The fascists of free speech
A FRIEND OF MINE took his young daughter to visit the famous City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, explaining to her that the place is important because years ago it sold books no other store would — even, perhaps especially, books whose ideas many people found offensive.
However, it did occur to him that perhaps the long-delayed English translation of Oriana Fallaci's new book, "The Force of Reason," might finally be available, and that because Fallaci's militant stance against Islamic militants offends so many people, a store committed to selling banned books would be the perfect place to buy it. So he asked a clerk if the new Fallaci book was in yet.
"No," snapped the clerk. "We don't carry books by fascists."
Now let's just savor the absurd details of this for a minute. City Lights has a long and proud history of supporting banned authors — owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti was indicted (and acquitted) for obscenity in 1957 for selling Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," and a photo at the bookstore showed Ferlinghetti proudly posing next to a sign reading "banned books."
Yet his store won't carry, of all people, Fallaci, who is not only being sued in Italy for insulting religion because of her latest book but continues to fight the good fight against those who think that the appropriate response to offensive books and cartoons is violent riots. It's particularly repugnant that someone who fought against actual fascism in World War II should be deemed a fascist by a snotty San Francisco clerk.
Strangest of all is the scenario of such a person disliking an author for defending Western civilization against radical Islam — when one of the first things those poor, persecuted Islamists would do, if they ever (Allah forbid) came to power in the United States, is crush suspected homosexuals like him beneath walls.
But, although "The Force of Reason" is expected to reach the U.S. this spring, a City Lights clerk said when I called that the store has no plans to carry anything by Fallaci.
"You're welcome to buy her book elsewhere, though," my friend was told helpfully when he visited. "Let's just say we don't have room for her here."
OK, let's just say that. But let's also say that one of the great paradoxes of our time is that two groups most endangered by political Islam, gays and women, somehow still find ways to defend it.
Sure, they're within their rights to sell whatever books they want. But hypocrisy runs like a river in that city.