Crimes of opinion

Turns out, contrary to my expectations, that Vagrius did publish Orianna Fallaci’s The Rage and the Pride in Russian a few months ago. I can’t remember any public outrage at the book or its publisher, not even from the large native Muslim community. There are plenty of other books published in Russia that are more offensive in both manner and substance.

To be honest, I only inserted that preamble to quote a charming, if stale, piece of news. AP reported from Rome on July 6, 2005:

Italy’s lower house of parliament voted Wednesday to modify the penalties for certain crimes of opinion — allowing for fines of up to euro6,000 (US$7,147) or 18-month prison terms for people who propagandize or instigate hate crimes.

I have read somewhere that Orwell borrowed the term “thought crime” from the Council of Trent, which has to be wrong since the Council surely meant sin, not crime, but who cares now? Certain crimes of opinion… it must be a broad class. I thought it belonged in Iranian or Saudi law though.


  1. Italy is totally fucked up, believe me. Oriana Fallaci is surely full of hate, but she needs be isolated by reason and the people’s common sense, not by the state with absurd bills.

  2. Fallaci’s overreach in ‘The Rage and the Pride’ is undeniable. So be it. Regardless, there is a more substantial strain throughout her jeremiad – and that more substantial strain itself is not negated by her overreach, even if it is distracting. I defended her, in part but substantially, here in a couple of posts and continue to stand by that defense. It’s also worth remembering she wrote in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, as a resident of NYC.

    To serve as a general contrast, I’ve yet to read any analysis or attempt at moral suasion without significant flaws. Most do not offend in the manner ‘Rage and Pride’ does at times, but such lack of offense often reflects the fact they are too guarded, too cautious, far too observant of politically correct and more sophisticated late modern pieties and presumptions. (This too is a generalization, obviously enough, but rightly understood generalizations can serve a probative purpose.)

    Inadequate attempts at coming to terms with Al Queda, et al. are seemingly reflective of crises within modernity itself. Fukuyama’s “End of History” thesis is a telling example thereof, though one glaring example only.

  3. To be honest, my inspiration for this post was the absence of quotation marks around “crimes of opinion” in AP’s piece. It’s as if AP seriously thought “crimes of opinion” was a valid concept.

    Speaking of Fallaci’s tone and intensity, her rage may help her get heard, and her “Rage” be read, in the West where most other voices are PC-muffled. In Russia, on the contrary, shouting aloud won’t get you heard because that’s everybody seems to be doing.

  4. To be clear, I was responding more to Fabrizio’s categorical assumptions and dismissiveness.

    I appreciate and tend to agree with what you’re indicating concerning how a “typical” Western reader interprets her tone vs. a Russian reader’s interpretation. In large part my own defense of Fallaci in ‘Rage and Pride’ stems from the assumption she was largely and consciously addressing a Western audience (and at times an Italian audience more specifically, if I recall correctly), one under the thrall of PC and more sophisticated late modern pieties and presumptions – both de jure and de facto. Hence her tone, one reflecting a jeremiad (even if excessive and imperfectly executed at intervals), is one conducive to moral suasion (more than analysis per se) within that broad context. Given those politically correct dogmas and self-blindings variously instituted and presumed in the West, a jeremiad reflects a warranted style imo, albeit one which is difficult to execute.

    Hence it is no mere coincidence that the very term “jeremiad” carries pre-modern connotations (pejoratively understood) and similarly the term “analysis” carries modern connotations, though I have no knowledge of the formal etymology of the latter term. This too, I strongly suspect, reflects more of a Western comprehension than a Russian one per se, though once again am drawing on intuitions here rather than any more certain knowledge. And of course when Western and Russian comprehensions are virtually equivalent or overlap vs. when they do not is a broader topic still – so am not presuming anything in this area either, at least not in a categorical sense.

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