Perhaps the most significant story from a former Sad Puppy ever

I had considered writing a piece about how the various right wing blogs and outlets I read are reacting to the current Covid-19 pandemic. However, I feel I have to point everybody to this frankly epic true story by Declan Finn http://www.declanfinn.com/2020/03/i-have-returned-from-italy-part-1-oh.html

If it was fiction and Declan was a made up character it would be the story for our times, encapsulating so much about 2020’s America and it’s relationship with Europe, the odd cognitive distance from reality of the American right and the very real human issues of coping in a world where the multitude of connections start shutting down. I’m reminded of John Scalzi’s Collapsing Empire as the flow shuts down the gateways between worlds.

For those who don’t want to visit Declan’s blog, let me sum up. Last week (yes, LAST week) Declan and his wife went to ITALY for a holiday. As you can imagine (and indeed could have predicted last week when Italy was already well, well into its crisis) things did not go well.

The collision between belief and reality is laid out in unwitting detail. I genuinely hope he is fine (he and his wife are apparently safely back in the US or as safely back as anybody is).

The short version therefore of how right wing blogs are reacting plays out in a personal level in Declan’s story. Initial scepticism and eagerness to carry on as if it is all a fuss over nothing which then collides with an escalating reality and blaming the government.

92 thoughts on “Perhaps the most significant story from a former Sad Puppy ever

    1. Yup, he and his wife pushed through a closed security door onto the tarmac. Even Declan Finn should know that that’s something you should never ever do at any airport, even if you just missed your plane. Actually, they got off lightly with the fine. In the US, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone got shot for trying something like that.

      And while I don’t know how Florence airport handles such things, when someone tried that at Bremen airport last summer (opened and walked through a closed security door), the whole airport was locked down for hours and passengers even had to leave a planbe that was already on the tarmac.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I wouldn’t take a bet on not getting shot if you tried that at Heathrow. It’s a lot harder to get shot by the police in the UK than the US but ‘appearing to try and storm a plane at an international airport’ would increase your odds of death sharply.

        Liked by 5 people

      2. I definitely wouldn’t try that at Heathrow nor at Amsterdam, where the airport police are armed and very quick to show up when something happens. But then, I’m not a complete and utter idiot.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. @Camestros: I’m not surprised he flew in; Americans don’t think about trains and (understatement ahead) he does not strike me as a savvy traveler. It probably never occurred to him to take the train even though it’s frankly superior to air travel in much of Europe (and I’ve taken the train into and out of Florence). Admittedly time and the availability of tickets may have been an issue.

        I mean, my wife’s cousin rented a car when she was visiting her daughter at her internship. For Deutsche Bahn AG. They drove around a bit on the first day and then mostly kept it parked.

        Liked by 3 people

    2. He certainly went from “Italy should have gone to full-on fascism with armed soldiers enforcing the curfew” to “how dare they fine us for breaching security protocol at an international airport” fast enough to cause readers whiplash.

      Liked by 9 people

  1. “And for the love of God, don’t go to Italy if you can help it.”

    Well, yes?

    My standard joke which only I find amusing is that the GOP is the party of “you’re responsible”.

    Liked by 8 people

  2. The extent to which he studiously avoids accepting personal responsibility for any of his actions is just stunning.

    when we went, it was Lombardi that was the problem… How do you fuck up a quarantine?
    not
    We stupidly made the decision to go to Italy, even though we knew they were having a huge outbreak.

    they decided that I was overweight on every single piece of luggage and I had to pay a hundred euros.
    not
    I had put too much weight in every single piece of my luggage, so I got charged extra for it.

    Then my wife pushed off through the doors onto the tarmac. I followed.
    not
    We forced our way through a secure door to get to the plane.

    It’s so bad and so stupid, Moira Greyland created a GoFundMe to help us pay off this bullshit.
    not
    We did something really stupid and were forced to beg people to bail us out from the consequences of our poor choices.

    Ugh, and then he begs for sympathy nominations for the Dragon Awards.

    I also don’t understand why it’s so difficult for him to spell Lombardy correctly.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. The airport security breach bit is priceless. He still maintains the tone of how everybody is silly and over-reacting and then blithely describes how he attempts to broach security at an international airport. In some airports you can be shot for that – and not just in the USA

      Liked by 2 people

    2. There are weight limits on luggage and if you exceed them, you have to pay. Who would have guessed?

      Also, because of our adventure getting to WorldCon in Dublin, I not only had to pay a fee to reschedule my flight, but also had to pay for extra baggage, because I was stuck with two suitcases, my Mom’s and my own. And I didn’t whine, even though all of that only happened because of a medical emergency we had no control over, not because we were bloody stupid.

      Actually, I now wonder if Declan Finn has never travelled before, considering totally basic concepts such as “Don’t violate airport security” or “Don’t exceed your baggage weight limits” seem to be completely foreign to him.

      Also, what precisely did he want at the US embassy in Rome? I suspect that I have travelled abroad more extensively than Declan Finn and I have never ever felt the need to visit the embassy of my country. My Dad, who has travelled even more extensively and also lived abroad for several years, needed the German embassy only once, when his passport was stolen in Singapore.and he needed a replacement.

      As for why he keeps misspelling Lombardy, he probably has the Italian province mixed up with this fellow: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pietro_Lombardi_(singer)

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Cora Buhlert: what precisely did he want at the US embassy in Rome?

        Finn is an ardent believer in U.S. exceptionalism, and in his own exceptionalism. I’m sure he was expecting the U.S. Embassy to consider himself and his wife as VIPs, for whom immediate special arrangements would be made to get them home. I’m sure the staff had a good laugh when he got off the phone with them.

         
        Cora Buhlert: As for why he keeps misspelling Lombardy, he probably has the Italian province mixed up with this fellow

        You’re giving Finn far too much credit for culture he does not have. He’s thinking of this guy, who has the Super Bowl football trophy (given to the winning team) named after him.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. He doesn’t even, and for crying out loud he’s bragging he’s half-Italian, get the identification of the armed guys on the streets right. These are not soldiers. These are the paramilitary police, the Carabinieri.

        I’m quite sure of it, because public order tasks are their remit.

        Liked by 5 people

      3. The only thing I know about the US embassy in Italy is that sometime in the 1950s, several staffers, including the then-ambassador playwright Clare Boothe-Luce (author of “The Women”) suddenly fell ill. Doctors examined them and found that they were all suffering from arsenic poisoning. Boothe-Luce, who’d taken a turn to the right by then and tried to stop the Vennice film festival from showing a movie she felt would harm the image of the US abroad, was particularly badly affected and evacuated.

        The US foreign office blamed – wait for it – the Communists for the poisoning. Because who else could it be but Communists angry that Boothe-Luce had attepted to meddle with the selection at the Venice film festival? That’s some truly Hoytian logic at work there.

        Specialists turned the embassy inside out to find the source of the arsenic. They didn’t find anything in the usual places. But then, they noticed that the paint on the stuccoed ceiling of the embasy dining room and Boothe-Luce’s bedroom was flaking. They took samples and found arsenic in the paint flakes, because the embassy had been built in the 19th century, before the ban on arsenic in paint. So the Communist assassins were… paint flakes.

        And that’s what I think of when someone mentions the US embassy in Rome. Now, Declan Finn being very stupid will join the Communist poisoning plot that wasn’t.

        Liked by 9 people

      4. I visit the Swedish embassy in London with some regularity, for purposes of “renewing identity documents” and “voting”. I have, once, been tempted to visit a Swedish embassy for another purpose, and that’s when I realised, about 12 hours before my business visa to the German Democratic Republic ran out, that what I thought was a return ticket was actually a single ticket (no, I wasn’t in charge of ticket shopping, and I’ve learned to double-check these things now…).

        In the end, we made it to West Berlin with time to spare, so there was no need to talk to an embassy. Always have a fallback plan, you never know when you’ll need it.

        Liked by 5 people

    3. On Lombardy/i – I thought at first he was doing the thing where you say the place name in the relevant language (Napoli vs Naples, Siracusa vs. Syracuse) but checking a map, Lombardy is Lombardia. So not even that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I like the blog post from one week before.

    “Yes, I go to Italy for two weeks, and come back in time for my corned beef. Ain’t the timing grand?”

    Yes. The timing is certainly grand.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I could see this being adapted into an exciting thriller, but in Declan’s version, as written, the Carabinieri and airport personnel would be the heroes.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I get their frustration*, but breaching airport security seems like a super duper bad idea. It also took me a few minutes, and a re-read of that bit to figure out what they’d done wrong, it was described so blithely.

    * Self-induced frustration, as they went on a vacation to a country in the middle of an epidemic (I think it wasn’t yet described as a pandemic at that point).

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, the pandemic was declared March 11 and he was there from March 9 (presumably set off March 8) – but all schools and universities in Italy had already closed on March 4 (the whole country not just Lombardy)

      Liked by 2 people

  5. According to the Go Fund Me set up by Moria Greyland: “They stepped through the wrong door at the airport, and ended up on the tarmac, and were slapped with a 4000 euro fine, which is 4497.00 in US dollars.”
    Also in an update: “Declan and Vanessa are home and under quarantine now, and the peril from their legal situation remains. Now they must retain an English-speaking lawyer in Italy to negotiate the Italian courts for them, since appearing in person is out of the question.”
    https://www.gofundme.com/f/get-declan-and-vanessa-home

    I’m not sure why they need a lawyer still based on Declan’s account.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “They stepped through the wrong door at the airport…” A door which undoubtedly had warnings in multiple languages (including English) saying ABSOLUTELY NO ENTRY. As Cora said, they were lucky they got off with a fine – in the US, there’s a good chance they’d be looking at prison time.

      The inability of Puppies to notice reality even when it’s about to smack them in the face remains a defining characteristic.

      Liked by 5 people

  6. We have a conservative catholic FSF writer with an exciting and event-filled narrative, told from the point of view of someone who is dealing with forces of which he is incapable of understanding.

    Gene Wolfe has already written this, right?

    Liked by 11 people

    1. It hadn’t occurred to me he could be telling this story from the PoV of a Wolfe-style unreliable narrator. I’d say he does an okay job of it, compared to his previous writings I’ve read, but he has a long way to go to Severian.

      Liked by 4 people

  7. Went and read his account. Dear Mother-of-pearl.
    We went to a country which we knew ahead of time was having an outbreak of a highly contagious disease.
    We were surprised when this inconvenienced us.
    I do not deal well with the unexpected, and possibly not with sleep deprivation.
    We went past a door marked ‘no entry.’
    I was surprised to have security arrest me. Being arrested is for untermench.
    We made it home.
    Everything that happened was someone else’s fault.

    Liked by 11 people

    1. Did you notice the bit where he blames Italy letting Italians fly from one bit of Italy to another as being EU ‘open borders’ but has zero issue with them letting him fly in from the US? Amazing.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. Clearly Declan is a time traveler! In his timeline, Italian unification never happened so they would have been crossing international borders.

        Also in his timeline, running out onto the tarmac is just how you board planes.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Yup, I was also like, “Open borders? Lombardy is in Italy, you idiot.”

        I also strongly suspect that he behaved like the stereotypical ugly American at the airport and probably elsewhere, so no one was particularly keen to help him.

        Liked by 9 people

      3. “Also in his timeline, running out onto the tarmac is just how you board planes”

        He probably believes that romantic comedies are real life. Though even in post-2000 romantic comedies like “Love, Actually”, characters can’t just run onto the tarmac to declare their love to the object of their affection..

        Liked by 4 people

      4. I have several friends (mostly FB friends, so acquaintances) from the US who were abroad when this went down, a couple of them musicians who were about to start European tours. None of them had this ridiculous, entitled attitude. Coincidentally, none of them ended up having that much trouble getting home, either.

        Liked by 7 people

  8. I’m just surprised that nobody’s quoted Macbeth yet: “It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”

    Liked by 5 people

      1. Brava, Cora! Brava! A lovely satire.

        (I’ve had to have so many arguments with guys, obviously, who keep thinking that’s a hard SF story when it’s actually a sociological SF story. The story has little to do with physics at all and instead is a set-up of a ridiculous, impractical business operation that values cargo and equipment (weight) over human lives, and doesn’t even value cargo and equipment enough to have proper emergency contingencies. Fly by night scam, that company is. Which makes Cora’s story all that more applicable in our time of plague when governments and companies are doing the same thing.)

        Liked by 4 people

      2. @Kat – did you see the link on File 770 to a Usenet critique of “The Cold Equations?” It’s from ’99, I think. Excellent takedown of the hard science thing. Also made me realize the story is actually about the importance of carefully regulating businesses.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. Yeah, it’s basically a critique of the savagery of capitalism. I mean, Campbell wasn’t wrong exactly when he forced Godwin to do the tragic ending. It warmed the Randian hearts of many white man SF readers of the time and made the story memorable so that it’s still around. But like with Star Trek, X-Men, etc., those who love authoritarian merchant overlords as an ideal keep trying to pretend it’s about a physics issue instead of a condemnation of the cold-heartedness and incompetent planning of company executives — ghoul capitalism that harms companies as well as people but makes the bosses individually rich. The cold equations aren’t the weight issue — it’s the cold and reckless calculations of inhumane humans who run the company. It was a critique of 1950’s society and business. But because the tragedy occurs instead of heroism — making it memorable — you’ve got lots of fans who declare that the murder dictated by the grifter psychopaths who run the company was scientifically inevitable — a myth justification. But the circumstances of the story show it clearly was not inevitable, just desired by the executives who are grifting the colony. It was the future society — sociology, not the physics of the mission. The people who ran the company ignored the physics of the mission — only one pilot instead of a back-up staff of two, no extra fuel for problems in delivery, etc.

        What Cora’s story does deftly is combine that same ghoul capitalism of our current beg for your life on healthcare online and online discourse style with the equally current situation of the old story — ghoul capitalism towards workers and manipulating others to accept psychopathic, con artist business practices as normal and acceptable. Murder for profit (except not really profit since the incompetent execs will run the company into the ground,) this time done in by collaborative fund-raising for a happier ending. Simple, beautiful and right to the heart of Godwin’s critique with a modern framing.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Did anyone gently point out to him that he pretty much banged head-on into “act like a moron, bleed like a moron” territory?
      I’m pretty certain that the Italian Police may have gently hinted at this when they arrested him for his airport adventures.

      Liked by 5 people

  9. Some may recall that I’m from an airline industry family. My wife Deirdre had to ask, the moment I reached that detail about Finn and his wife nonchalantly ‘pushed off through the doors onto the tarmac’, why I was, suddenly, sitting in my chair poleaxed with my jaw drooping. (And then Finn has the utter gall to complain about the €4000 fine and being made to wait a bit longer. Wow.)

    I believe the salient Hiberno-English expression is ‘right-facing eejits’. (Thank you, Dublin Worldcon, for enhancing my vocabulary.)

    Liked by 8 people

  10. I realise that this is probably the most pointless detail ever, but why in the name of the great dog Sirius were they trying to get from Florence to Rome by plane? There’s a direct train, in normal circumstances every half hour, which takes about 3 hrs 40 mins if one takes the cheaper stopper, or 1 hour 36 minutes if they take the fast train. I mean, admittedly the railway station in Florence appears to be Mussolini’s architectural attempt to say “Up yours” to the Medici, but any port in a storm.

    Also, if as per the Go Fund Me details he’s still facing some sort of Italian legal procedure, he does know that whatever his contempt for the *spoken* English skills of Italians, most Italian lawyers I know read English very well, and have a thorough grasp of the concept of “admissable evidence.”

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I was wondering the same thing but it may be an American thing (also an Australian thing). An Australian colleague caught a plane from London to Manchester and I couldn’t get my head around the very idea.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Given the relative price of trains and planes now in the UK it makes more sense to fly and be guaranteed having a seat and some moderate comfort than to take an almost-inevitably delayed train that then gets double-packed with passengers because of other delays. Sure the flight will probably be delayed if you’re going from Heathrow (a serious contender for world’s worst airport) but at least you’ll never be sharing your seat with someone else or end up sat on the floor of the plane.

        Like

      2. Good point. It’s been awhile since I caught an intercity train in the UK.

        I was going to say I’d never taken an intercity train in Australia but I did catch a train to Newcastle that you had to book tickets for.

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      3. It’s been many years since we took a train in England, but when we did I was impressed by the quality of their apologies. It occurred to me that they got to practice them quite frequently, so they became really, really good at them.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Sadly it shouldn’t make sense in such a small country but given the state of our train lines it does. I’ve also opted to drive more (luckily I have access to a car whenever I’m home) for short-distance travel because it’s deeply frustrating to deal with the delays on trains and buses (and then factor in that it usually takes multiple to get where I want to go). I think I’ve been spoiled by living in Korea, Japan and Taiwan and seeing the possibilities when public transit doesn’t completely suck.

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      5. @camestros:
        “I was going to say I’d never taken an intercity train in Australia but I did catch a train to Newcastle that you had to book tickets for.”

        Oh no, there’s a Newcastle, Australia? Someone’s going to see your comment, assume you meant Newcastle in the UK, and make up a whole new origin story about your true identity.

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      6. Yes, it’s just north of Sydney and like the one in the NE of England, it was a coal port. I have also taken trains to the English Newcastle but not this century….
        …and of course, Newcastle (UK) and Sydney have similar bridges.

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      7. Oh dear I’ve taken trains to and from Newcastle (UK) too. Does this mean we’re the same person? Are you secretly a haunted umbrella?

        Liked by 3 people

      8. British trains are indeed not very good and completely unpredictable. Even if departure and destination are the same, you might get a slow train that stops at every hamlet or an express train takes half the time. You might get a snazzy modern train or a grotty and dirty one. Or the train might take a completely different route than advertised, e.g. the time I decided to take the train from London to Brighton and instead of taking one hour or so, the train took two and a half and apparently did a huge detour without any notice. I was starting to get worried that I’d accidentally boarded the wrong train, but the other passengers were just as confused as me.

        Not that that German trains don’t have their share of issues, but they’re not as unpredictable as UK trains. If you can read the timetable, you’ll know what train you’ll get and where it stops.

        Also, there is a lot of rail repair work and replacement bus service going on in the UK. Again, it’s not as if you don’t have rail replacement busses in Germany, but they seem a lot more common in the UK. At any rate, whenever I take a train in the UK, there always seems to be some kind of bus replacement service. Last year, when I was going from Dublin to Belfast, the last part of the trip in Northern Ireland also had a bus replacement service, though at least there was an announcement.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Apparently more people fly than take the train between London and Edinburgh. (It’s four and a half hours by train when they are running to schedule, which they quite often do.)

        Liked by 1 person

    2. My movie version will start in the courtroom (in Italian with subtitles) of the trial in abstentia. At key points the main story line will stop and cut back to the courtroom with the Italian judge doing a Picard face palm.

      Liked by 4 people

    3. According to him, his travel agency could only change one of time/date/place on the plane tickets. This seems odd, especially considering the circumstances, but not outside of the realm of possibility. The original tickets were flying out of Florence therefore…

      Liked by 2 people

    4. @Aj, I take it you live somewhere with sensible rail systems. While I understand there are some commuter train systems that work well (primarily on the east and west coasts), the only passenger rail service supporting the majority of the country is Amtrak. Amtrak is not well run and has had lots of issues sharing tracks with freight trains. There are also huge sections of the country which are not even served by Amtrak.

      My brother and my wife have both made long trips on Amtrak, with mixed experiences. Both times they ran into severe delays because of freight trains.

      This is a long way of saying many Americans would not even consider trains as an option.

      Contrast this with most of Europe, or even Canada (where VIA Rail runs pretty reliably and which I take when I can over air travel).

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Well, I accept the comments above that the UK train services could do with some serious investment, overhaul and re-thinking though my experience — in normal, non-quarantine times, obviously — of cancellations, rail replacements and overcrowding isn’t normally *that* bad, but it is my default means of transport these days for short and medium length journeys and especially within Continental Europe where the trains are absolutely fabulous (and as for China — wow!) I gather, though, from the story that he claimed he couldn’t change his flight departure point if he changed flight times/dates (to which I’m mentally going “Whut?!? By definition if you change departure place you’re going to change departure time, so what’s he on about?”) so perhaps flying from Florence wasn’t something he had much choice about, unlike the rest of this snowballing self-inflicted shitshow.

        Liked by 1 person

    5. I only got this part now, but Finn and his wife took a plane from Florence to Rome? That’s really ridiculous for such a comparatively short trip, when there is a perfectly fine rail connection. Of course, the epidemic may already have affected the train schedules by that point (though Tuscany and Rome were still open until the general shutdown), but it should still have been far easier to catch a train than a plane.

      But then, Finn probably believes that train travel is a Communist plot. Or he has no idea that trains are a thing.

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      1. “But then, Finn probably believes that train travel is a Communist plot.”

        Atlas Shrugged teaches us that trains are the most individualistic technology of all – one person, alone, creating a transcontinental railway by sheer force of will.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. No, they were flying from Florence because the travel people got them a flight home from Florence via Rome. They had to take a train to get to Florence, and after they missed the flight due to idiocy, they took a train back.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. So much like Geoff Boycott’s trial in France for beating up his girlfriend, then?
    Perhaps the weight of the overloaded cases (and how many were there, for heavens sake? He’d only been there a week) were a deterrent to train travel. Also, does that GoFundMe show that the mighty dollar has absolutely tanked against the euro or what?

    Liked by 2 people

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