Monday, June 15, 2009

Sharp Anger And Ridicule In Italy At Xenophobic New York Times Rant

Posted by Nicki

[above: Lake Como north of Milan, click for a larger image]

Posting again from Milan. This looks like becoming an international incident. Perhaps the US State Department should step in.

Timothy Egan, a Seattle journalist, wrote an offensive and largely fact-free blog about the innocence of Amanda Knox on the New York Times website last Wednesday.

This blog by Egan was widely quoted in Italian television and print-media reports and dozens of Italian blogs are now acidly commenting.

We are sure the New York Times will be reporting on what they have provoked. Today La Nazione has this editorial.

Timothy Egan is a former journalist, currently accredited as an authoritative New York Times editorialist, a self-proclaimed “Honorary Italian Citizen” to the point of sending his children to school in our country - how kind of him - a true hero.

Sustained by this pandering premise, the day before his compatriot Amanda Knox’s first deposition, on trial for the murder of Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Egan elaborated a sober editorial with a “balanced”  title “An Innocent Abroad” where Egan doesn’t show the slightest doubt when having to choose between national pride and his shaggy fondness for Italy and its democratic principles, let alone judicial.

Amanda is innocent, a victim of an obsessed, powerful and hotshot Italian prosecutor. She is been persecuted and ruined by “vulture journalism and a careless prosecution”.

If this is the balanced approach of someone who is not risking 30 years in jail and has retirement money stacked aside, it is no surprise that Amanda, a student supported by her family, and with a very uncertain future, is holding on to her defense line, and even claiming that she was beaten at the Questura

Leaving aside details of the trial development, in this event there are all the cultural contradictions of an unresolved national tendency to self-harm, which authorizes many foreign observers to look at Italy still wearing the blinkers of mafia, pizza and mandolin.

Shall we try for once to get rid of the oh-so-lovely parodies by Sordi and Villaggio [see explanation at bottom] and declare that we can’t take it anymore?

Prosecutor Mignini did well to decide not to react to the provocations. And the Police Union did even better in reacting, to announce legal action against Miss Knox.

Yesterday Florence woke up with the terrible nightmare of an eighteen year old student, another American, who during the night had reported having been raped next to Piazza della Signoria, furthermore right under the eyes of the city police.

The red alarm only lasted for a few hours. In the end the girl, after recovering from the last effects of the amounts of alcohol she had ingested, fell apart and retracted everything.

Far from wanting to indulge in stupid generalizations, as Egan in his furious attack against Italy does, the story of the young drunk Americans caught urinating in the Nettuno Fountain, right in Piazza della Signoria, has become an example of unbearable lack of respect.

If we really must accept lectures from the Americans, at least they should be lectures in civilization, and not in imported Wild West culture. Differently, we too may use a very, very sober title, in order to stress our reply to Egan’s patriotic reflections:

“An Indecent Abroad”

A.Sordi and P Villaggio are famous comedians known for satirizing Italy’s country’s social mores in pungent black comedies, farcical tales and grim drama in post-war cinema through the 80’s.


How I understand this anger… I lived in Italy for 5 years, 5 wonderful years.  Culture, taste of life, and a natural skill for beauty.

It is exasperating to read the opinion of people who, most of the time, have visited Italy - if ever - with a tour, hop hop hop let’s go to the next city, careful the pickpockets, hop hop hop… or forging their opinion with movies ...

Amanda Knox has a problem, guys, a big one. And if they free her, you will have to deal with it yourself, be careful what you wish for!

Posted by Patou on 06/15/09 at 08:02 PM | #

Hi Patou. Italian-Americans I talk with around New York are deeply offended and ashamed that a component of the American population seems to be trying to sabotage a fair trial via xenophobia.

Here is one acid comment on Egan’s strange rant by a blogger who is not inside Italy. Miss Represented has kindly agreed to guest-blog for us on this, most probably tomorrow.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/15/09 at 08:15 PM | #

I think the PR campaign may right now be realising a fundamental fact about this case which Egan has just manged to prove for them.

There is growing but stiil-limited interest in the case in the US and the reports they engineer on CBS and ABC and so on no longer seem to have much traction. Many people are either bored by them or flat-out disbelieving. So a blog like Egan’s attracts a few hundred readers at most, and makes really very little difference here.

In Italy in contrast the interest is very considerable and every major media outfit has resources on the case. In consequence Egan’s rant and others like them get HUGE readership in Italy and do nothing but harm to Amanda Knox and her cause.

If the PR campaign were to simply shut down, that would probably do her the most good. Though it does rather seem that she could have used less help BEFORE rather than after her testimony.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/15/09 at 08:43 PM | #

the op-ed pretty much nails it. this xenophobic nonsense needs to stop. as far as i can tell the police have been on top of this case from the outset, therein lies the problem for the lying drugged up tart and her compatriots. the only things she can claim are botched forensics or they hit me/pressured me. not once has she given anything nearing a coherent logical explanation. she lied and continues to lie.

Posted by mojo on 06/15/09 at 10:32 PM | #

It doesn’t cease to amaze me how certain people associated with this case are quick to rubbish reporting in Europe but yet take articles by Egan and co as top level journalism and right on the button.

Admittedly, it’s hard not to be biased in this case at this point. We’ve simply heard too much information to remain impartial.

But that said, all any reasonable person hopes for is to read articles that give a balanced view of the facts of the case and keep an open mind.

This includes not calling on the expertise of Paul Ciolino! How can this man be balanced? He’d made his mind up before the trial had started and tried to twist the evidence with laughable witness re-enactments.

What does amaze me is that, looking at the comments on the Egan blog, is that some people are taken in by this rhetoric.

It surprises me less when I think back to a comment that I believe was left on Candace Dempsey’s blog which read…“how would you feel if you were locked up in a third world country?”

That’s the world view we’re dealing with here from an element of Americans that think traveling constitutes going to Subway on the other side of town because their regular’s shut, so I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised by some of their reactions.

Posted by mikeyverve on 06/16/09 at 12:07 AM | #

A magnificent editorial by La Nazione, succinct, hard-hitting and extremely accurate. Thanks to Nicki for translating and presenting it to us.

La Nazione wrote: “Leaving aside details of the trial development, in this event there are all the cultural contradictions of an unresolved national tendency to self-harm, which authorizes many foreign observers to look at Italy still wearing the blinkers of mafia, pizza and mandolin.”

Indeed, the markers of ethnocentrism are littered throughout Egan’s post which, as La Nazione quite rightly point out, is deeply confusing especially when we consider that the NY Times journalist is a “self proclaimed ‘Honorary Italian Citizen’”.

Someone with a good reputation for journalism and who claims to have respect and love for Italy should be more responsible, especially when writing about a case which has garnered so much attention there.

The Anti-Italianism surrounding this case really needs to stop. Not all Italians are mafia dons, cheesy lotharios or fat balding men with big moustaches that sit around all day eating, sleeping and shouting ‘mamma mia at regular intervals. In the same way that not all American girls in Italy make false claims of rape and pee in the Nettuno Fountain.

‘An Indecent Abroad’ could not be more accurate. Timothy Egan’s article was shameful, spiteful and rude. A deserving comeback from La Nazione and extremely timely and important.

Posted by Miss Represented on 06/16/09 at 12:20 AM | #

Ciao,  Great post, Nicky + all comments.

Interesting how/if this will influence the development of the case, i.e the defence of Amanda. I suppose her lawyers will not take the risk now of creating more public hostility towards Amanda than necessary. And still, how the jury and the judge interprets facts and sort ‘meat’ from ‘fluff’ are the crux of the case.

Best, Fiori

Posted by Fiori on 06/16/09 at 12:41 AM | #


Thank you so much for sharing this brilliant, scathing and well-deserved response to Egan’s sorry excuse for journalism last week. What a refreshing wake-up and smell the coffee moment.

Apart from the disrespect to Italy’s criminal justice system, the attitude displayed in so much of what has been written about the case implies that Italy (among other European countries) is a great place to go for certain kinds of experiences, including ‘educational’ experiences, but in such a way that even seeking ‘education’ becomes a kind of entertainment and betrays an attitude of entitlement and exploitation. Because when it comes to intellectual or political discourse, there is really no good faith interest in exchange, in seriously considering or learning from other viewpoints.

It was truly shocking to read in a venue like the NYTimes the number of people eager to respond to Egan with “oh those #%&@*! foreigners!”

This case, rightfully, has become a lightning rod for this issue. It will be interesting to see situations like this corrected with Europeans and others worldwide openly calling Americans on their arrogant nonsense.

Posted by wayra on 06/16/09 at 02:08 AM | #

I’m glad that some other people have noticed how US news sources are presenting a very slanted view of what’s going on with this case.

I’ve been following this case (almost) religiously for the past 9 months and am by chance living in Milan for the summer. It’s funny seeing the case from both sides. And I find it unfortunate that so many American reporters paint a picture of Italy as truly having it in their interest to prosecute two innocent angels.

Which leads me to wonder: when the Amanda Knox PR campaign says that there’s no evidence, what is evidence?

Is a knife compatible with the wound and containing the suspect and victim’s dna, at a third person’s home (supposedly in a show box in the closet) not evidence? How possible is it that a mistake is made with DNA testing? Are the footprints with the suspect and victim’s DNA not evidence? (and were these left after the floor was cleaned?) Or the fact that they have NO ALIBI?

I think these examples are ‘evidence’ enough to substantiate a trial… but I’m not a lawyer, either.

My other question involves the mention of AK’s three phone calls to her mother—brought up in court this weekend and on a debate between AK’s father and a group of Italian reports I just watched (unfortunately I understood very little).

What time where these three calls placed- before or after the murder was discovered?

I think this makes a big difference. If I heard my roommate had been murdered I would call my parents even if it was 3 in the morning.

...but I also might make the call if I thought something very bad I did was about to be discovered.

Posted by Autumn Stinar on 06/16/09 at 03:03 AM | #

Hi Autumn, it certainly is very interesting to read your perspective from Italy. A comment first on the reporting.

We have found to be truly excellent the reporting of Newsweek and the Seattle P-I which both have reporters in Italy. And the Italian and UK media range from good to excellent, with none repeat none of the tabloid quality that is so often being bandied around. And NBC did do an incredible Dateline report last December.

But as for the media here other than Newsweek and the Seattle P-I the performance ranges from mediocre to poor. The NY Times has much to answer for here. American media largely take their lead from the Times, and if it is doing a good job of investigating, all will probably go well.

In this case it isn’t. Their only reporter on the case, who flies occasionally from New York, is not a crime reporter herself, and seems confused and bored with the case. There is a ripple effect all through the media.

The worst report in recent months was a CBS 48 Hours report saturated with bias and PR spin. Followed a close second by an ABC 20-20 segment ten days ago, which was a long rant at Italy combined with a lovefest for Knox and her parents.

Typically NO Italians appear, not even one. The CBS piece had only one foreign voice, that of Nick Pisa of the UK, who must surely have felt embarrassed. The ABC report had NO foreign voices at all.

NY lawyers following the case say there appears to be 2-3 times the evidence normally required for a US conviction. I had to email links on evidence described here today to a new reporter on the case (a high-powered one) who had to meet a deadline, and even I was surprised at how much there is.

This post by Nicki on the knife is really important reading.

And here Finn analysed all the calls Knox made, and concluded they just didn’t add up.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/16/09 at 05:12 AM | #

Hi MfromBoston. “U.S. news reports can be incomplete or insulting at times.  Many Americans ignore the U.S. media for these reasons.”

Both points seem to ring true.

Although CBS and ABC reports of the case here have just bashed the Italian and UK media as “tabloid” in fact they have been fair, honest and comprehensive as far as we can see. In fact, as far as anyone can see, for we link to them 10 times a week.

Hearst’s paper-version Seattle PI recently went down the tubes, and the TV networks are forever shedding viewers. Contacts at Manhattan’s journalism schools have said both trends are avoidable if, while there are resources, really deep reporting goes on.

The paper-version Seattle PI did a disappointing job of digging locally on this case, and ran a juvenile editorial attacking the prosecutor after he protested at being slimed all the time.

And now it is dead. You reap what you sow, I guess.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/16/09 at 03:26 PM | #

It’s interesting to see the American media resorting to xenophobia when the ‘Italian Way’ turns against them.

I’d be interested in their comments if they were to observe here first hand, how these mid-west American girls are the first to exploit the lack of gender-equality legislation in Italy. I’ve seen plenty in the workplace.

You just need to see the sickening tart-trash-tweetie-bird tactics of Amanda Knox to know what I am talking about.

She honestly believes she will get away with it, and that the world is totally blind. Personally I hope she gets life and it acts as deterrent for others like her to come here.

Poor Meredith.

Posted by LIBBY on 06/16/09 at 08:36 PM | #

Peter, when is Amanda on the witness stand again? Surely these two days are not the only time she will appear.

Given the build up I wonder if we can expect a crescendo of impotent rage from the US media as she continues…

Posted by TT on 06/16/09 at 08:57 PM | #

Hi TT. We are not sure what her defense will do next. Perhaps they are not sure either!

This is very fluid. They can recall Amanda back to the stand any time if they think a second pass will get it perfect, but she does come across as a less than ideal fit with the claims she is making.

Lawyers watching the case here had thought her best bet might be to go for a “guilty-lite” position, in which she admitted to some things, but blamed the rest on the others.

It may not have been very clear from our trial postings 10 days ago, but the experts from Rome very convincingly proved that Meredith had been moved (about three feet, toward the bad) several hours after she passed away.

Judge Micheli considered that one fact as damning for her as any of the DNA, blood and luminol evidence.

Who else, he wondered, would have any motive to rearrange the crime scene? She did not even get to Square One on that question. Or many dozen others.

Posted by Peter Quennell on 06/16/09 at 10:53 PM | #

Hi Libby,
It’s not true there is lack of gender-equality legislation in in Italy. Amanda is only being Amanda, a cunning manipulator -as described by two female judges when motivating their refusal to release her-.

Posted by Nicki on 06/17/09 at 02:38 AM | #


Not only equal opportunity in legislation, also everyday practice: Italy does pretty well re female representation in selected critical professions (like forensic science) as well as in the unmeasurable: everyday life, culture and social power.

Dont get Rai and TG wrong: Despite Donna-Italy allowed to appear in meter high heels, lace-bra, sunglasses, blonde hair and the obligatory tatoo, the contemporary donna is as sharp as they come, and has probably - at least - as much power as anywhere in the world.

Posted by Fiori on 06/17/09 at 09:33 PM | #

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