November 17, 2006, - 3:13 pm

I Agree With the Italians on “Fuggedaboutit”

By Debbie Schlussel

Free speech in America isn’t worth anything if it isn’t applied equally.

Take the sons and daughters of Italy who’ve been a part of this country from its founding.

This week, a judge ruled against Italian Americans upset over a suburban Chicago middle school school play titled “Fuggedaboutit–A Little Mobster Comedy,” performed by “the Bada Bing Players.”

I agree with the Italians.

When Italians complained about mobster movies or shows, like “The Sopranos,” I used to think they were wrong and over-reacting. I never thought of Italians as mobsters and shows and movies wouldn’t change that. The Italians I grew up with were as absorbed into American life as anyone and mostly from upper middle class families. Their parents were successful executives, professionals, and business owners. It wasn’t until well out of college that I met anyone with any relatives in the mob.

But when I think about it more deeply, I don’t think I’d like it if plays, movies, and TV shows constantly showed Jews as murderers, thugs, and criminals.

And when I think about it even more, I wonder if the federal judge in Illinois who ruled against the Italians would have taken a different side if the play was an accurate depiction of Muslims in America, most of whom morally support terrorists and several of whom have been involved in terrorist plots. Would an Illinois middle school ever consider doing a play called, “Allah Hu Akbar–A Little Jihad Comedy” performed by the Islamofascist Players? Doubtful.

So why is it okay for a middle school to perform such a play defaming Italians, the majority of whom hate the mob and have never had anything to do with it? According to USA Today, federal prosecutors say the mob is almost dead in America, with only about 6 organized crime families left, if even that many. Extremist Islam and terrorist plots by Muslims, on the other hand, are on the rise. And they enjoy a lot of support in the greater so-called moderate Islamic community.

What is a middle school doing having a play about the mob, anyway? Of what educational value is it? Very little if any.

This isn’t really about free speech. Anyone can perform any play or film any movie or series about Italians and the mob anytime they want across America . . . in the private sector. But, even though free speech laws allow it to, an American public school (which would bow to the whims and objections of most other minorities) has no business featuring–or even sanctioning–such a play and should have had better taste and the class to say no.
Having the right to free speech doesn’t mean not having the right–the responsibility–to exercise restraint sometimes and applying that restraint equally . . . not just when favored, politically correct minorities are involved.

If our public schools are going to bend over backward and be PC ad absurdum to the “Religion of Peace,” why not to Italian-Americans? Either there is free speech for everyone . . . or no-one.

The Rotolo Middle School in Batavia, Illinois–when presented with the idea of showing this play–should have responded, “Fuggedaboutit.”

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10 Responses

It is true that making a movie or series about the mafia is somewhat like beating a dead horse but I must disagree on your assesment on Italian-American sensibilities concerning the Sopranos. The mafia has Italian roots, it is undeniable. “Godfather” was written by a bona fide Italian-American Mario Puzo. I doubt that he wrote it in order to bash his own community. You are spot on two other things: the mob is hardly a topic for a middle school play and the judge would certianly rule in favour of muslims if it was them being targeted for ridicule…providing the fact that the school does not take the play off the repertoire itself under immense pressure from just about every “political correctness” group immaginable.

Witch-king of Angmar on November 17, 2006 at 5:36 pm

Let me say that I love the name:
Don’t you love how that rolls off the tongue? We all become Italian just saying it.

BB on November 17, 2006 at 6:00 pm

Glad you support the Italians Debbie. They are having their large share of bashing everywhere in this country, from Hollywood to the liberal courts and schools. On the other hand, no one -except a few including you- is mentioning their accomplishments and contributions to this society. Thank you.

Independent Conservative on November 17, 2006 at 7:12 pm

Being an “Italian-American” (blah blah I’m just an American, though proud of Italian culture and contributions) … [comment snipped because I wrote so much that I just decided to put a whole post together at my website instead]

Digger on November 17, 2006 at 10:44 pm

I’m sure you’ve noticed that it’s open season on ALL of our ancestors – especialy those from Europe. My Irish ancestors took more than their fair share over the decades yet are still portrayed as drunks or Leprechauns.
There IS no such thing these days equal treatment.
And don’t get me started about how we 6’4″ tall blonde Americans are treated at airports while VERY obvious young Arab men are given a free pass!

Rocketman on November 18, 2006 at 12:06 pm

Meh- what’s the difference? We’ve got movies lying about the President in viscious ways, lies about the environment, movies disparaging just about every ethnic group going, heck we even have movies that show the assasination of President Bush. Freedom of speech, and all that lovely uncivil nonsense. A play about mobsters really isn’t going to cause everyone to suddenly think all Italians are mobsters. I think for the most part that people who watch mob movies certainly don’t think that all Italians are mobsters- they view the movie as a depiction a specific criminal organization that is a reality- not as an indictment on an ethnic group of people. People are fascinated by crime and crime figures- whether they are Italian or not. I duno- I think crime figures appeal to most people’s inner sense of victimization & appeal to their sense that while they’d never personally take the step over thel ine, that those who do- while not to be commended, represent the desire of man to ‘stick it to the man- and get away with it’ so to speak. I just don’;t agree that shows liek the Sopranos (I don’t even watch it myself) vilify a whole nation.
Christian news and commentary at: …

CottShop on November 18, 2006 at 1:56 pm

I agree with CottShop’s analysis of why we love mob movies, however, I don’t think these types of representations of Italians or glamorizations of crime belong in school.
I also think in general Italians are one of the most looked up to and respected groups of people in America. Everyone seems to love Italian culture. And I can’t blame them (I am one!).


DudeSteak on November 19, 2006 at 11:47 am

I wrote a response to Debbie Shlussel’s commentary on Italiangate at Rotolo middle school. You can read the article at this link:
Here is my response to her:
Hello. I would like to make a “quick” comment on this article. First, I won’t hide behind anonymity, my name is Stefan and I have attended Rotolo Middle School (However, before we decided to call it Rotolo Middle School honoring the Italian-American who served Batavia’s public education, it was called Batavia Middle School).
So what I’d like to say is that you’re wrong, your argument is completely invalid, and that this “hitpiece,” which smacks of veiled accusations that some sort of nation-wide Italian-Conservative witch hunt is occurring, is an affront to the normal conventions of human logic and reasonability.
First, you link to the article and then completely misrepresent the play even though anyone with the ability to recognize a link and to then click on it will then follow the news story, which reads something important like this:
“But what nobody realizes until the end is that the mobsters are actually buying surplus food for orphans, he said.
Scariano, who is Italian himself, said the message of the play is a positive one: “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
That being said, and having read the play, there is no Italian defamation in the play. This is a play with allusions to the historical fact that Italians were once involved in organized crime. It utilizes that “stereotype” to teach a lesson, that is, that stereotypes are stupid and we are all “more pundit like” for believing in them. So not only is the play going out of its way to denounce stereotypes, it’s trying to deliver an Aesopian fable that can only help improve our ability to recognize and cherish the differences in others.
Next, you claim that “Arab-Americans,” who you claim are terrorist sympathizers (“most of whom morally support terrorists and several of whom have been involved in terrorist plots”) would be appalled if a play involving not recognizing all Arabs as terrorists were to run at the middle school. Of course, because the play is about defeating stereotypes, and because most Arab-Americans aren’t terrorist sympathizers and are currently being villified by the press and government; I would expect that they would enjoy seeing a play that defuses the bigotry that we as a nation have come to near-accept (That all Arabs are terrorists, or terrorist sympathizers, as you espouce). You then intertwine your original argument about Italian defamation with some sort of ramble about terrorist organizations being a strong presence in the world (Thank you, by the way, for playing on our post-Sept.11 fears that Arab-Americans are going to bomb us while we shop at Walmart, you should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor) which is a complete red herring in terms of writing about a simple play, inflammatory for no reason, at a middle school in suburbia (Were you getting tired of writing about Tom Cruise? I’m not sure).
You then go on to write about how this issue has some sort of free speech rammification, although centuries of stare decisis in the Supreme Court continually void your opinion, and I’m sure even Antonin Scalia, the token Italian with mob related ties on the Supreme Court, would agree that the first amendment is not being violated in any way (Hmmm, no one is shouting fire in Rotolo Middle School auditorium, it’s just some hot pasta coming from the kitchen at the cafeteria, where unfortunately the play probably took place considering that Illinois schools are woefully underfunded). If you’d like to learn about the history of free speech, Batavia High School has some of the best civics and government classes you’ll find in Illinois, although you’d have to get through Rotolo Middle School first. I would write more on the issue but I just had a rather large serving of pasta which the mobster chef in my cafeteria made for me after laundering the ingredients through a vast underground cabal. He said he made it “A la Cappone” but I’m not sure as to what he meant.
Ultimately, your article is nothing but a taint on the marketplace of ideas, and if it were part of an Italian meal it should hopefully be (And I hope!) the parlsey on the side of a hot plate of spaghetti, that is unfortunately completely without taste and is something that is never consumed. It is unfortunate that you write such illogical and skewed articles, and it is more unfortunate that some of your readers will read your article and then parrot your nonsensical and asinine views.
I have to go play Mario now (An Italian plumber, which I’m sure means that every Italian enjoys unclogging toilets when they aren’t “whacking people.” It’s a shame that the United States Government hasn’t gone to great lengths to protect our fragile minds from being poisoned by the stereotype that Mario provides us) and hopefully it will help me forget that I ever read this “commentary.” If you’d like to reach me, you can email me at, where I’d more then love to engage anyone in delightful and illumnating banter on whether The Sopranos and more important Antonin Scalia, are ruining our children.

Haplo26 on November 19, 2006 at 11:55 pm

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