Giorgia Meloni has , in six long months since her election, started the process of normalization of her extremist outlook. She has announced laws which quash dissent, peopled the newspapers and TV with her acolytes, and emphasizes freedom of the individual while introducing legislation which curtails,if not bans, citizens rights. In her latest move she is trying to stop the high Court from having any influence over government policy. At the moment this is restricted to letting the law impede the governments appalling inaction on the European PNRR funding, but will be taken as a precedent if she succeeds. She will of course then move on to her manifesto pledge of a directly elected president – which is against the Constitution – but if she has blocked any legal challenge, she will be able to do what she likes. In the meantime the public are distracted by things of little importance, but then she and her ilk are adept at creating scapegoats to pull attention away from more sinister moves. Migration remains a hot topic, and takes up a goodly slot on most news programmes. At the moment she is moving to make what they call ‘uterus for rent’ a world crime – meaning that anyone – straight or gay who uses surrogacy to have a child will not have their child recognized in Italy, even if the surrogacy takes place in a foreign country where it is entirely legal.
The brutal beating of a transvestite woman last week in Milan, by 4 police officers at 9 am in the morning has brought no condemnation from any government politician. It would have been entirely missed if a group of students hadn’t filmed it and posted it on social media. Students are high up on the governments agenda – the first law Meloni passed was to make raves illegal. That was the headline – in effect it is a law which makes it a crime for more than 50 people to occupy a building – a student right since the 1960s, and part of the ongoing court cases of police brutality during the student occupation of a building during the Genova G8 of 2001.
It is increasingly a copy and paste of Mussolini’s rise to power in the 1920’s. Last week she proudly said that patriotism was no longer a dirty word, in a meeting ominously entitled ‘ Nation and Motherland, ideas rediscovered’. The president of the House – No. 2 in offices of state, is a barely reconstructed fascist, and revels in his name being Ignazio Benito La Russa. Bear in mind that he and Meloni founded their party – Fratelli di Italia, when their Allianza Nazionale (ex fascist party) was discontinued and absorbed into Berlusconi’s Popolo della Liberta 15 years ago.
It is difficult to find any news story now that does not laud Meloni – her control over public broadcasting grows daily, the owners of the papers follow the Murdoch press in their potential as propaganda machines. It is worrying that Sky news is now the only balanced news station left in Italy.
Since the appalling floods in Emilia Romagna two weeks ago, politicians have lined up to tell the victims that they will not be abandoned. No Italian can believe such platitudes. The exact same words have been said by Renzi after the earthquake in Macerata in 2016, Berlusconi after Aquila 2009, and others after Irpinia 1980 and back to Messina in 1908 and where people are still living in what was then temporary accommodation. Meloni leaves it to others to utter those fateful words, she flew over the area saying it was inappropriate to say anything at that time. And that is her appeal: she sounds so reasonable and she’s a woman so could not possibly be a despot. She speaks English well unlike Renzi, is at ease with other leaders and doesn’t miss an opportunity for a photo shoot, without making a fool of herself unlike Berlusconi, and dresses well unlike most of the other PMs in the last 40 years. She is eminently plausible and considered, which is what makes her so dangerous. Nothing she has done since being elected has diminished the threat she poses to Italy’s democracy.