HOW LUTHER BLISSETT HELD THE HOMOPHOBIC HACKS UP TO RIDICULE
This piece is about a prank played on an Italian right-wing newspaper, Bologna-based Il Resto del Carlino, in November 1995. Racist/homophobic tirades against gay people, African prostitutes and transexuals induced Luther Blissett (a well-known transgender cultural terrorist) to assail the editorial staff with a thrilling metropolitan legend.
The following article is from Il Resto del Carlino, October 19th 1995:
Alarming Letter To Our Journal. Official Inquiry Starts.
"I'VE GOT AIDS, MY REVENGE IS INFECTING PEOPLE"
Authoress: I'm An Ex-Student Compelled To Prostitute Herself In Bologna
An article by Nicoletta Rossi
BOLOGNA. Our editorial board received the letter with the morning mail.
A 'normal' envelope, a 'normal' sheet typewritten by a computer. It was one of the many anonymous letters we use to refuse to publish. But the text was shocking and, should it prove true, likely to strike the town with fear. After much thought, we decided to publish this news without any comment, for it is not our duty to ascertain truth. Rather, it is within the province of the police, to which we have already handed the original letter [...] Here is the letter:
I am a 24-years-old girl, born in a small town of Northern Italy, grown up in a normal family. Up to a few years ago my life was similar to that of most girls being the same age of mine: I studied with profit at the university and had a mind to become a journalist. Two years ago, after a car accident, I was hospitalized and underwent a blood transfusion. Later, a blood test proved I had caught the HIV virus. Since my life-style had always been normal and I usedto keep away from such dangerous behaviours as toxicomania and occasional sex relations, I assumed they had transfused me with infected blood. That discovery upset my life and that of my parents, who refused my situation. I applied to public health offices which, though they had caused my illness, didn't do anything about it. Then I got a heavy nervous breakdown, from which I re-emerged when I found a way to vent my desperate anger on a society guilty of having infected and rejected me. I moved to Bologna, where nobody knew me, and began to prostitute myself, receiving the clients into my flat in the centre of the town. This business allows me to raise sufficent money and improve my standard of living, and what's more it allows me to give vent to my hate. In fact since last year I'm using pierced condoms in order to infect those vicious people who, for lack of anything better, use to pay a girl for sex. I have heard that this habit is more usual than what one would think. This enlightened me, and I convinced myself to write my story to a popular journal as Il Resto del Carlino, so that other individuals don't have to go through the troubles I've seen after I found out to have caught AIDS. Excuse me if I don't sign my name, it's very easy to understand the reason of this choice.
[...] If this story is real, the girl is a self-conscious plague-spreader. Other similar events occurred: at the dawning of AIDS an American steward infected about two hundreds of gays; a Brazilian viado who used to prostitute himself in Rimini was repatriated by the police because he was a real bacteriological bomb. We have heard the opinions of a graphologist, a criminologist and an immunologist [...]
THE GRAPHOLOGIST / 'AN UNHEALTHY IMAGINATION'
'The author of this letter is surely an educated person. She has a good syntax and, but for writing "sufficient" without an "i" (which is a frequent error), does not misspell the words. However, the letter is full of typing errors, this could mean that it has been written in haste, as in a state of anxiety, and has not been reread, as though if the author, once she had written, was in a great hurry to close the envelope and post it'.
This is the opinion of Aurelio Valletta, an expert in forensic graphology and an adviser at the Bologna criminal court. He also adds: I cannot weigh my words and say that this story is true: it is a summary of tragic facts, it could by the creation of an unhealthy imagination, of one who uses to read the newspapers and watch TV'.
The L.B.'s letter was typed by someone who masters informatics and knows how to lay out paragraphs [How difficult! Ha! Ha! Ha! T.N.]. If we analyze the original, we could even find out what computer has been used.
Valletta adds: The envelope is even more interesting than the letter. The address is written up on the right.
According to graphology, writing on the right implies the wish to extroversion of a lonely person. Writing above implies self-esteem and a profound self. In general I daresay that the whole letter communicates a need of telling themselves to the others'. Finally, the postage. L.B. glued the stamp on the left of the envelope.
Valletta concludes: Even this could mean anxiety'.
THE PSYCHOLOGIST/ 'AN INCONSISTENT TEXT'
"There is a contradiction in that letter: on on one hand, the desire for revenge. On the other, a warning', Professor Renzo Canestrari [...] tells us to proceed cautiously. The antecedent fact, that is the infecting transfusion, could be true. But the revenge against society deserves a more complex examination. The girl who wrote the letter could only have imagined that devilish collective disease'. According to Canestrari, this doubt increases in strength because of the last lines: I convinced myself to write my story to a popular journal as Il Resto del Carlino, so that other individuals don't have to go through the troubles I've seen'. Canestrari insists: This may be a sort of appeal, something like "If family and society forsake people like me, those shall be the consequences..."'.
And what if it was all true? The young who find themselves in similar situations almost always vent their anger against themselves, sometimes they kill themselves. This time we would face an anger vented against the other people, as if it was a way of attaching importance to her own existence. A violent reaction provoked by character of the girl, independent on the form of the disease. All the more that the abandonment of the girl by the family is not believable: her high education proves that at least the parents did care about her training' [How profound! T.N.].
The opinion of the immunologist was not interesting.
The day after this overproduction of crap, Luther Blissett circulated the following press release:
A LUTHER BLISSETT COMMUNIQUÉ
After they published the fake confession of a fake "thug" who had been in the Riccione riots against the police, here is another evidence of the Carlino's credulity. Those journalists really think they're so close to the mysterious "folk" that citizens of any social rank, even young rebels and condom piercers, use to send them (even though anonymously) the most confidential confessions. Drop us a line, send stereotypal descriptions of any social problem in town! Apply to us, you may cry on our shoulder, you can also meet a sociologist (or a psychologist, a priest, a graphologist) speaking for speaking's sake. You'll hang on their lips! Yes, none of these "experts" can make head or tail of anything, but don't forget they've got a degree and a reputation!'. But their "hot line" from the town is a pure simulation, as Luther Blissett is exposing since last summer. By different noms de plume, I've been monopolizing the column of the letters. But this evidence is too great: the Carlino longs to smear prostitutes, transexuals (Poor Cora/Danilo, slayed by a redneck bastard! They called her "a loathsome body", do you remember?) and HIV-positives ("Plague-spreading offenders!"); they'd publish anything they receive on that subject, even if it was written with puke on second-hand toilet paper. According to Luther, not only my letters are fake, but even the "ordinary" ones: likely they're written by the real "brain antitrust" of the "giornale dell'Emilia", a board whose task is to *create* the moods and the frustration of the "folk"...Therefore, anytime they receive a "real" letter, they set it in a frame in order to cause a sensation. And what's more, the game goes on: anyone can invent the next Carlino scoops, it's enough to have read a book on graphology (for example, anything by Klages), make the right typing errors, go through a string of suited commonplaces. But maybe both sides should raise to a higher level: the Carlino should try to prove that Luther Blissett is lying and find the "real" prostitute; they could pay a dummy claiming to have written the letter, while Luther could claim a wage from the newspaper, since s/he's their most successful and prolific reporter.
Journalists were on strike and the papers weren't issued. But when the strike was over La Repubblica, a competing newspaper as well as a "bulwark of liberalism" (puah!), carried the news.
From La Repubblica - Bolognese edition, October 27th 1995:
The HIV-Positive Girl Was A Falsehood
WE, BLISSETT, SCOFFED AT THE CARLINO
by Brunella Torresin
Luther Blissett strikes again. Or rather, they exposed one prank, goodness knows how many others are still thought true. We are talking about the letters from the reader public, all sorts of vents and accusations which end up in the newspapers columns: they are completely apocryphal. Do you remember the letter of the HIV- positive prostitute forced to sell herself and delighted to take vengeance by piercing the condoms of her clients? Il Resto del Carlino asked their opinion to a graphologist, a psychologist and an immunologist. Banners on the regional edition. Banners on the national edition.
"Wow, who wrote this tiny letter?". Fake. That letter was so fake that Luther Blissett even signed their name with an irreverent joke: "Excuse me if I don't sign my name, it's very easy to understand the reason of this choice". They initialed it: L.B. The terrible nephews of Tristan Tzara [How stupid! T.N.] say: "Weren't my words clear enough? Only a credulous journal could fall into that ambush". And there is something more: "Of ten letters published by the newspapers, at least one is written by us. Luther should claim a wage from the newspaper, since s/he's their most successful and prolific reporter".
The guys called Luther Blissett - they don't use any individual name, only that of the legendary Milan soccer player - are investigating the credulity of the daily newspapers: they use to tell the tallest stories in a sociologically complex way, then they laugh at the gulls during "Radio Blissett", that real-life radio show broadcast any wednesday night on Radio Città del Capo.
There was nothing accidental in their situationist provocation: "anyone can invent the next Carlino scoops, it's enough to have read a book on graphology (for example, anything by Klages), make the right typing errors, go through a string of suited commonplaces". Umberto Eco would be crazy about them. [How boring! T.N.]
This short article was enough to expand and amplify the prank, which was discussed on other journals, radio shows, BBS's etc. The Carlino's hacks reacted violently and, in an attempt to demonstrate that La Repubblica was credulous too, enumerated some "ambushes" into which the liberal newspaper had fallen, then they kept silence. About two months later, on January 27th 1996, the left-wing weekly journal Cuore issued a long piece on the Carlino's publisher Andrea Riffeser Monti, which included a framed paragraph with an interesting revelation: "[...] Two of the recent fibs were deemed as true and caused an internal inquiry. Chief reporter Fabio Raffaelli was put under the guardianship of assistant director Mauro Tedeschini [...] An unforgettably poor figure".