Can someone really be that ignorant?
July 10, 2006 12:29 PM   Subscribe

"It is absolutely not true, I did not call him a terrorist. I'm ignorant. I don't even know what the word means."

Background info: That quote is from Marco Materazzi, the Italian player who was headbutted by Zinedine Zidane in the final match of the World Cup. He's accused of called Zidane a "dirty terrorist."

This question is half sarcastic but also slightly serious.

Is this even possible? Assuming they're not mentally disabled in any way, can someone really be that ignorant? Or is this just an example of "playing stupid" taken to the extreme? I only ask this question because I wonder if my hyperawareness of the term "terrorist" is just a result of my living in the United States. As an Italian is it possible to be that unaware of what's going on in the world?
posted by blim8183 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You are being naive. Terrorist has a lot of uses, far more off the football pitch than on it. Materazzi is not being 'unaware', he is being insulting. Get the diff.
posted by parmanparman at 12:38 PM on July 10, 2006

Given that Italy experienced waves of Red Brigade terror in the 1970s and has troops in Iraq, unlikely
posted by A189Nut at 12:39 PM on July 10, 2006

Ha, well, I'm not an italian, nor am I a professional football player. But I'm a fellow european.

Italy has had its history of terrorism. So maybe he will not be able to give a historically and politically exact definition but he will definitely know what terrorist means in terms of 'evil', and nowadays often associated with arabic immigrants.

I think he has spoken with a media advisor or lawyer.
posted by jouke at 12:40 PM on July 10, 2006

Perhaps there is a translation issue? He called Zidane something in one language and is being asked to explain it in another? Or perhaps he's a native Italian speaker and threw out a French curse word, and now he's saying he (allegedly) doesn't truly understand its meaning?

I'm not apologizing for the guy, just speculating.
posted by frogan at 12:44 PM on July 10, 2006

What language is he said to have called him a "dirty terrorist" in? Perhaps he is simply claiming that he does not know the word for "terrorist" in that language.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:55 PM on July 10, 2006

I think this is just a case of the language barrier causing unneed confusion, much like the stuff you see at (note that this is not a promotion for engrish, It offers similar examples of poor translation between languages)
posted by CXImran at 1:10 PM on July 10, 2006

I'm pretty sure this is just an example of linguification (Geoff Pullum's invention: "To linguify a claim about things in the world is to take that claim and construct from it an entirely different claim that makes reference to the words or other linguistic items used to talk about those things, and then use the latter claim in a context where the former would be appropriate").
posted by languagehat at 1:11 PM on July 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

i dont know if he called him a terrorist or what but materazzi would have spoken in italian of course. but he would also have also known that zidane is fluent in italian so it doesnt really make a difference..
posted by petsounds at 1:31 PM on July 10, 2006, citing ANSA, quotes Materazzi as saying "It is absolutely not true, I didn't call him a terrorist, I don't know anything about that."
posted by Doofus Magoo at 1:46 PM on July 10, 2006

Response by poster:, citing ANSA, quotes Materazzi as saying "It is absolutely not true, I didn't call him a terrorist, I don't know anything about that."

Well ESPN also cited ANSA as their source in the quote. Could "I don't know anything about that" = "I'm ignorant" just different ways of translating the Italian?
posted by blim8183 at 1:52 PM on July 10, 2006

Materazzi said:

"Non e' assolutamente vero, non gli ho detto terrorista, sono ignorante non so neanche cosa voglia dire" ANSA

Perhaps 'ignorante' means 'ignorant of what he has been accused of'?
posted by athenian at 2:08 PM on July 10, 2006

Well, I have no idea about this particular quote, but come to think of it, I'm not sure I could give a very good definition of what the word "terrorist" is used to mean these days. It's used in a pretty broad and vague way a lot of the time. It often seems to be a label for people a government doesn't like or doesn't want to put through the local judicial system in the normal way. Could you, off the top of your head, give a really good definition of it?
posted by advil at 2:57 PM on July 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

Perhaps he means, "I don't even know what that would mean." meaning "that word in this context".
posted by dobbs at 3:26 PM on July 10, 2006

advil: It's exactly the same thing as happened to the word fascist. It's basically ended up just meaning "evil" or "bad" at this point.
posted by reklaw at 4:01 PM on July 10, 2006

I have browsed through the Italian press and they are making (naturally) much less of this than the rest of the world. Corriere della Sera even has a Zidane headbutting game!

Most of the quotes from Matterazzi are indirect but La Repubblica which, like other Italian papers, puts it down in part to jealousy quotes Matterazzi as saying Quello che ha fatto Zidane lo ha visto il mondo intero. Gli avrei detto terrorista? Ma dai, io sono ignorante. which means What Zidane did, the whole world saw. I called him a terrorist? Come on! I don't know anything about it. which, as others have said, smacks of a quote from a PR/lawyer.

Others have suggested that Matterazzi insulted Zidane's sister. It still remains a mystery to me why a man like Zidane who must have heard every racial and personal insult reacted like that in his final game.
posted by TheRaven at 4:13 PM on July 10, 2006

Oh, and as for someone being able to be that "ignorant"... I'd say yes (but I don't think it applies in this situation). I was once so hermited up due to depression that I didn't know that Canada had a new Prime Minister. Even when his name was mentioned I had no idea who people were talking about.

So, yeah, it's possible for someone to be ignorant of widely known things, but it takes a very strange set of circumstances.
posted by dobbs at 4:39 PM on July 10, 2006

Ignorante in Italian doesn't have the same connotation as "ignorant" has in English. As others have noted above, I just think it bears reapeating.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 4:50 PM on July 10, 2006

Ok so apparently Materazzi 'wished death on Zidane's family'.
posted by zaebiz at 7:32 PM on July 10, 2006

To answer the title question, my coworker has never heard of Hitler.
posted by Aghast. at 8:05 PM on July 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

I love it when user names make the perfect postscript to a comment.
posted by fleacircus at 10:25 PM on July 10, 2006

If anyone called me a terrorist, I would immediatly try to kill them for even suggesting it
posted by zackdog at 12:16 AM on July 11, 2006

Answers don't help people find wisecrack.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:37 AM on July 11, 2006

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