Radical Italy of Meloni


Photo source: Times of Israel

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Upfront

Giorgia Meloni is the first female prime minister Italy ever had, after swearing office with a coalition in October 2022. Unapologetically intense, she is also known as a political charmer in known circles. As a youth activist in the post-Fascist Italian Social Movement, she and her militant coterie had nicknames like Frodo and Hobbit, and they revered Lord of the Rings, and other works by British writer, J.R.R Tolkien. They also visited schools in character and huddled at the sounding of the horn of Boromir for cultural chats. She attended ‘Hobbit Camp’ and sang along with the extremist folk band Compagnia dell'Anello, or Fellowship of the Ring.

At 19, she told a French Television that Mussolini was a great leader, and that he did everything right for the country. But, after being part of the national alliance in 2006, she changed her perception and believed that ‘dictators’ do make mistakes, and that Mussolini was no good when he talked about racial laws, authoritarianism, and entering World War II on the side of Adolf Hitler. She also refused to change her party logo, which is also used by the Italian Social Movement, believing that the ‘flame’ in it has nothing to do with fascism. 

In her career, Meloni was also the youngest minister to hold office in Italy at 31, and also co-founded Brothers of Italy in 2012. Her election win is often credited for being in the opposition. She also started to reassure those who questioned her lack of experience with her slogan ‘Ready’. Wary of Italy's huge debt, she has been vehement about fiscal prudence, despite her coalition’s call for tax cuts, and higher social spending. In her fight against the current EU bureaucracy, she is toeing the line with Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, who is also accused of fascist leanings, although now she no longer confronts the idea of EU’s single currency.

On several occasions in her campaigns, Meloni has tried to distance herself from her fascist past though, which will make mainstream Italian politics more sceptical. Despite expounding the idea of Catholic values, she in her election speeches wanted to govern for all Italians. This makes her political orientation complex, or hypocritical at worse.

Nevertheless, it has been a long journey for Meloni, from being a teen activist to the prime minister. Often provocative in her speeches, due to her gender ideology, ‘Italy First’ campaigns, and the need for Italians to raise more children, she also rallies against many prevailing ideas of EU, mass immigration and LGBT lobbies. Her main target has been what she calls ‘the left’, by which she really means the centre-left Democratic Party. In fact, to confront migration, she wants a naval blockade of Libyan boats leaving their shores. She often derogatorily refers migrants to as clandestini (‘illegals’). According to her shallow perceptions, all undocumented migrants in Italy end up as drug dealers or sex workers.

Meloni is also labelled as the ‘European Trump’ by some sections of the press, due to positions which have been described as fruits of racism, bigotry, and white supremacy, but as she has praised Iran and Hezbollah, this stance may not be totally clearer to perceive. It is maybe due to this reason, some American politicians are not totally bewitched by Meloni, and demand that her politics deserves careful watching.

In a 2019 speech, she won many common American fans. It includes women because white feminism has become an integral component of crypto-fascistic and white nationalist cabals in the United States. Among Meloni’s admirers are also male commentators like Rod Dreher and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz also called her speech video ‘spectacular’. Dreher, however, also believes that Meloni’s reporting in America should not be largely believed as it is been done by the liberal press in bondage with their progressive ideology. Although, a Washington Post Oped criticised her speech, flaking it as ‘not making sense’. But, according to an article by Jennifer Graham in Desert News, it did nevertheless make sense to a wide audience of Americans, ‘who were weary of being dismissed as neanderthals and bigots for believing something is not quite right with her country’s rush to embrace gender-affirming surgery and to throw out perfectly good pronouns.’

Graham’s intellectual posture may be right on this, because Meloni has in fact weaponised sexual assault on non-Italian women in her campaigns, by posting a video of a Ukrainian woman, living in Italy, being raped by a Guinean asylum seeker. She tried to make it viral, in order to re-traumatise women, as the video was widely circulated on social media. That’s why Natasha Noman, an MSNBC columnist, wrote: ‘Meloni is as much a feminist as a wolf in sheep’s clothing is a sheep. In co-opting an identity and cause that she then weaponises to attack the very same people the cause is intended to protect, figures like Meloni present a much greater threat to feminism than cisgender men.’

When it comes to some of her other economic policies, Meloni wants to revisit Italian reforms agreed upon with the EU in return for almost €200bn (£178bn) in post-Covid recovery grants and loans, arguing that the energy crisis has changed the situation. As per BBC, Italy is already the second most indebted country in the eurozone, and Prof Leila Simona Talani of King's College London believes the next government will face a clutch of serious issues. Although, Prof Gianluca Passarrelli of Rome's Sapienza University told the BBC that Meloni will be stern in her economic policies, and will give a reason to cheer for her followers.

That’s why, it isn’t surprising that the flowing dialogue with the outgoing prime minister, who was also a former president of the European Central Bank, to the point where we have already seen insinuations that Draghi has become Meloni’s mentor and guarantor, reflects of some optimism.

Meloni’s win as prime minister is also another reason to believe that the culture wars of populist propaganda that brought the post-ideological Five Star Movement and the far-right League into power in 2018 was reflective of an already deteriorating environment. Add to that, Meloni’s win is a defeat to most vulnerable communities and for progressive activists and politicians who are unwilling to compromise on their values for electoral gain, thereby ushering an era of illiberalism.



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