I just sent in a real blockbuster to The Corner, a story that shows you what happens when sublime political correctness slides effortlessly into self-caricature. Here’s the stuff I sent to The Corner, and then I’ll have a couple of comments:
Never Mind Demography, Italy Died Today
It’s the end of Italy as we knew and loved it. Something called “The Garantor forst issued an edict, which has immediate effect, forbidding “all information organs” (that means us, all of us, even the New York Slimes) from spreading stories that:
1. Refer to private behavior that has no public interest (which, for any normal Italian, does not exist by definition. ALL private behavior is publicly interesting in my extended experience in that country);
2. Concern facts, details and circumstances that go beyond the essentials of the information;
3. Deal with details of private lives of persons in violation of the protection of their “sexual sphere” (I particularly love that one, and I find myself asking where I can go to buy a good sexual sphere).
This will be published in Friday’s “Gazzetta Ufficiale,” which gives it full force, and penalties will range from 3 months to two years in jail, and entitle anyone who feels his/her privacy (or sexual sphere) has been violated to sue for damages.
I know you can’t believe it, and you’re thinking I must have mangled the translation, so here it is in the original:
Il Garante per la protezione dei dati personali nel provvedimento vieta «con effetto immediato» a «tutti gli organi di informazione di diffondere notizie, in particolare quando:
1) si riferiscano a fatti e condotte private che non hanno interesse pubblico;
2) riguardino notizie, dettagli e circostanze eccedenti rispetto all’essenzialità dell’informazione;
3) attengano a particolari della vita privata delle persone diffusi in violazione della tutela della loro sfera sessuale».
Il Garante sottolinea inoltre che «la violazione di tale provvedimento, che sarà pubblicato domani nella Gazzetta Ufficiale, costituisce reato punito con la reclusione da tre mesi a due anni ed è fonte di responsabilità per una eventuale richiesta di risarcimento danni.
When I studied Italian, way back in the mid-sixties, I discovered that there was no word for “privacy”; indeed, when the idea crept in to Italian life, it was just lifted from English. The Italian word for privacy is “privacy.” For a long time, the very idea was alien to tradition, and in many parts of the country it still is. In Naples, for example (about which I have just finished writing a book), privacy has long been simply impossible, because the density of the city, and lack of anywhere to hide for all but the wealthiest Neapolitans, means that most everything that happens is seen (and most definitely heard) by someone, usually by lots of someones. Furthermore, like most normal human beings, Italians love gossip, and one of the attractions of Italian newspapers and magazines is that they are full of it. I mean, the word Papparazzi isn’t English or German, is it? That should tell you something.
This “Garantor” was created to protect personal data from snoopy investigators, marketers and, I rather suspect, scholars, especially sociologists. It might also have something to do with banking information. It is part of the European regulation of all aspects of human activity, part of the deadening of the European mind.
We are very jealous of our privacy, but we are also zealous about the protection of the free press, for all its evils. The Italians seem to be taking the first and chucking the second.
I don’t think it will stand up, but I can’t wait to read the editorials tomorrow morning.