We have to make some choices: decide if our ethnicity, our white race, our culture can continue to exist
These are the words of Attilio Fontana, frontrunner in the race for President of Lombardy, the largest region in Italy, containing Milan and representing 1/5th of the Italian GDP and 1/6th of the population. These words echoed around the world, creating a storm of news in Italy about Mister White Race lasting for about 2 days, until the nation forgot about them beyond a half hearted attempt at a Twitter hashtag. The opposing candidate, Giorgio Gori of the Democratic Party (PD), made one short comment to a local newspaper about how he wanted to focus on improving the region before he too moved on. Since then, not a peep.
Fontana’s echoing of the famous 14 words is only the tip of the iceberg for an Italian political rhetoric that has been diplomatically moving towards white nationalism for years: Fontana’s party, formerly a secessionist movement from northern Italy until recently called Lega Nord (Northern League), has recently been able to summon national support, rebranding as Lega (League) and directing its hateful words toward immigrants, referred to as clandestines, and, predictably, the nation’s 1.2 million Muslims, who in Italy are not officially recognized as a religious group. Lega has worked hard to maintain their image as a common sense nationalist party, making use of the terms Italian for whites and clandestine for black, slowly normalizing the idea of a cultural invasion instead of leading right off the bat with the term white genocide. Having been assured that he still had the support of his party, Fontana walked back his comments in manner consistent with his associates, not by apologizing, but by framing them in reworked terms as “logical”:
Listening to the entire phrase it was evident that mine was not a racist comment, but a logical one.
As his name recognition went up, having been a previously unknown former mayor, and as his comments were forgotten in favor of his promises to deport 100 thousand people and to “stop the invasion”, Fontana proceeded to go up in the polls.
Italy isn’t unique in the rise of racist parties that court white nationalism: France saw the rise of Le Pen and the Front National, the UK had of UKIP and Brexit, and the US saw Steve Bannon and Donald Trump, but Marine Le Pen lost overwhelmingly to a liberal centrist in Macron, UKIP is now all but defunct and Brexit incredibly unpopular, and Donald Trump is stuck with an approval rating that can’t break 40% while Steve Bannon has lost all influence in disgrace. Meanwhile in Italy, Lega looks set to take the helm of the national government in March together with Berlusconi (of bunga-bunga fame) and Mister White Race is all but certain to lead Lombardy. Why is Italy failing where others are succeeding? Two reasons: the press and the opposition.
The press in Italy is uniquely mediocre: tabloid gossip and news mix freely in Italian newspapers while the writing is rendered as uninformative as it is inaccessible; the language used by Italian journalists is vague, rendered even more so by the fact that the style of writing resembles a Thesaurus word scramble. Finally investigative journalism in Italy is a lost art both in print and on air, with the latter too often resigning itself to simply reading newspapers out loud on live TV. When, in the Alabama special election, Roy Moore was credibly accused of being a child molester, the story broke due to work carried out by the Washington Post; the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones, was then able to run an issue driven campaign while the media held Roy Moore accountable through further investigation and fantastic reporting. In Lombardy the story of Mister White Race died out after a few days as media outlets refused to uphold a moral standard for the candidates.
If your rival declares himself a white nationalist on national TV, stop trying to weasel out of a confrontation and make sure nobody ever forgets it
When the media fails to uphold moral standards, the opposing campaign should step in and maintain public attention on the issue; no such luck, bringing forward the second problem: failure of the opposition. When Berlusconi rose to power in 1994 with his right-of-center populist rhetoric, the Italian left, from centrists to communists, panicked. They proceeded to spend the next 15 years campaigning on failed character attacks against the charismatic, sex-addicted disaster leading the nation, while being unable to present proper policy arguments or a leader that didn’t talk like a clerk at the DMV. Finally able to regain power after the financial crash, the Democratic Party went on the defensive, shedding their old ways and instead speaking only of policies through a mildly charismatic leader, Matteo Renzi. The Italian left has gone from one extreme to the other when it comes to campaigning: while their populist rivals the Five Star Movement make wild promises and display an extreme form of butterfingers when it comes to holding on to a policy position and their right wing foes make wild promises and quote the white genocide manifesto, the left ignores them and fails at capturing the nation’s attention with charts and graphs because they are too afraid of saying what needs to be said. If your rival declares himself a white nationalist on national TV, stop trying to weasel out of a confrontation and make sure nobody ever forgets it. This isn’t the usual anti-immigration talk spouted by populist parties, this is actively promoting an extreme form of a dangerous and hateful ideology.
The rise and normalization of white nationalism in Italy will continue, and Giorgio Gori, Matteo Renzi and the rest of the left, in their silence, are complicit
In a functional society politicians are held accountable by the media, but the media in Italy are unable to do so, making it the role of the opposition; instead the opposition is putting their head in the sand and pleading with people to love them. Until this changes, the rise and normalization of white nationalism in Italy will continue, and Giorgio Gori, Matteo Renzi and the rest of the left, in their silence, are complicit.