Message for Sophie Egan, a Stanford junior currently in Bologna: relax. You wrote in the New York Times about how hard it is to be twenty, a student in Italy and from Seattle. The same age, occupation and city as Amanda Knox, currently detained in Perugia on suspicion of killing a friend from Britain. You pointed out the merciless opinionising, and the knee-jerk generalisations, about America, young Americans and Seattle (you’re right, it is a magical city). But you’ll have noticed that similar generalisations have been made about Perugia, Italian universities and students away from home. I wrote some myself in this newspaper.
That’s odd. Most people would want to get away from such a tragic place, however the investigations and trials turn out. Unless she has worked out how Italy distributes fame and distinction: on the basis of celebrity, irrespective of any moral judgement. Perhaps the adjective "moral" upsets you. Let’s put it this way. Italy lacks the National Decency Minimum (NDM) that stops suspects and convicts from becoming celebrities. NDM is instinctive. You can’t impose it by law. And our NDM – if we ever had one – is no longer working.
If Amanda were released – on remand or because the charges have been dropped; it doesn’t matter – she’d have Italy at her feet. She’s got the fame, the face, the story and the right age. The frenzied attention that surrounds her today – and which, rightly, disturbs you, Sophie – will turn into stardom. It’s up to Amanda but if she is so inclined, Italian public opinion is primed to put her on the A-list.
A word of advice, twenty-year-old Sophie from Seattle. Don’t let a few people’s over-hasty reactions bother you. They’re far less dangerous than near-universal superficiality. And while we’re on the subject: now you’ve written your article, try to steer clear of television.