March 31, 2006

"It's not like grabbing your crotch, not that bad an obscenity."

But it's an obscenity, says Vito, from "The Sopranos" (Joseph Gannascoli), about that notorious hand gesture of the American jurist Antonin Scalia. Oh, go eat a big bag of small carrots! (Is that an obscenity?)

54 comments:

MadisonMan said...

My favorite detail in this story: the gesture was made minutes after taking communion.

This makes me laugh because when I lived out east, and would go to a Catholic Mass, there always seemed to be such a race to leave church as soon as possible after communion, not waiting at all for the closing prayers or recessional hymn. Just get out to the Car and drive to the Bess Eaton or Dunkin' Donuts out by the rotary.

It is very unusual, in contrast, to see someone leave mass early in the midwest.

I should add that I have no idea if Scalia actually did this, but it sure brought back those memories!

Bruce Hayden said...

Ann,

The article though seemed to indicate that the cast of the show was split, and that more than anything, they thought it was dismissive, more than obscene, which would be consistent with Scalia's comments.

I do find it interesting, and, indeed, good, that we can find ourselves in this debate. It shows how well assimilated many Italians are into our society today, so well assimilated that we can have both Scalia and Alito on the Supreme Court.

I buy the dismissive over the obscene, at least as Scalia's intent. That would be very much in keeping with his temperment. However, there may be some age or generational effect here, with the gesture evolving over time towards having a more obscene meaning. My guess is that the Justice is at least a generation, maybe even two, older than many of the Soprano's actors.

grumps said...

On WGN last night John Williams proposed this as the litmus test; If a letter came from your shool saying that your son had made the gesture to a teacher, what would your reaction be?

I hope that adds a little clarity.

Steve Donohue said...

Why must a Supreme Court member show deference to a reporter? Is the most analogous relationship that of a student and a teacher?

How about two friends talking? How about a college professor answering a question from a student?

I think the very question that we are having the debate over whether the gesture is obscene is evidence that it is not. If he had given the finger or mooned the reporter, it'd be obvious. But this is a gray area and no affront to common decency.

Palladian said...

Ugh, how long will this stupid story be stretched out? It's like watching a taffy machine all day, without the nice conclusion of getting to eat the taffy. I guess the media needs something to talk about, but it just seems ridiculous.

downtownlad said...

I think it makes Scalia look better.

There's nothing wrong with treating people with contempt. Why be civil to people you have zero respect for?

It's best if everyone was more honest with each other - and let their feelings come out in the open.

Scalia thought the reporter was a jerk. Who cares.

Ann Althouse said...

Giving the finger to a photographer is a time-honored way of making an unwanted picture unusable. Scalia stepped back from the classic gesture, a tough move for a traditionalist. Give the guy credit. The fact is they accosted him as he was coming out of church and pressed him with questions about law and religion. He was justified in giving them the finger, and he gave them less-than-the-finger. That's good enough in my etiquette book.

Mary said...

That's good enough in my etiquette book.

All due respect, you're not Catholic and have no reason to know better. (Plus, you might already be such a fan and biased to his behaviours.)

The reporters should have respected the place a bit more and not shouted questions, but I suppose they were aggressive and saw their big chance.

A judge, a Justice at that, should be able to politely decline their questions and not respond in kind until he's in his own setting. My 2cents, and I suspect some of the regular folks out there might be responding likewise.

Paul said...

Justice Scalia is my favorite person in the whole world.

CB said...

Someone with some photoshop skills should put Justice Scalia's head on this classic photo: http://blogs.indiewire.com/twhalliii/middle_finger.jpg

SippicanCottage said...
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Ann Althouse said...

I said: "That's good enough in my etiquette book."

Mary said: "All due respect, you're not Catholic and have no reason to know better."

WTF! I said in my etiquette book, not the Catholic etiquette book. So "all due respect," you're not me and have no reason to know better about what belongs in the Althouse etiquette book. Ridiculous!

Aspasia M. said...

Let me put it this way:

My Italian-American grandmother would be a bit taken aback if I had done this right after mass. (Calabrian)

She wouldn't be horrified, but she would be embarrased.

(And my grandmother is fluent in colorful insults.)

MadisonMan said...

Hey Mr Herald reporter. Io sono l'taliano-americano. Io sono siciliano-americano.

To be accurate, it's not the Reporter that reports the obscenity, it's the photographer.

CB said...

Hey, how come Blogger wouldn't let me put a hyperlink in my comment, but let other people? Did I do it wrong? I used li and /li tags around the URL.

TWM said...

I respect the man even more. Bush should have done something like this to Helen Thomas.

TWM said...

Oh, I should add that in years past it was bad for a politician to insult the MSM. It could and usually did hurt their careers. But now I think enough Americans have such distrust and disdain for the MSM that they like it when a politician insults some self-righteous reporter. The President's tough, yet civil, handling of Thomas made her look worse than him and no doubt Scalia looks better for this.

Gaius Arbo said...

Well, I've been posting about this smear campaign since it started. CB, I didn't use the classic photo you linked, but I did photoshop another picture.

http://bluecrabboulevard.com/2006/03/31/extra-extra/

Blogger doesn't support trackback pings or I would have sent you another one, Ann.

Mary said...

Geoduck and madisonman and I are all expressing a similar view, I believe.

You know, Professor, you really are at your ugliest when you deliberately try to misunderstand the point others are making.

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ShadyCharacter said...

Mary, I think people are at their ugliest when they overstay their welcome making a pest of themselves and start point out the ugliness of their host.

Allow me to make an introduction for you. Mary, this is civility. Civility, this is Mary.

ShadyCharacter said...

Also, Mary, you write: "Geoduck and madisonman and I are all expressing a similar view, I believe."

The difference is, they express their opinions without insulting their host and without being generally unpleasant.

Gaius Arbo said...

That's gonna leave a mark, Shady....

MadisonMan said...

Disrepectful? You bet. But it's not Scalia being disrespectful. The photographer, the paper, the reporter, and all their cheerleaders should be ashamed they pulled this stunt inside a church.

The photographer was there at the invitation of the diocese to photograph the special mass for lawyers. (Boy it's hard to type that last phrase without chuckling. What's the difference between a regular mass and a special mass for lawyers? Someone please supply a punchline!) Any photojournalist is going to take a picture of someone famous in that circumstance.

I would think the appropriate thing for anyone being photographed in such a situation would be to look contemplative -- you know, as if they had actually listened to the homily!

Goesh said...

Atta' boy, Tony Ducks! Stick to your guns. Now is the time to be hearty. You know it, baby!

Eli Blake said...

What gets me is that you see stuff like this, and like the Vice President using the 'F' word on the floor of the Senate a couple of years ago, but then these same people come out and bash movies or radio shows that have some vulgarities in them. They are the reason why Howard Stern had to move to Sirius (hint: Ever look at the button on the radio that says, 'OFF?')

I don't myself care if Antonin Scalia makes a gesture. Heck, I almost got killed on the freeway the other day and gave my middle finger a workout letting the other driver know what I thought about it.

But I do care if Antonin Scalia makes a gesture but then fines me if I make one.

TWM said...

As far as I know there is no etiquette for obscene gestures. Which fork to use, yes, but shooting the bird or whatever, no.

Like most things it depends on the situation and the person. Some might whip it out ealier than others but that doesn't make them wrong.

And even if there were some rules, I would say that Catholics, many of firey Irish and Italian ancestry, might just have a lower threshold than other folks.

I know because I am an Irish Catholic.

The reporter was wrong to bug him. The Justice was not only right but pretty darn cool for responding the way he did.

Now, which fork do I use for the salad again?

Elizabeth said...

The photographer worked for the Archdiocese, and that's why he was in the church. The Archdiocese has fired him for releasing the photo. Classy.

Tony said...

On WGN last night John Williams proposed this as the litmus test; If a letter came from your shool saying that your son had made the gesture to a teacher, what would your reaction be?

So a reporter who sticks a microphone in your face and asks you an insulting question deserves the same respect that your child owes a teacher? LOL!!!

I'd tell that reporter "stugots!" (which more describes what they lack, than what they are)

I say right on, Nino!

Tex the Pontificator said...

What Scalia did was flippant and, in some contexts, it might have been rude. But flippant and rude do not equal obscene. And in the context of a reporter who was posing a "gotcha" question, the response was not unreasonably rude. Supreme Court justices need not be Sunday School teachers.

Tony said...

The gesture for Vaffanculo is and outstretched arm, fist down, accompanied by a pat on the upper arm.

Hey, paisan. I think I have my gestures wrong. Mine is a fist in the crook of the arm with a snap of the elbow. :)

SippicanCottage said...
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CB said...

gaius arbo, or anyone else who cares,
I photoshopped Justice Scalia's head onto that picture of Johnny Cash--my very first photoshop ever. It's on my blog: http://courtesybear.blogspot.com/

Gaius Arbo said...

The photographer worked for the Archdiocese, and that's why he was in the church. The Archdiocese has fired him for releasing the photo. Classy.

Actually, when I worked as a freelancer for a company, the company I was working for owned my photos. I did not own the copyright. I would be willing to bet the photographer did not have the right to release the photo. Even if he did have copyright, he was there for the archdiocese and should have followed their wishes.

I would have been uninvited from working for the company ever again if I had released a photo without their permission. (I know this to be fact - I had to get permission to release a headshot of a man to a family who wanted it for a closed casket funeral.)

jinnmabe said...

They are the reason why Howard Stern had to move to Sirius

Scalia is the reason? I had no idea. How enlightening.

Is there really nothing else going on in the world that we can dispatch reporters to have actors judge where this falls on the offensiveness scale?

This is "Lindsay and Paris are feuding" in a political context. The reporters should do a person-on-the-street poll: Excuse me sir, how do you feel about the fact that Antonin Scalia was once rude to someone?

Average response: Who?

akashawn said...

Hey, paisan. I think I have my gestures wrong. Mine is a fist in the crook of the arm with a snap of the elbow. :)


No, you're right. Thats my vaffanculo gesture. But maybe it difffers from region to region.

And I'm not even Italian! :-)

Freeman Hunt said...

Doesn't anyone embellish the finger with his opposite forearm inside his elbow bent at 90 degrees anymore?

Freeman Hunt said...

Oops, now I see akashawn's comment, so I guess so.

Ann Althouse said...

Madisonman: "I would think the appropriate thing for anyone being photographed in such a situation would be to look contemplative -- you know, as if they had actually listened to the homily!"

It's just completely weird to go right up to someone's face in church and take a picture without their permission. If he was there as the official photographer, he should have kept a respectful distance. To deliberately intrude and aggravate someone and then take the most embarrassing picture and publish it is shameful. I'm not surprised he was fired for behavior like that.

SippicanCottage said...
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TWM said...

Mary,

Catholics haven't been classy in church since Vatican II. It's hard to be classy in cuttoffs and halter tops.

You want to see classy check out a Southern Baptist sermon -- they wear their best and look their best.

And, again, I am a born Catholic.

SippicanCottage said...
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Gaius Arbo said...

Mary,

You are wrong on this. The gesture is not obscene. Period. I grew up with Italians, this gesture is not obscene, just dimissive.

There is NO way the photographer heard something that the reporter did not. I did photography in situations very like this for a long time and a photographer is concentrating harder on his shot than any reporter is on her notebook. He is lying, period. The timing of this great revelation itself makes the case that it is a lie. If the Herald had an allegation of a spoken obscenity they would have run it the first day. Period. Instead they ran a lie about a gesture then published photographic evidence THAT THEY HAD LIED.

As to the church thing, if the reporter and the photographer were there, why is Scalia in the wrong? Your reasoning is bogus. He was confronted in the church.

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SippicanCottage said...

Bravissima, Mary. Perhaps you'd prefer those nasty Sicilians drank from their own water fountain too.

Then you wouldn't have to be put out by their imaginary scatological hijinks.

Gaius Arbo said...

Agreed, just opinions. The difference is, I have worked in the field - I can pretty well assume that you have not from the way you frame your agruments.

Would this be better? In my professional opinion, any photographer who is listening to what is being said will miss the shot.

But your discussion on this whole subject shows you are not really serious about the subject. You are trying to score points.

Aspasia M. said...

"It's hard to be classy in cuttoffs and halter tops."

Are you kidding me? Where are you going to mass?


RE: Scalia. I don't care.

He can jump up and down and do a handstand if he wants. But the public gets to judge whether it is polite to do handstands on the church steps.

SippicanCottage said...
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Balfegor said...

When Scalia's father was born, in Sicily, Italy probably wasn't yet even a unified country.

Scalia's not that old. And Garibaldi and all that were finished in 1878, no? Unless his father was about 70 when he was born (1936), his father wouldn't have had much experience of Sicily as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies or whatever it was before the unification.

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Tony said...

People in Italy to this day talk about Sicily like it's another country.

And in the US, a Sicilian guy is just another "white European male" :)