OPINION

Defensive tactics off the pitch

We already knew about the existence of professional lip readers from police thrillers on television. In these movies, such specialists are invited to help police solve a crime by carefully scrutinizing a video of the suspect speaking, deciphering his speech and supplying detectives with the analysis. But the reliability of this method in real life, beyond the world of cinema, is unclear. In any case, the current dispute among experts appointed to give sound and meaning to whatever it was that Italian defender Marco Materazzi said to veteran French player Zinedine Zidane demonstrates that their art is far from becoming a science and perhaps will never be one. Some of them claim that Materazzi cursed Zidane’s mother and sister, others claimed that he called the French player a «son of a terrorist whore,» and others still contend that he had been condemned to «die along with all his kin.» Meanwhile Materazzi, for his part, maintained that he directed «the usual curses» toward his French rival but denied calling him the «son of a terrorist,» and he attempted to justify this by saying: «I am not an educated person. I do not know what an Islamist terrorist is.» Here is a 32-year-old man who can read and write, who has good vision (and is therefore able to watch television), living in a country of politically aware citizens, a country where the media was last year dominated by the misfortune of an Italian journalist taken hostage in Iraq, a country which has troops in Iraq. And despite all this, the Italian defender claims to be ignorant about terrorism? Basically, Materazzi’s defensive tactics relied on the belief that an outlandish lie is more believable than a seemingly logical one. Either that or he is absolutely uninfluenced by the world in which he lives.