Giorgia Meloni, the future of the past (by M. Morosini)

According to polls, Giorgia Meloni could become Italy’s prime minister after the April 25 elections. The president of the Fratelli d’Italia (FdI) party would be the first woman in this position and the second youngest head of the Italian government ever. Meloni looks less than his 45 years old and is a political and media phenomenon. Small in stature, she looks like a doll in the photograph that portrays her suspended in the arms of Guido Crosetto, a nice King Kong Piedmontese who weighs three times her weight, with whom she founded the party in 2012.

I am Giorgia

Meloni, however, is anything but a doll. In her speeches she screams “I am Giorgia, I am a woman, I am a mother, I am Christian!”. Never was a business card more effective. There sentence is now legend, repeated in every rally and hammered a rap time in the clip “I am Giorgia – Remix”, viewed 13 million times – a mixture of exaltation and parody. For the Meloni’s “launch” this clip will perhaps be what was the legendary spot of Ridley Scott “1984” for the launch of the first Apple Mac.

“I am Giorgia” is also the title of her autobiography, with her full cover portrait. Also the cover of the Fratelli d’Italia program is occupied by a seductive portrait of him, as if it were a fashion magazine. Here, Meloni is essentially “in fashion”. She is the real party program. In interviews on Meloni people respond more often “I like” than not “I agree”. About her Grown up at Garbatella, her peasant grit and her strong Roman accent make her perceive her as a genuine novelty, different from “politicians attached to power”. This is how she succeeds to make us forget that for about ten years she supported the worst governments of the Republic, those of Silvio Berlusconi, who made her minister of youth at the age of 31.

The future Italy

In public debates Meloni is pugnacious, speaks decisively and appears prepared and credible. So why not give it a chance? To answer, it is necessary to know something of its future and its past. In Meloni’s future for Italy there are above all words like Nation, patriots, defense of the homeland and national borders (from irregular migrants), Judeo-Christian tradition, Italian pride. Then there is the goal of making Italy a presidential republic. Finally, there are some of the electoral promises. For instance: abolition of the crime of torture (“Prevents agents from doing their jobs”), “chemical castration” (for those responsible for certain violence), fight against “LGBT lobby“, Obtaining easier than the carrying of armsprinciple that “defense is always legitimate“, naval blockade before Libya “against irregular immigrants, seizure and sinking of the ships carrying them, repression of NGOs that rescue the castaways and seizure of their ships, abolition of citizenship income (a law of the 5 Star Movement that gave a small sustenance to four million poor people), reduction of taxes for the richest, “fiscal peace”, that is, the amnesty of small tax evasions. Finally, on the posters of his coalition it is written: “Flat tax at 15%”. In reality, the 15% rate of income tax would only apply to the portion of income higher than that of recent years. Beyond that there are also promises that anyone would agree on, which is why I am omitting in this context.

In Meloni’s talk and scream there is a nationalist emphasis, a ruthlessness towards weak subjects, a tolerance towards the violence of the police and armed citizens who defend themselves, the absence of any reference to the ecological crisis. While common to other European parties, these promises have roots in the past that has forged the staff of Fratelli d’Italia, including Meloni. Let’s see it.

Neofascist at fifteen

Meloni joined the Italian Social Movement MSI at the age of fifteen, the party founded in 1946 by former fascist hierarchs and whose staff practiced and partly still practice the cult of Mussolini. “I think Mussolini was a good politician, that is to say that everything he did he did for Italy” says a 19-year-old Meloni in a report from 1996 of France 3 television. He echoed his boss Gianfranco Fini, who said that “Mussolini was the greatest statesman of the century” (1992) and that it was necessary to create “the fascism of 2000” (1988). More than her opponents, it is she who affirms continuity with the MSI tradition and pride in her symbol: the “tricolor flame”. This was designed in 1946 by the founder of the MSI Giorgio Almirante, a former fascist leader, collaborator of the Nazis, former editor of the newspaper “La defense of the race” (“The word fascist I wrote on my forehead”, “Racism has to be food for everyone and for everyone “). The tricolor flame is still in the party logo, despite four name changes. To Senator Liliana Segre, victim of fascist atrocities, who asks her to remove the flame, Meloni he replies: “There is no reason to remove the flame from the Brothers of Italy symbol. It represents continuity with the history of a republican and democratic right.” In this case, however, Meloni denies the true history of the MSI, a party that has had a war criminal president (General Rodolfo Graziani), characters involved in beatings, attacks, killings, coup attempts among its presidents or adherents or sympathizers.

General Graziani president of the Italian Social Movement

A misunderstanding needs to be cleared up. Meloni is not reproached – as you say – for what fascism did, but for what the neo-fascism of which you have been part of for thirty years is doing. For example, in 2008 the election of the neo-fascist Gianni Alemanno as mayor of Rome was celebrated on the steps of the Campidoglio (the Roman City Hall) with Roman greetings (the fascist salute), black shirts, and waving flags. with the tricolor flame.

In 2012, exponents of the Brothers of Italy (Ercole Viri, Mayor of Affile, and two councilors), had a shrine built in honor of General Rodolfo Graziani who in 1953 and 1954 was president of the MSI, i.e. he was one of the predecessors of the current president Meloni. Graziani, however, it was also something else. Known in Ethiopia “the butcher of Fezzan” for the massacres of him, inscribed on the UN list of war criminals, Graziani was responsible for the death of thousands of civilians and soldiers of North and East Africa, exterminated by the Italian military among the two world wars. Some were poisoned with mustard gas and phosgene, or murdered en masse, or made to die in concentration camps, in fact extermination. See the film where Graziani is the protagonist The Lion of the Desert (1980) with Antony Quinn, Rod Steiger and Irene Papas. The extradition request presented by Ethiopia was denied by Italy in 1949. He was instead tried and sentenced to 19 years in prison for collaborating with the Nazis even though he was released from prison after four months.

Four trump cards

How did the Fratelli d’Italia apparatus manage to hide the neo-fascist essence of Meloni and make him a star? The success of this operation is based on four factors.

First. Feminine personalization. At the top of the Brothers of Italy there is no place for the sisters (apart from Meloni). in Italy there is no more male party, male chauvinist, anti-feminist and anti-homosexual (the “fags”). Before Meloni, all of its presidents were male. The vast majority of leaders, adherents, and voters are male. Yet, the party leaders behind Meloni, elderly fascists or neo-fascists, managed to make the party’s masculinity be forgotten by completely withdrawing from the limelight, on which they left, alone as the protagonist, a pretty and pugnacious woman. No election campaign in Italy has ever been so personalized as that for Meloni

According to. The power of images. Meloni’s success is based more on images than words. The media are inundated with the photographs that portray her. In a single day there are often a dozen portraits of Meloni in the same large online newspaper. Probably the apparatus of the Brothers of Italy floods the editorial offices with attractive photos of its president because it has found that it is cheaper for the editorial offices to publish free photographs than to pay a reporter or an agency. Furthermore, Meloni’s grace and long blond hair attract editors, like all Italian males, and encourage them to gladly embellish the newspaper with this subject.

Third. The manipulation of words. “Center-right” is the name used by the media and by almost all politicians for the coalition between the Brothers of Italy (Meloni, 24% of voting intentions), Lega (Salvini 10%), Forza Italia (Berlusconi, 7%). In European comparison, however, Brothers of Italy and Lega, are further to the right than the far right of Europe, for example the Rassemblement National in France. For this reason, their proper denomination would be “ultra-right” as the Dutch political scientist defines it Cas Mudde in the book Ultradestra (2020). Meloni calls himself the head of the “center-right”, but he scornfully calls the center-left “left”.

A further manipulation is that of the name of the party: Fratelli d’Italia, in fact, is the unofficial name and the first line of the Italian national anthem that almost everyone knows by heart, that is, it is a public good of which the “party of the flame” it is appropriate.

Fourth. The manipulation of numbers. The “center-right” would have a twenty-point advantage over the “center-left”, the media say. In reality, as has been the case for decades, the right and the left both amounted to 40%. The artifice of the 20% difference results from considering only the coalition of the Democratic Party with some small parties (25%) as “center-left”. Thus, however, the other opponents of the right are obscured: the 5 Star Movement (15%) and other anti-fascist parties (8%). Consequently, even television appearances are often unbalanced in favor of the Brothers of Italy. RAI Uno, for example, had organized a final “duel” for the day before the elections only between Giorgia Meloni and Enrico Letta (Democratic Party). However, the latter represents only half of the opposing parties on the far right, while Meloni represents practically all the opposing parties in the center-left.

A few days before the elections, the supporters of the Brothers of Italy are boiling. The most troublemakers (there are not a few) perhaps they prepare pennants, black shirts and flags with the tricolor flame. Meloni predicts the ruin of Italy if the hated “left” wins. Great some commentators, on the other hand, predict at most a loss of “market confidence” in Italy. Maybe the ultra-right will go to the government, but certainly not to power. The symbolic potion of fascism was castor oil, but the Italian potion of Italy is the Giuliani bitter, which makes you digest everything. A plausible thing is that the Roman greetings will disappear and the daring will die out. But one thing is certain. Giorgia Meloni shuffled the cards in Italian politics. It was a well-organized surprise and she could surprise us again, this time with her mind, at the helm of Italy. A viper from her party (Meloni is not the only woman) said that “Meloni would go wrong even driving an elevator”. Instead, the lift driven by Meloni has already taken her to the penultimate floor. She now promises that she will do the same with the Italy lift.

Giorgia Meloni, the future of the past (by M. Morosini)