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Is there a Godwin for Musolinni?
February 3, 2009 10:00 AM   Subscribe

I don't know if this is more troubling than any of the other anti-immigrant movements that have been cropping up in Europe, or whether it's just that Italy has Silvio Berlusconi (previously on MeFi), but with the fingerprinting of Roma, including their children, the destruction of Roma camps and the blase attitude towards two Roma girls found dead on an Italian beach, one wonders whether comparisons to the 1930's may become justified. Now, in an act that, while not violent, is perhaps even more indicative of the country's views on race the city of Lucca and the region of Lombardy have banned the opening of new "foreign" restaurants, as, one newspaper put it "a new Lombard Crusade against the Saracens."

Included in the ban: kebabs, sushi, Chinese food. Not Included in the ban: French food. Questionable: Sicilian food, as it has "Arab influences."

Beyond this, Italy has passed a law allowing for the summary expulsion of dangerous EU citizens. Using this law, the Italian police have been expelling large numbers of Romanian immigrants.

So, is this simply the xenophobia that has been spreading across Europe, or is this something more worrisome for the country of Italy? Or is the xenophobia seen in many countries lately worrying enough on its own?
posted by Hactar (48 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I started this entry after reading about the foreign food ban in Lucca, a city I positively love. I didn't have plans to return to Italy anytime soon, but to have a favorable impression of a city that would do this, well, it makes me rather unhappy with it all.
posted by Hactar at 10:01 AM on February 3, 2009


Xenophobia or an economy so far down the shitter that they're using the police to protect the remaining few jobs for the locals?

Not that xenophobia is cool, but I expect there's something other than just random hatred going on here. The Italian economy isn't exactly known for being robust.
posted by GuyZero at 10:13 AM on February 3, 2009


Was there a period of post-war Italy where it wasn't xenophobic and creepy that I missed?
posted by chunking express at 10:15 AM on February 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


All Italians are racists.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 10:30 AM on February 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


Attention all displaced kebab-shop restaurateurs: Your services are required in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. You will be welcomed here. That is all.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:30 AM on February 3, 2009 [10 favorites]


All Italians are racists.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 1:30 PM on February 3


I really can't tell what a comment like this is supposed to accomplish. Is it a joke? Is it meant to imply something meaningful? Who knows? It's like a mysterious bag which is full of either shards of glass or several pounds of shit, and even though you're not sure which you have the feeling you won't like either!
posted by shmegegge at 10:35 AM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


There has been growing xenophobia across Europe, in particular with regards to Islamaphobia. However, there has been growing dialogue and cooperation between moderate Muslim leaders and other Europeans - see Nasser Khader's story, for example.

Italy, on the other hand, has been flaunting their xenophobia - especially towards Romanians (another EU state, by the way. Also, I realize there's a difference between Roma and Romanians - many Italians don't) - and no, their economy shouldn't have much to do with it, as they remain #4 in the EU n terms of GDP. If Italy wants to be a xenophobic nest, fine - but they should be expelled from the EU. They have absolutely no business reaping the benefits of being a part of the EU while at the same time exercising extreme exclusionism.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:38 AM on February 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


also, I don't know a whole hell of a lot about European social currents, but I've grown up hearing stories about problems like this my whole life. Whether it's hearing about how Polish emigrants are apparently the pariahs of every country they try to settle in, or the anti-semitic demonstrations in France when I was in college, or the attitude in England toward Pakistanis, or just the flat out bigotry toward Gypsies that goes back seemingly for as long as Gypsies have existed. I could be woefully misinformed, in which case I'd appreciate someone hipping me to the reality of the situation. But yeah, the impression I've always had is that there's bigotry everywhere, it's just a question of which group.
posted by shmegegge at 10:41 AM on February 3, 2009


Strangely enough, when my wife and I went to Italy on our honeymoon, the most popular pizza among the children in the town we stayed was pizza con wurstel e patatine, which is basically pizza with sliced-up hotdogs and french fries as the toppings. Lucca and Lombardy are fighting a losing battle.
posted by jonp72 at 10:42 AM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


All Italians are racists.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 1:30 PM on February 3

I really can't tell what a comment like this is supposed to accomplish. Is it a joke? Is it meant to imply something meaningful? Who knows?


Geez, of course it's a joke. In a thread bringing up the specter of racism and xenophobia, it's an overtly racist comment accusing others of being racist. It's not the funniest thing ever, but it's clearly a joke.
posted by explosion at 10:44 AM on February 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


The poster seems to be lumping all Italians into one racist group.

Their are progressives and ignorant people in different regions of Italy- just like in the U.S.

In the north, they don't recognize Sicilians as Italian. They call them "Greeks".

A little further south, they are more progressive. Bologna, for example, has all kinds of restaurants and they would frown on any ban like the ones mentioned. They hate Berlusconi as much as they hated George Bush.
posted by Zambrano at 10:48 AM on February 3, 2009


Most Romanians don't look remotely similar to Roma.

I wonder if Italians are using antiziganism as a cover regarding Romanians.
posted by kldickson at 10:51 AM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


The poster seems to be lumping all Italians into one racist group.

I didn't read it that way - I see it as a criticism of local and national policy in Italy, coupled with a speculation if this is unique to Italy or a part of a larger European trend.

It's always comforting to hear more nuance, though, and I appreciate the details you provided about local attitudes and social mores.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:53 AM on February 3, 2009



I wonder if Italians are using antiziganism as a cover regarding Romanians.


Actually, I was thinking the reverse.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 10:54 AM on February 3, 2009


You may be right. But I'm inclined to think it's not that clear, especially since there are plenty of people who think that very thing.
posted by shmegegge at 11:00 AM on February 3, 2009


shmegegge, fahgeddaboutit.
posted by orthogonality at 11:06 AM on February 3, 2009


Was the misspell of Mussolini intentional?

Anyway, it's hard to explain how much the country is fucked right now. Most of the political campaign fight in the recent election was done around crime (perceived or otherwise). You could even say the current major of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, won thanks to a lucky rape (for him, obviously), happened in the right place at the right time. The problem the Right has right now is they cannot really fight real crime - they are actually lowering funds to police and carabinieri and limiting phonetapping - they can only fight perceived crime. And there's no better way to do that than pointing the fingers to entire communities of foreigners.

And this is not just something created by Northerners: this is also happening in Naples, a city that should know better, considering immigrants from the south were treated in the north of italy and in america.

Wish I had better articles in english to link to.
posted by darkripper at 11:10 AM on February 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


considering how immigrants from the south
posted by darkripper at 11:11 AM on February 3, 2009


Given that these fascists are part of Berlusconi's ruling majority, I hold out little hope...
posted by markkraft at 11:14 AM on February 3, 2009


"Mussolini never killed anyone . . . Mussolini sent people on holiday to confine them."

- Silvio Berlusconi
posted by markkraft at 11:22 AM on February 3, 2009


I find these actions contemptible and bigoted, of course.

But not every society aspires to multiculturalism.

Not everyone views New York City as an ideal. Most societies have been around for much longer than we Americans have and, in the process, have developed fairly strong senses of national identity. This strong sense of national identity makes them not as flexible or inclusive as younger societies based on immigration.

It's a damn shame. But I don't think these societies will be welcoming mass immigration any time soon; it's just not the nature of the beast.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:31 AM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I say yes please ban kebabs & McDonalds. Well, please ban all the bad food!

I love good middle eastern food, including kebab, but you won't find good kebab in Italy or France. Kebabs are in-fact the only readily available food commonly lower quality than McDonalds. I also love sushi, Paris has good Sushi, Milan & Rome may have good Sushi too, but I don't think any other French or Italian city have good Sushi. I can & did make better suchi myself when I lived in Lyon.

I say, lets compromise on an E.U. directive saying that, if you wish to identify yourself as any foreign national cuisine, then you must be authorized by either some professor from a high level cooking school or a reputable food critic. So you can still sell your crap kebab if you'll call it "slop", but I won't have coworkers imagining their "ethic experience" doesn't suck, and dragging me in.

I found the French extremely bad about tolerating total garbage for foreign food, execpt for Moroccan food, which they know how to make. I think they only ate it to enjoy the message that their own food was superior. I strongly suspect the Italians are worse.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:41 AM on February 3, 2009


Considering how much Italian (and European) food owes to foreign influence, this is more than a bit rich. I expect the Berlusconi government to call for the rejection of all potatoes, tomatoes, Socialism, automobiles, trains, nicoise olives, football and rugby... for a public apology from Ennioand Morricone for his work in collaborating with the running dogs of Spaghetti Westernism... for the immediate return of all religious icongraphy in Venice stolen from Constantinople during the Crusades.
posted by Grrlscout at 11:59 AM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


...Most societies have been around for much longer than we Americans have and, in the process, have developed fairly strong senses of national identity. This strong sense of national identity makes them not as flexible or inclusive as younger societies based on immigration.

The US is a bit older than "Italy" which has only been around since the 19th century.
posted by vacapinta at 12:01 PM on February 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, and algebra. Got to go! Down with the islamicist infiltration!
posted by Grrlscout at 12:06 PM on February 3, 2009


"I say yes please ban kebabs & McDonalds. Well, please ban all the bad food!
I love good middle eastern food, including kebab, but you won't find good kebab in Italy or France.
" posted by el knowledgeable honcho jeffburdges

please. stop. comments. like. this.
posted by artof.mulata at 12:17 PM on February 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


"I say, lets compromise on an E.U. directive saying that, if you wish to identify yourself as any foreign national cuisine, then you must be authorized by either some professor from a high level cooking school or a reputable food critic."

i have often thought of myself as a babaganoush, but then i enjoy thick globs of white stuff.

this thread is taking a turn for the peculiar. it's not about food or who brought where when and influenced whom; it's about the rising tide of teh stupid in italy.

i take frequent vacations from the news ala ken kesey; occasionally when i return from my sabbaticals something shocking intrudes itself. the other day it was realizing that berlusconi is even still there. as for the discrimination in that nation, my valet and cook have both warned me against picking up trade on the bridges of genoa. and once while being interrogated in czecho an officer of the law waved a pistol in my face and called me 'gypsy! gypsy!' as if that were some sort of threat.

there sure are some crazy dumb people on this planet. why do we let them pass legislation?
posted by artof.mulata at 12:25 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


The US is a bit older than "Italy" which has only been around since the 19th century.

Point well taken. The unified Italian state is very young. But the various city-states, kingdoms, principalities, etc. that came together to form Italy have been around for a long damn time.

The point being, that when you have a group of people living in the same place for hundreds, if not thousands of years, eating the same foods, marrying other locals for the most part, speaking the same language, you're going to have a different kind of society than one formed by masses of immigrants, with radically different ways, gradually integrating and intermarrying, maintaining some old traditions and forgetting others. Oh, did I mention that most of these immigrants have arrived in the last 120 years or so?

I think that the older, narrower society would be more prone to certain types of chauvinism.
posted by jason's_planet at 12:30 PM on February 3, 2009


I expect the Berlusconi government to call for the rejection of all potatoes, tomatoes, Socialism, automobiles, trains, nicoise olives, football and rugby

not nicoise olives. Nizza used to be considered italian before it got sold with Savoy to the French
posted by francesca too at 12:34 PM on February 3, 2009


What a mess of a post, seriously. Don't take it personally. The misspelled "Mussolini" is the most factually correct part of it all.

Of the many rational, documented arguments to be made against a Berlusconi government, I really can't see any here, between the wikipedia links, the expired wire reports, the general bullshit and a tabloidy British newspaper story that has no first-person reporting but cherry-picks and recycles quotes from Italian media.

Make no mistake -- not that one wishes to defend the wops from the very deserved accusations of savagery -- not to mention their oiliness -- being hurled around here by the wikipedia-quoting experts of all things Italian (speaking the language, living in a country and reading that country's media kind of helps one's comprehension, but this is probably an outdated argument -- on the Internet, not only nobody know you're a dog but everybody's an expert about everything). But this remains an awful post (not to mention the lame, fake concerned tone).

It's difficult to even see where to start: maybe from the fingerprint thing -- you linked a seven months old wire story. Nothing really came of it, for the simple reason that is was cheap political posturing replacing actual policy, as we'll analyze later: luckily, Roma kids have not been fingerprinted (unlike, say, each and every non-American tourist who visited the USA in the last few years) and they won't be. The integration of a nomadic culture, especially in times of recession when everything's harder -- is obviously a very difficult matter, and painful. It's certainly true that "Not everyone views New York City as an ideal" (frankly, neither do more than a few New Yorkers, but I'm digressing) but I don't really know if there are any Roma camps in Central Park or Staten Island or Queens, and I have no idea how friendly the locals -- and the NYPD -- are to those Romas who, out of a job, have emigrated to the USA (there must be some, Italy is much smaller than the US and there are about 150,000 Romas there). What I do know is that the unhappy Romas haven't really encountered much friendliness in other European countries either, including the UK, actually -- which is a tragedy in and by itself, but a tragedy that doesn't really lend itself to the kind of analysis that I'm reading in this mess of a post.

Re: the kebab thing, a bit of context might be helpful. I want to reassure our friends, there is no cleansing of ethnic restaurants in the foreseeable future. What we're witnessing here is a very easy, cheap tough-guy act by a few local politicians who by ranting against ethnic restaurants and promising actions that they don't have the power to deliver, look good to their constituents, especially to some narrow sectors of them -- in the kebab's case, dirt-cheap ethnic restaurants keep doing good business while more costly Italian ones suffer. You can't beat small, generally dingy neighborhood ethnic places for prices, even if you run a regular pizzeria. You vote for conservative politicians who, to begin with, have very little power -- it's built-in the system, a heritage of the post-WWII fears of fascism (the proportional system to elect legislators -- that breeds coalitions, not strong one-party governments -- is the perfect example); you're conservative, even right wing, you probably don't really like immigrants much anyway. So when it comes the time to draft a "Testo Unico Regionale sul Commercio" -- no need to translate this for the Italian affairs experts here, I'm sure they're all familiar with it -- local piece of legislation, some of those conservative politicians you voted for, they come out promising stricter food inspections against the darkies and their kebab places ranting about some illegal ban against exotic food that has no chance of actually passing a local legislative body, and everybody's happy. It's Politics 101. It's an act.

To translate all of this into American, imagine George W Bush, millionaire boy from New Haven Connecticut, Harvard and Yale, building a political career as the aw-shucks, anti-elitist defender of the common American. Or confessed draft dodger Dick Cheney becoming the champion of the grunts being sent in droves over to Iraq. That's political posturing, a successful -- in the short to mid term -- tactic that allows you to score, cheaply, political points. It's all talk, political ass covering.

If you're a conservative -- for European standards, which are not exactly the same as the US -- politician in the middle of a recession, and you're in charge of stuff, and you have to cut state funding all over the place, what you're left with when confronted by an actual -- and perceived, too, but it is very real -- rise in crime is simply to talk tough. Because you don't have much power anyway. "Fingerprint everybody!", you'll say. As if that really solved anything. You'll look good to your constituents.

It's hard to figure out Italy if you don't know shit about it -- it's a country where, appallingly, a crucifix hangs almost in every public facility -- schools, public hospitals, the courts but where the leader of the former Fascist party is as of today taking the side of the liberals, against the very powerful Vatican, in the middle Italy's own, very painful Terry Schiavo case. It's a very Catholic country where most right wing politicians don't really want to touch legal abortion -- it's the Parliament, not the courts here, that decide about that, unlike the US -- and where a newly born (stillborn?) one-issue anti-abortion party has been annihilated at the latest general election, and where hospitals that perform abortions have zero security and basically no risk of being firebombed. It's a very conservative country where not only the death penalty is illegal -- it is in the entire EU -- but only a handful of minor politicians would like to have it reinstated. A Catholic -- on paper -- country where NSFW doesn't mean what it means elsewhere just check out the print ads in magazines and even billboards -- and where the divorced, re-married leader of a center-right coalition is photographed with several young women from a popular TV show, one of them sitting in his lap, and no one really cares.

Anyway, Italy is quite complicated, and quite interesting. Unlike this post.
posted by matteo at 12:50 PM on February 3, 2009 [26 favorites]


Most societies have been around for much longer than we Americans have and, in the process, have developed fairly strong senses of national identity. This strong sense of national identity makes them not as flexible or inclusive as younger societies based on immigration.

Utter fucking horseshit.

Last time I checked big immigrant societies like the US and Australia had their own problems in treating a lot of recent immigrants poorly.

There is no doubting that racism is deep-rooted in many aspects of Italian society fostered by odious fucks like the Lega Nord. It is no doubt helped by Berlusconi's own Forza Italia's plays at crass populism too. However, it is far too simplistic a take to suggest that Italy is a right wing country.

Italy has one of the most polarised political systems in the Western world with a strong left wing tradition (in cities such as Bologna, known as the Red One for, among other things, it's communist leanings) and a strong right wing in places such as the Veneto. It's as crass to suggest that Italy is one racist entity as it is to suggest that all Americans are obese, gun-toting NASCAR fans.

I personally find it a fascinating place. It is far too complex to be distilled into one category. For anyone who is interested, two really great books on the place are The Dark Heart of Italy and A Season with Verona. I read both books when I lived there and they gave me a much better understanding of the place than I had before.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 12:53 PM on February 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fascism is alive and well in Italy. Remember Genoa.
posted by adamvasco at 12:58 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, as Matteo has pointed out, if you can't even spell Il Duce's name correctly in the header then it doesn't bode well for the rest of the post.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 1:01 PM on February 3, 2009


Rememeber, Berlusconi is reviled by the center and left as the man that made Italian TV unwatchable. But he understands that the far right can be played like a fish, and throwing them bones like anti-Gypsy legistalition, or playing on anti-Romanian guest worker sentiment brings in big voter returns in times of economic crisis. He understands one of the most importnat italian politcacl lesson: Wear a nice suit. Appeal to machismo. Bluster. Threaten.

Right now the far right in Europe is yonger, and consists of media savvy young folk who know how to use the internet and attempt to control debate by making outrageously racist and neo-nazi language and rhetoric an everyday, banal occurence. Any attempt to stifle them is againstb "freedom of speech." I see this in my own Hungary - the forums of English (and Hungarian) language web boards are colonized by neo-nazi sentiment who attack Roma and Jews in every forum. They are not a majority in daily street discourse, but you would not know it by looking at the web.

As far as the anti-Gypsy legislation is concerned, the European Roma Rights Centre has been all over this for a while and has heavy clout in the EU parliament.
posted by zaelic at 1:21 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Interestingly enough, if you were to believe all the stuff my Romanian friend this summer was saying about Roma, you would think they were all sending their kids to France to beg and using the funds from their begging to buy themselves Rolls-Royces.
No, really, that's what she said.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:22 PM on February 3, 2009


OK, the misspelling is unfortunate, but the topic is relevant. I didn't read the links as LOLwops, rather more about xenophobia as a whole in the EU. Most Americans tend to think of European countries as a whole as either being extremely tolerant and modern, or the land of permanent period costume drama. Talking to my friends and family back in the US, the UK is permanently either Austenland, Agatha Christieland, or Blitzland. When I lived in France, the whole country was a perpetual Tati film, with bal musette playing nonstop. I don't think the OP meant any disrespect to Italian culture, though they might have been a bit clumsy with the spelling and their man-on-the-street knowledge. They do have a point about xenophobia within the EU, though, yes?

Berlusconi's a hard cross to bear, I'll agree, but just as Bush was elected by the American people fair and square the second time round, Berlusconi's party was brought to power in Italy. The story about the Roma girls was featured in the Economist and other reputable news organisations when it happened... are you saying that there's more to that particular story than was mentioned here?

Yes, the Roma have a tough time of it throughout Europe. There's a Roma camp not too far from my house here. Romantic notions about Roma aside, my main complaint about them is the general state in which they leave campsites more than anything else. People aren't wild about travellers here, but they aren't exactly leaving them to die, either.

Frankly, as someone who's pretty supportive of the EU as a whole, I'm concerned about the infighting that this current economic downturn will bring. Italy's current leader is more flamboyant than most, and the economy is in a worse state than most in the EU. Granted, it's a tough call to determine whose economy exactly is the worst right now, but even the EU itself is concerned about the state of the economy, and if it will continue to comply with EU requirements vis a vis the Euro and overall good practice.

Italy is in a unique geographic location (close to northern Africa, long coastline, across the Adriatic from Croatia and other recently troubled central European countries). Reactions to immigration and cultural cross polination in a country like Italy makes for interesting comparison to the rest of Europe, just for this reason.
posted by Grrlscout at 1:29 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Berlusconi is reviled by the center and left as the man that made Italian TV unwatchable."

let that be his epitaph!

hey mefeezers, when did it get to be cool to call 'em 'wops?'
back in the old days i think i woulda got a pop in the mouth for that...
but hey, i'm old, y'know... just sayin'...
posted by artof.mulata at 1:35 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Rememeber, Berlusconi is reviled by the center and left as the man that made Italian TV unwatchable. But he understands that the far right can be played like a fish, and throwing them bones like anti-Gypsy legistalition, or playing on anti-Romanian guest worker sentiment brings in big voter returns in times of economic crisis. He understands one of the most importnat italian politcacl lesson: Wear a nice suit. Appeal to machismo. Bluster. Threaten.

Yes, yes and yes. This has been the universal tool of the right for ages.

Make no mistake -- not that one wishes to defend the wops from the very deserved accusations of savagery -- not to mention their oiliness -- being hurled around here by the wikipedia-quoting experts of all things Italian (speaking the language, living in a country and reading that country's media kind of helps one's comprehension, but this is probably an outdated argument -- on the Internet, not only nobody know you're a dog but everybody's an expert about everything). But this remains an awful post (not to mention the lame, fake concerned tone).

Matteo, you might want to tone down the rhetoric a tad. No one is calling the Italian people racist. The FPP is focussing specifically on Berlusconi. And there is nothing "delicate" or "complicated" about a high court ruling which states that it's OK to discriminate against Roma because they're theives, which came during a time when Berlusconi was hammering the Romaphobic drum very loud. But let's also not forget that the opposition in Italy was very vocally against the anti-Roma measures. It's just that, well, they're the opposition - they don't get to decide policy.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:36 PM on February 3, 2009


I was amazed in Italy to see signs on the highway that read "Distrust the Gypsies."
posted by klangklangston at 1:36 PM on February 3, 2009


Most societies have been around for much longer than we Americans have and, in the process, have developed fairly strong senses of national identity. This strong sense of national identity makes them not as flexible or inclusive as younger societies based on immigration.

Younger societies based on immigration mostly got "flexible" and "inclusive" starts my exterminating one or more indigeneous peoples.

As for inclusive, well, I guess that explains "No blacks, no dogs, no Irish" or segregation.
posted by rodgerd at 1:41 PM on February 3, 2009


It's as crass to suggest that Italy is one racist entity as it is to suggest that all Americans are obese, gun-toting NASCAR fans.

Well, have fun beating the shit out of that particular straw man. But what I actually said was:

I think that the older, narrower society would be more prone to certain types of chauvinism.

How is this controversial? I suggested that an older, less diverse society would be more susceptible to xenophobia. Not completely susceptible. Just more susceptible.

(Oh, wait a minute. I'm on MetaFilter. They don't do the "nuance" thing here.)

Italy has one of the most polarised political systems in the Western world with a strong left wing tradition (in cities such as Bologna, known as the Red One for, among other things, it's communist leanings)

I was actually aware of this history, thank you. But their being leftist doesn't necessarily make them friends of the foreigner. Leftists are often, I'm sad to say, quick to jump on the xenophobic bandwagon. But if their history differs from this, I'd like to hear more about it.


Last time I checked big immigrant societies like the US and Australia had their own problems in treating a lot of recent immigrants poorly.

That's true. The USA has had quite a lot of anti-immigrant agitation throughout its history. At the same time, immigration is a big part of our national mythology, of our sense of who we are. I don't get the sense that this is true of places like Italy. And the political climate will reflect that in some ways.
posted by jason's_planet at 1:50 PM on February 3, 2009


Matteo: from your nickname I guess you're italian too? Do you live there? If you do, then, have you noticed the place has gone completely mad? I'm not an american reading wikipedia posts about italy, I'm italian and are frankly scared by the direction this country is going. It's not only about news. It's about hearing people conversations in the streets. About innocent people getting hurt and criminals getting almost lynched.

We sure need to speak about all the things are going on in Nettuno, Parma, Pianura and the piece of shits that committed them.

So, is every italian racist? Sure not, but we really need to talk about the problem, we need foreign newspapers to cover the right news and even sites like metafilter discussing it.
posted by darkripper at 1:53 PM on February 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Thanks for this post I had no idea that crazy shit was going on in Italy and now I do and can return to eating pistachios and watching Battlestar Season 3 DVDs content in the knowledge that I am a well-informed person.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:21 PM on February 3, 2009


It's difficult to even see where to start: maybe from the fingerprint thing -- you linked a seven months old wire story. Nothing really came of it, for the simple reason that is was cheap political posturing replacing actual policy, as we'll analyze later: luckily, Roma kids have not been fingerprinted (unlike, say, each and every non-American tourist who visited the USA in the last few years) and they won't be. The integration of a nomadic culture, especially in times of recession when everything's harder -- is obviously a very difficult matter, and painful.

The fact of the matter is that the fingerprinting of Roma nearly did happen, and it received a lot of popular support. Outcry from some concerned Italians didn't do much to slow the progress of the program; it wasn't until a more international outcry occurred that progress stalled. And to be fair, I think this had more to do with the obvious Holocaust parallels than concern for Roma.

Furthermore, why mention the US fingerprinting program? Like it or not, that program isn't directed to a specific ethnic group and does have some basis in national security. This is a false and misleading analogy. The Italian program to fingerprint Roma was just plain racist, and even if you believe it was simple political posturing, it was an obvious "threat" directed toward a single ethnic group. Study after study has shown that the Roma contribution to crime (in Italy, Romania and Hungary - three countries for which I've seen studies) is roughly proportionate to or even less than what one would expect relative to their representation in the general population. So the idea of a "Gypsy crime wave" is largely a media / government concoction. Contrary to what you say - "Of the many rational, documented arguments to be made against a Berlusconi government, I really can't see any here . . . " - I reckon this post makes a pretty good case for how the Berlusconi is willing to exploit hateful nationalistic and racist attitudes to further its own fascist agenda. I lived in a place which saw the same arguments lead to my own persecution as a "despised minority," with tragic consequences. If you don't find the sort of governmental behavior demonstrated here something to argue against, then I hope you never encounter it yourself.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:38 PM on February 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


Furthermore, why mention the US fingerprinting program?

Because Matteo is an expert in American politics even though according to him it would be impossible for an American to be an expert in Italian politics.

I work with an Italian guy and everyday we eat lunch together and bitch about politics. He is the only European I've ever met who really gets what it was like to live in a country with a piece of shit leader like Bush or Berlusconi. Most Europeans I talked to didn't really understand how bad it was or just bitched me out for things my government had down. But my colleague and me could just cry into our espressos, (one of the perks of having an Italian collegue), in solidarity.

I almost felt bad when Obama was elected, while he was still stuck with Berlusconi. Hopefully they'll get that monster off there back soon.
posted by afu at 12:54 AM on February 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


In the north, they don't recognize Sicilians as Italian. They call them "Greeks".

Greeks? I've heard Arabi, but never Greek. And the demarcation line being either Naples or Rome, depending on how far north you are.

As to the Roma, well- a difficult people to love. Moreover this is nothing new in Italy. Back in the day, the story was that they maimed their children the better to inspire pity whilst begging.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:52 AM on February 4, 2009


Furthermore, why mention the US fingerprinting program?

Because Matteo is an expert in American politics even though according to him it would be impossible for an American to be an expert in Italian politics.


Let's not be snarky and I'll hazard a guess as to relevancy.

As an American, I have given my thumbprint to get a Texas driver's license and my footprints were taken at birth.

As an American living in Italy, I have to provide my fingerprints every time I renew my work/stay permit.

In either case, it's not something I ever thought twice about.

That is until this whole "fingerprint the Rom kids" kerfaffle sprung up and my SO and friends explained to me that one's fingerprints are on file only if one has had previous encounters with the law. It was a bit of a lightbulb-over-the-head moment and made me ponder the differences in privacy laws between the US and Italy.

I ask, in good faith, if there is another "Western" country aside from the US that requires all visitors and tourists to be fingerprinted upon entry.
--------------------------------------------------
Please note before reading the following that I bow to Matteo & darkrippers more nuanced knowledge; I have lived here for over 10 years and still get headaches trying to untangle the knot that is Italian politics.

From my admittedly simplistic point of view, Prodi's weak Left coalition had just collapsed and Berlusconi aligned himself with the Lega Nord & Alleanza Nazionale assholes to win the last election. The alternative to Berlusconi was Veltroni on the Left, who shamelessly and badly nicked Obama's "Yes we can" slogan, to his detriment IMO.

When I've been asked "Why did Italy relect Berlusconi again?" the short hand answer I give is that the outgoing Left government was perceived to have "screwed up", the "new" leader they presented for the elections wasn't any better than the last guys, and so the alternative was Berlusconi, the only Prime Minister in 50 years to last the full term.

There is a book called La Casta (The Caste - How Italian Politicians Became Untouchable) that has become a blockbuster seller, describing the cronyism, the shady deals, the "job perks", and corruption that pervades the Italian government. I started reading it and had to put it down after about 90 pages in because my blood pressure was rocketing.

I've heard directly from someone who has been working in the Campidoglio for decades that she hopes that Alemanno fucks up on a massive scale & gets booted because otherwise his unparalleled incompetence will ruin the city of Rome.

State workers of all stripes are having to bring their own toilet paper, pens, paper, and other necessary office supplies because funds are blocked or have run out. Last month I had to bring photocopies of my docs to renew my permit because the police station had no paper for the copy machine. In the meantime, the cronies in charge are phasing out state jobs and bringing in their "consultant" buddies at astronomical prices.

Berlusca's made his bed with racist assholes, capitalizing on the rising fear caused by an economic crisis and the opposition on the left isn't fielding anyone particularly inspiring.

There is no Italian Obama on the political horizon, no one that people can look at and say "he's not too bad, for a politician." There's seems to be no hope that things will be getting better in the near future, that someone will come along and blow this caste out of the water.

Really, I could go on for days and still only make a dent in trying to explain how the major media channels are controlled by Berlusconi, how the average age of politicians here is absurdly high, how mass protests have been ignored, how laws are passed to protect the Caste, how foreign media likes to cherrypick for the easy quote, etc etc etc

Frankly, between the outgoing Bush administration of my native country and the current regime here, I've got a bad case of outrage fatigue and the urge for a good stiff drink.

So I'll wrap up this ramble by saying that every country has it's issues and yeah, it's always complicated and not helped by stupid political posturing.

And from a MeFi point of view, Godwinning in the title of the post isn't exactly conducive to fostering good discussion on a complicated topic.
posted by romakimmy at 7:40 AM on February 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


(in cities such as Bologna, known as the Red One for, among other things, it's communist leanings)

Fascism is alive and well in Italy. Remember Genoa.


Well, that explains everything. The Italians are just afraid an increase in halal meat shops might interfere with the traditional screaming matches over pork-based cold cuts.

Why does everything always come down to food with these people?

[END OF UNFUNNY AND COUNTERFACTUAL JOKERY]

Folks above have hinted at it, but it should be firmly stated that Italy, like much of Europe, while ancient in its history, is not even remotely ancient in its nationhood. Throughout its existence, what is now Italy has been repeatedly invaded, annexed, conquered, colonised, divided, dissolved, absorbed, abandoned, unified, bombed to bits, and liberated. In recent years it has fared better than its neighbours, but only just. Nationalism, xenophobia, political idealism: They may not be fully justifiable, but they're not too difficult to understand in a European context.

Now, that said, shout it from the rooftops: Romani have always been in Italy! Granted, that's not "always" as in "since the dawn of time," but six hundred years really ought to be "always" enough. Particularly when that six hundred years is, from start to finish, solid persecution.

"Why don't they just integrate?" Well, sometimes it's just a bit difficult.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:04 PM on February 4, 2009


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