THIS IS NOT A DEBATE

by Alex Valente

Contains strong language.

If your opinion, if your ideology, if your personal mindset is that certain groups and communities of people are inferior to others, you do not deserve and will not be allowed to promote that idea. Fuck the notion of censorship, fuck the moderate, tolerant conversation, fuck the high road. Your ‘opinion’ denies the existence of a large portion of the world around you, and actively strives to suppress it. So you know what? Fuck you.

There is a vast chasm of difference between allowing someone to express diverging opinions when the matter at hand does not pertain to the wellbeing and life of real people, and allowing a platform for ethno-supremacists, racists, transphobes, homophobes, ableists, and literal murderers. The first falls under the category of free speech – you know, the actual thing that Voltaire’s biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall is quoted on all over the devil-advocacy enterprises that populate the world. The latter, on the other hand, is aiding and abetting, complicity, endorsement, support, and in the best case scenario, misguided idiocy.

A couple of weeks ago, popular literary online magazine Literary Hub ran an extract of one Daniel Swift’s book on Ezra Pound, the poet, fascist supporter, and self-appointed propaganda machine, who lived in Italy during Mussolini’s regime. The piece – ‘Hanging Out with the Italian Neo-Fascists Who Idolize Ezra Pound’, i.e. CasaPound – is a wonderful example of that idiotic fuckery I mentioned above. The most telling point is perhaps in these lines:

‘I could have predicted that Italian neo-fascists would sit for an excellent lunch, and that their generosity, while narrow, would feel deep. I was ready for both the smile and the teeth.

What I wasn’t quite expecting was their high-mindedness alongside the thuggery, and how these two traits might cohere into a single way of being in the world. […] I’m not a fool. I understand that these sons of Ezra saw in me that which they could agree with, and perhaps this works both ways. Whenever I interview people, I always dress up. Usually, I play the absent-minded poetry professor, knitted tie and bright socks, but the night before I went to Rome I clipped short my hair, because I wanted to look like them and because I wanted them to like me.’

here we are, glorifying them, normalising the fascist criminals through a thin literary common ground

For those unaware, as LitHub, the editors at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and perhaps Swift seem to be (though he claims he had ‘read things’ before the trip), CasaPound has been proven to be linked to the ultras movements and their violent, racist outbursts, and the latest charming exploits include deserting a stadium where a survivor of concentration camps was talking before a match, and printing out stickers depicting Anne Frank with a losing team’s outfit.

CasaPound are violent, racist, fascist thugs, that have too much hold already on Italian realities in the same way as too many historical precedents. They have been convicted of a number of crimes since 2011, are associated with organised crime groups in Rome and Italy in general, and happily send out vigilantes groups to make sure Roma, Sinti, refugees and migrant groups are not ‘polluting’ the streets (with their existence). Myself, along with Italian anti-fascist and writerly collective Wu-Ming Foundation, pointed this out on Twitter to LitHub and the author, to no result – other than receiving anti-semitic, homophobic, and generally charming responses from non-Italian commenters of the frog-avatar variety. Same for the Disqus comment section of the article. The problems of the two platforms are the subject of an entirely different article altogether.

( Free Speech – XKCD )

And yet, here we are, glorifying them, normalising the fascist criminals through a thin literary common ground. For the sake of what, exactly? Do we want to hang out with Enoch Powell’s followers too, because of his powerful use of metaphors? How about a brunch with acolytes of Hitler’s art appreciation club?

Are we seriously at the stage where we ‘forget’ to contextualise and criticise the subject matter of pieces dealing with actual, living, contemporary violent racist movements? I emailed the editors of the publication, after Roberto Spada – the brother of the criminal organisation that controls CasaPound’s turf, and sympathiser of the association – assaulted a journalist. I received a reply, which mostly consisted of the following:

‘Would you be interested in writing a piece for us in response not only to Swift’s excerpt, but looking at bit more broadly at the too-easy way that fascism is often dismissed as the province of the lower classes, when of course it has long been a fetish of the putatively well educated?’

Fascism preys on the uneducated, on the disenfranchised, on the ones that feel forgotten by society

Yes, I would. Here it is: I will not capitalise on the fascination that liberal and moderate academia and media has with extremism, by legitimising an abhorrent piece of normalisation. I will not be complicit in the classist belief that only the uneducated and disenfranchised can be racist, fascist thugs. There is too much of that going around already. Italy does it. The UK does it. The US oh-so does it. And the point is: it’s not true. There is a whole lot of (predominantly white) classism, a dollop of ‘it couldn’t happen here’ ism, and a pinch of snobism in all of this, typical of certain intellectual circles and something that just keeps coming up this past couple of years when looking at politics.

Fascism preys on the uneducated, on the disenfranchised, on the ones that feel forgotten by society (which can be the case, though usually not to the point that people believe it to be true) – it is not born out of them. All the talk of open, tolerant, mindful debate should be directed towards the marginalised communities that are being targeted by predators on every side, instead of the predators themselves. Stop marginalising, stop compromising, stop dismissing, and start fucking saying something.

Featured image CC BY 2.0 Evan Nesterak


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