowards, masochists, madmen, and villains. (Christopher Hitchens, who is all of the above, has described Fallaci’s work as “a sort of primer in how not to write about Islam.”) They can relax now, and remember her as a “controversial author” who has been “harshly criticized” for “inciting hatred against Islam.” She will be sorely missed by those of us who know what she knew, and who abhor what she abhorred.