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In fact, in November 2011 an international petition was formally launched to ask UNESCO —in the light of the increasing marginalization of the classical languages—to declare Latin and Greek a specially protected “intangible heritage of humanity.” I am not sure what I think about treating classical languages as if they were an endangered species or a precious ruin, but I am fairly confident that it wasn’t great politics, right now, to suggest (as the petition does) that their preservation should be made the particular responsibility of the Italian government. I think Mario Monti has rather too much on his plate already.

And so, referring to the rapid development of Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution” through mass demonstrations to a nationwide general strike, he writes, “None of this was inspired or led by dissidents or Civic Forum, which was abolished not long after 1989.” So the general strike somehow called itself. When 300,000 people on Wenceslas Square chanted ” Havel na hrad! “—“Havel to the Castle!”—this did not mean that Havel’s biography, personality, or highly visible leadership had anything whatever to do with it. For this was just another “implosion” of a communist establishment. To anyone who was there, or who simply reads the careful accounts by Czech and Western historians who have studied the Velvet Revolution in detail, this claim is as untenable as the one about the Ponzi scheme. This is revisionism on stilts.

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