Tag Archives: italy

Italy and the anesthetization of consciences: if humanity becomes a crime

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.

Italian Populists (1)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.

xenophobia_-_we_are_all_foreignersThere 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.

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Italian populism and the art of propaganda: how to gain consensus without governing

In this contribution, our blog coordinator Emanuele Lombardini explain his point of view on the present crisis in Italy and the growing of populism in the country, in light of recent political events. It’s a bit longer than most entries on this blog but the  the topic deserves special attention, to allow non-Italians  to better understand the events.


All propaganda must be popular, adapting its level to the least intelligent of the individuals to whom it is directed. The larger the mass is to convince, the smaller the mental effort must be made. Their capacity to elaborate informations is very poor, as well as their memory”.

(J.Goebbels, The 11 propaganda principles, “Principle of Vulgarization”)

The best way to make sense to what is happening in the Italian political scenario since March 5th onwards, is to use the words of Joseph Gobbels, Third Reich Minister of Propaganda. Because it’s only propaganda that moves on the debate. Economic crisis, high unemployment rate, inability of governments to communicate the importance of being part of the EU to be competitive and the unexpected explosion in the numbers of migrants landed on Italian coasts, fueled anger and indignations in people, so populist forces only need to feed this desire for rebellion to gain consensus, without making any serious and concrete proposal.

Moreover, among M5S (Five Stars Movement) and Lega voters, besides people tired of institutions, there is also a part less educated and another part  little inclined to go beyond a search on Google. People only need simple solutions to complex problems, and this nothing better for populist forces.

Italian Constitution state that is the President of Republic that have the power to nominate Prime Minister and “on the indication of the latter”, all the Ministers. This was not the first time that President of Republic says ‘no’ to one of the name on the list, so it is usual to present him also some alternative names. But the institutional clash is exactly that 5 Stars Movement and Lega wanted to provoke from the beginning of this crisis.

They found help in a particularly poor electoral law, which only allow a grouping to govern if a single party of a coalition reach 40%. None of the three blocks achieved this result, so President Sergio Mattarella tried first to join M5S (most voted party) and center-right (most voted coalition). But the attempt failed on the request from M5S to dialogate only with Lega, without Forza Italia and ‘condemned’ Berlusconi. Then he tried to join M5S with Democratic Party (second most voted party) but also this attempt failed, because of a ‘suffered no’ from this latter party.

When, in order to avoid a new ‘techincal Monti-style government’ Berlusconi accepted to ‘step aside’, it officially started the populist alliance’s attempt to delegitimate the institutions we are watching to, which is functional to the only real project: to grow consensus and return to the vote as soon as possible, without getting their hands dirty with the responsibility of government, with the risk of losing voters.

Propaganda must limit itself to a small number of ideas and repeat them tirelessly, always present them under different perspectives, but always converging on the same concept. Without doubts or uncertainties. From here comes the phrase: “A lie repeated endlessly becomes the truth”.

(J.Goebbels, The 11 propaganda principles, “Principle of Orchestration”)

Never stop propaganda. This is only important thing for the Italian populist parties. And do it in their own way: small number of ideas, few simple concepts that indignant people have to assimilate and built the consensus around them.

So, there is the so-called ‘Government contract’: a mix of economical proposals without coverage, a parallel currency, a ‘far west –style’ justice and racial discriminations. And there is the battle, sought and wanted on the appointed Minister of Economy Paolo Savona, a highly regarded professor well known in Europe for his ‘Euro-Exit’ ideas. President Mattarella accepted a ‘non elected’ mostly unknown prime minister (jurist and professor Giuseppe Conte), and all the list of ministers they propose. Except for Savona. And that’s exactly they want to reach. For M5S and Lega was important to present this name without an alternative one to say: “Without Paolo Savona, we will not make government start” and go to the clash.

It was above all Lega Leader Matteo Salvini who wants the clash, even if he spoke of ‘dignity’: everything was functional to build a narrative that had only one great ‘all season’ enemy, to be used as a ‘non government alibi’ and if needed as lightning rod in case the ‘impossible government’ had started and failed in their ‘proposals’.

“It is necessary to adopt only one idea, one symbol. And above all, to identify the adversary in an enemy, in the sole responsible of all evils “

(J.Goebbels, The 11 propaganda principles, “The Unique Enemy”)

M5S and Lega leaders, Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, are well aware that it is impossible to get into the Government quickly through the change of the electoral law.

How to get out of the stall and gain consensus, then? Maximizing the tone of the fight, lowering even more the level of arguments and pointing to the belly of the voters (in example: video-harangues on facebook and tweets through which they call for a mass mobilitation), in a sort of massacre game and reduce as much as possible the number of real ‘competitors’. Then return to the vote as soon as possible. And if there is still not enough consensus, start again.

First step reached: Italy, probably will vote again in July, only 4 months after last elections:  none of the parties – not even the Democratic Party and +Europa  (albeit for different reasons) – will support the technical government that President Mattarella has now entrusted to a famous economist, Carlo Cottarelli, former International Monetary Fund official. He will therefore only remain in office at interim with limited tasks until next elections.

Uploading errors and faults to the opponent, responding to the attack with the attack. If you cannot deny bad news, invent new ones to distract “

(Joseph Goebbels, The 11 Principles of Propaganda, Transposition).

The only real winner of this game, unfortunately, is Matteo Salvini. The former MEP Parliament used the initial real M5S willing to govern (and their claimed inexperience, and multiform shape) to make them accept a right oriented ‘Government contract’ that distorted some of their principles and disturbed the ‘left oriented’ base Movement. More, Salvini is eroding Forza Italia spaces, and when Italy will return to vote, probably he will succeed in the objective of seeing Lega  consensus grow a lot.

And if M5S were to lose also some votes because of that ‘compromise’, then could be also possible that Lega becomes first Italian party.

This is why it is absolutely necessary that the liberal, pro-European and democratic forces – setting aside the differences – already join forces to build a real alternative to a drift that risks turning Italy into Venezuela rather than Hungary. Only in this way, with a dialogue around shared projects, can we really change Europe and lay the foundations for a re-start that gives Italy the leading role in the Union.

 

 

 

IL POPULISMO, IL FASCISMO E IL MEZZOGIORNO IN UN’EUROPA CHE CAMBIA

In this blog post (in Italian) Massimo Ricciuti describes the situation in Italy, the return of ‘fascist’ ideas and possible liberal solutions. Furthermore, he explains the particular situation in Southern Italy

In queste settimane, immediatamente successive alla tornata delle elezioni amministrative in Italia,  alle presidenziali e successivamente alle legislative francesi (oltre quelle inglesi) sono emerse questioni drammaticamente importanti che ci toccano da vicino. C’è una crisi generalizzata delle istituzioni democratiche, è vero e tale crisi fa immediatamente affrontata. Ma il punto più preoccupante che è emerso in questi giorni è la sfacciata ricomposizione di gruppi e forze politiche dichiaratamente fasciste. Purtroppo la questione è generalizzata e coinvolge tutta l’Europa.  E’ quindi quanto mai urgente porsi il problema di “quale Europa” ci sia bisogno.

Cambiare per superare la ‘transizione permanente’

E’ ormai acclarato che siamo definitivamente entrati in quella che si chiama “fase di transizione permanente”. La qual cosa ci pone di fronte a rimetterci continuamente in discussione come cittadini di un’Europa che se vuol davvero essere all’altezza delle sfide della contemporaneità deve fare del “cambiamento” il suo elemento distintivo. Il cambiamento (o anche crisi) è parte fondamentale della vita dei singoli ma anche delle istituzioni. Ma il cambiamento spesso fa paura e non è un caso che il sentimento dominante oggi è la paura. Le società contemporanee sono afflitte da questa sensazione di incapacità di affrontare il nuovo e ecco che trovano terreno fertile forze politiche e gruppi che si reggono proprio sulla paura. Ma abbiamo il dovere della memoria. E deve essere sempre presente la cognizione che le peggiori dittature sono diretta espressione dell’incapacità dei singoli e delle istituzioni di reagire positivamente alle fasi di crisi (cambiamento). Dalla Brexit all’Ungheria, dal fenomeno Le Pen fino allo scampato pericolo populista in Olanda e continuando fino all’Italia si può dire che l’Europa si sia battuta con tenacia impedendo l’imporsi di una egemonia reazionaria e illiberale. Ma è vero che nel frattempo elementi di forte preoccupazione si sono palesati in tutti i Paesi membri della UE. Non nascondiamoci dietro allo scampato pericolo…perché qualcosa che brucia c’è, e solo un’ Europa rinnovata e più forte può far fronte a segnali spesso intollerabili e sfacciati. Un’Europa che spesso è proprio il bersaglio principale di sovranisti di ogni risma. Per esempio, non è casuale quello che sta accadendo in Italia oggi.

Il ritorno di nostalgie ‘fasciste’  e come superarle

Proprio in questi giorni si sta discutendo, in Parlamento, della possibilità di estendere il reato di apologia del fascismo anche su web e di inasprire le pene per chi commette tale reato. La reazione delle destre populiste (Salvini, Fratelli d’Italia e il Movimento Cinque Stelle di Grillo) sì è subito fatta sentire. Tra l’altro in questi partiti vi sono molti assessori, consiglieri comunali e regionali che non fanno mistero di inneggiare a Benito Mussolini e al nazifascismo.

Credo di non essere il solo a essere preoccupato per tutto questo.

Di sicuro si tratta dell’ennesimo fenomeno che segnala una debolezza di tenuta della forma della democrazia rappresentativa e dei suoi meccanismi di funzionamento ma anche di una sensazione di lontananza delle istituzioni che devono rispondere a nuove urgenze che la contemporaneità richiede.

Però risulta evidente che esiste una questione “fascista” , in Italia, mai metabolizzata e risolta. E’ come se ci fosse una sorta di “rimozione” psicologica…. E spesso accade che chi si macchia del reato di apologia del fascismo non viene perseguito ma tollerato. Questo fa pensare che in fondo questo Paese non abbia mai affrontato realmente il ventennio fascista e forse ne abbia quasi nostalgia!

Mussolini viene ricordato come un “nonno” severo e nulla più dalla maggior parte degli italiani,  la cosa è drammatica.

Per questo occorre subito smettere di rincorrere i populisti e le loro tematiche. Occorre puntare sull’Europa come propulsore di democrazia e civiltà. Occorre rilanciare l’open society contro i sovranismi di ogni tipo.

La ‘Questione meridionale’: clientele da superare

Esiste, inoltre, un’altra questione che riguarda il mezzogiorno d’Italia e il ruolo che dovrebbe avere in un’Europa che sia protagonista dei cambiamenti che riguardano i Paesi che affacciano sul Mediterraneo. Un’Europa che sappia governare i cambiamenti e che stimoli e sproni zone come il sud-Italia a essere partecipe del presente e artefice del proprio futuro e non vittima di ataviche cattive abitudini e atteggiamenti conservatori. E’ proprio dalla presa di coscienza delle proprie possibilità che il sud e i Paesi mediterranei potranno (nel medio periodo) essere un volano per  tutta l’Europa visto il ruolo che potrebbero avere su un’area in cui gli scambi commerciali, culturali e economici offrono ambi margini e occasioni di sviluppo e crescita. Ma il Mezzogiorno di Italia la smetta di perpetuare modelli di governo locale plebiscitari, peronisti e clientelari! Abbia la forza di scommettere su se stesso e sulle proprie capacità di saper attrarre investimenti. Dimostri di saper sfruttare le sue naturali risorse e “faccia sistema” con il resto del Paese e si faccia parte propulsiva di un nuovo progetto di rilancio europeo che parta dal mediterraneo…. E vedrete che con un po’ di rigore e una decisa assunzione di responsabilità il sud potrà essere nel giro di un decennio l’esempio di un nuovo modo di fare impresa. Un ponte di opportunità per tutta l’ Europa. Un ruolo strategico (non è un caso che la base NATO di Napoli sia stata scelta come riferimento europeo per la lotta al terrorismo)

A patto che si smetta con nostalgie nefaste…

Massimo Ricciuti