In this contribution, our blog coordinator explains the Italian situation, where it’s only propaganda that leads the political action. Former MEP now minister Salvini bans humanity and those who practice it
The building of consensus: by doing nothing and using weapons of mass distraction so that the people do not notice. Matteo Salvini and his way of doing politics is the most evident symbol of the decadence to which the political debate in Italy has deteriorated and how easy it is to create a leader in a country where voters are highly disappointed by the past. Berlusconi indicated the way but his problems with justice stopped him. Renzi succeeded only partially. Former MEP now Italian Interior Minister and Deputy Premier is – unfortunately- the one who had better ride the wave.
Salvini did that so good as to have overshadowed the Five Stars Movement, government ally and first Italian party and made the Italians forget the fact that Lega not only did not win elections but it came third also beaten by the Democratic Party.
The media, but above all social media, are the best way to get people engaged. Salvini and his team know it well and so “live” on Facebook, quickly making it his chosen weapon of mass persuasion: through them he has been able to convince an ever-larger part of voters and made mainstream his point of view on certain topics.
Moreover, the average voter – the Italian, in particular – has a short memory. Submerging them with words and images makes them happy; it takes little to make them forget, for example, that the same politician that went around with “Padania is not Italy” t-shirts, conducting stadium choirs against the inhabitants of Naples, is now the one who screams #primagliitaliani (“italiansfirst”).
The strategy is simple and can be summarized in a few simple concepts: never stop propaganda, create an enemy, direct the mass to a single thought, and delegitimize the contrary voices. Thanks to these tactics and, at the same time, to a meticulous construction of an image (fake) of a ‘man close to the people’ (for example posting images of his own dinner on Twitter), Salvini has managed, like a good snake charmer, to take credit into a part of people.
There is nothing that cannot be useful to this purpose. Is Italy a Catholic country? So, he presents himself to the political meetings holding the Gospel and the Rosary and makes battles for the crucifix and the nativity scene in schools. Italy was an obstacle to Padania? Now the southerners are needed and so those to be fought are ‘others’: migrants – ‘loafers and bearers of terrorism’ – and the NGOs that help them, Doctors without Borders (he calls them ‘deputy smugglers’), and even the Pope, who redirects the Catholic electorate towards the true Christian message.
The rest is done by a careful communication strategy aimed (also) at the construction and viralisation of ‘fake news’ through the echo chambers of Facebook and Twitter, and the constant evocation of phrases, attitudes and characters that refer to policies close to fascism or the extreme right; it’s good to put his ‘flag’ on those slices of nostalgic electorate that otherwise would hardly see their own representations in Parliament – if it gets you elected.
In this strategy it is, of course, essential to provide an altered perception of reality. The uncertain European management of migratory flows was, in this sense, an easy tool to by which to construct the narrative of a danger that does not actually exist. His role as Interior Minister is helping him to reinforce this perception on the people.
This is happening through two measures launched by the Government of which he is a part. First of all, a decree called ‘security’ but one that actually realizes exactly the opposite: canceling all the projects for integration and removing the asylum seekers from the structures where they are housed. Those people, by their very status, cannot be expelled, and so they are left without a place to stay, increasing the risk they become ‘irregulars’. The second provision: almost completely abolishing humanitarian protection, makes it impossible to renew their residence permit once it has expired. Two simple moves to create new irregularities, but they are presented to the population as a ‘fight against crime’. In the eyes of the people there will always be an ’emergency’. That soon will be ‘faced’ by shooting at sight, even against those who are unarmed, thanks to the law on self-defence that the Government is preparing to launch.
There is no better way to increase consensus and bring out all the anger and indignation of the people than have the poor fighting amongst themselves. Even instrumentalizing the victims of the recent earthquake is fair game: “Before migrants, I have to deal with those who have been without a house for two years”, he hurries to say on Facebook and on TV. But the laws to remove the bureaucracy that block the reconstruction of the houses destroyed in those areas have remained an electoral promise. On the other hand, he will soon go to visit one of earthquake regions where, in February, there will be an election. “Buonista” (“Feel-good” in English) is a term he use in a negative way, against those who think we need to continue to maintain humanity by considering migrants as people.
The anesthetization effect of the collective conscience is completed by the discrediting of all contrary voices: on the one hand, exploiting the traditional Italian habit of ‘bending’ public information to politics, with directors ‘aligned’ to the ideas of those who govern and, from another side, by removing space and resources from all those media that deal daily with the right to distort the distorted narration, evaluating theses with real data and fact checking.
An even better way to do this is to change the law that every year allocate money to newspapers, radio and television: in Italy pure publisher figures don’t exist and media are mostly owned by entrepreneurs in sectors others than publishing, so the Government helps the media. Salvini’s party (Lega) have joined with his ally M5S to fight against these allocations and have just launched the law that will reduce in three years the allocation to zero; A provision that in addition to small regional newspapers, almost exclusively affects the media ‘dissidents’.
In the meantime, the measures included in the last financial law, in addition to taxing voluntary associations (especially penalizing those who assist the migrants) takes away money from growth, development and businesses, to finance some ‘spots’ measures as lowering retirement age, flat tax and so called ‘citizen income’, a sum of money for unemployed and those who earn less than 750 euros.