Thoughts on 'Interviews With History and Power' by Oriana Fallaci.
I never know what to do with a borrowed book, specially when it is lent to me because the lender thought “I could enjoy it”. So I decided to write you a brief opinion about it. I was going to jump straight to the two iranian leaders as I imagined that’s what you had implied when you said some of the people could be of my interest (according to my bookshelves), but I read it in order. And at the beginning I did not understand why the recommendation. I got to Khomeini’s and I read Oriana’s reflection on the meaning of the word “revolution” and everything made sense.
— I’ll get back to that in a moment, but there were few things from some of the other interviews that just stuck to my mind —
Very specifically, Robert Kennedy’s: “But there are also people who do like me: after all, they elected me, didn’t they? Poor people like me. Negroes and Puerto Ricans, for example. The marginalized. They’re with me, I know they are”. I think I’m being too picky here but I hated that sentence. I struggle to understand how Mr. not-that-Kennedy identified with a negro, or a puerto rican, a marginalized, a poor. How comes Mr. Senator identified with a colony* that couldn’t even vote for a president at that time (nor can’t even do it now in ‘modern’ times). How comes Mr. I-don’t-have-bodyguards-he’s-a-friend identified with people they only see when it’s convenient or simply hear about. But anyway he got shot. Mr. When-I’m-through-how-about-you might have not meant it, but he did took his brother’s place. At least he created an art moment.
— I think I got a bit too intense there, but even after re-reading it that’s a paragraph I just could not withdraw —
More generally, since we also mention the ‘intention’, what is actually the intention of the book? It is not arranged in chronological order, and not all the interviews are treated in the same way. Pre-interview, Kennedy is portrayed just as a rigid man, the Dalai Lama as a hippie and Golda Meir almost as a saint. Also pre-interview el-Qaddafi and Khomeini are ridiculized even though their conversations were enough to achieve the same result. The interview to Bazargan is included but it is not listed. And there is a whole introduction to Khomeini’s interview that could be used as an introduction to the book, why using it just there? What is the intention?
(Quick parenthesis) The other day I was reading in a newspaper a criticism about Inna Afinogenova, a russian journalist who used to work for RT and then an RT-branch targeting Latin America. At the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war, almost at the same time of the ‘western’ censorship of russian media, she renounced from the RT-branch, moved to Spain and continued working as a journalist in a channel that ‘leans to the left’ and targets Hispanics. One of the important points in the criticism was that even now that she does not work for the russian government, more than a journalist she is called to be ‘just’ an anti-western propagandist. I laughed when I read it: the ‘western’ journalist who wrote that article seemed to actually believe they themselves are more than propagandists!
And linking it to Oriana Fallaci’s book of interviews, this ‘propagandist’ term came to my mind. I, biased, found in her book a very propagandists intention (and the intention to hide it), although I struggle to find exactly what it is (besides the I think obvious american-european centrism, but I believe that’s very difficult to get rid of). And I think this in general is a pity! I would have enjoyed much more to read a chronologically ordered book or even just a conflict-ordered book as I believe she kinda intended to.
— At the end of Khomeini’s interview I searched a little bit more about her. Seems she got old and leaned to the extreme(?) right. She even wrote some anti-islamic texts. I guess in the western** world as far as it is not anti-semitic it is alright to hate —
And I don’t mean to discredit anything of what she wrote but to contextualize my point of view. So I now make my opinion of her opinion based on my view of her intention: ‘western’ propaganda***. And this, only because I want to make a quick mention to our talk about the word ‘revolution’, which I think is what brought us (me) here. She makes two statements I consider important: 1) following what you mentioned at some point, that a revolution should be something slow, so that the population can move along with the changes, otherwise it is just a coup d’etat, i. e., just a change of the regime’s faces. And 2) that a revolution is a change towards something good. She even goes beyond and uses ‘involution’ as an antonym of ‘revolution’.
I do not agree with neither of these points. I see a revolution as an abrupt event with traceable consequences, but which not necessarily changes the whole structure or set of properties of something (call it state, government or the decision-making structure). Like a phase transition in a material. The second point is less interesting to me, at least in the matter of the definition, as “better” is a extremely subjective term. I would’ve preferred she had directly used “more western-like” or even “more western-dominated” so I wouldn’t have to put a lot of words in her mouth (although I expressed before this would be a very biased opinion). Anyway it’s just a matter of semantics.
— But I think in propaganda the semantics matter —
Besides her reflection on the meaning of the word what intrigued me more was the intention behind the discourse. As I see it, it is a way to discredit the islamic revolution only because it did not metamorphosed into a beautiful butterfly but in transformed into an uglier worm. And I disagree with this, because whether the change was slow or abrupt, democratic or imposed, good or bad, after the change of regime there was a change of ideals and of culture that one can’t, and should not, diminish. On one hand because it is the culture and history of a country, and on the other hand because if someone ever wants to evolve this into a better situation they cannot just ignore what has happened before and move forward. Or well, I guess they can, and simply leave people behind. But I cannot cope with these ‘western’ ideas, or more specifically, these ‘western’ ideas about what the non-‘west’ should do in order to progress.
Anyway, thanks for the recommendation :) I did enjoy it, the different people and the different topics and scenarios. I don’t think it is something I would have ever selected myself.
Added afterwards [post-it]:
— “I don’t like the idea of the comments at all. It’s not honest, the reader should be making the comments” —
I wrote the letter without reading the last three interviews. I got a surprise with Lech Walesa’s interview, as he also pointed out Oriana’s comments.
Unfortunate that it was only Oriana the one asking the questions.
* But I’m being unfair. Of course by ‘puerto ricans’ he didn’t mean all puerto ricans but the puerto ricans in the U. S. Or better, the puerto ricans in N. Y. Of course, by ‘puerto ricans’ he didn’t mean all puerto ricans but the puerto ricans that count, and it is very difficult to count up to 100 × 35.
** I’ve removed the quotation marks because here I feel like agreeing with the ‘western’ definition of the west.
*** I do not call her a propagandist in a pejorative way as the ‘westerns’ imply when referring to the russian propaganda. I mean it purely as someone who disseminates non-objective information, and only because I believe subjectivity is inherent to humans.