Giorgia Meloni, leader of the far-right Italian party Fratelli d’Italia, has recently published a book about her life. One Italian journalist has described the book as the “biography of a leader who has been trying for some time to humanise her public image”. Another called it the “perfect influencer biography”, and a book filled with “pre-made sentences that would look great on Instagram”. Many others have criticised the book for its outright lies. Needless to say, it’s sparked widespread controversy.
After one bookshop owner in the Rome neighbourhood of Tor Bella Monaca refused to sell the book – “Better to feed off of bread and onions than to feed this kind of publishing”, the bookseller said on a Facebook post – Fratelli d’Italia militants decided to take the matter in their own hands and distribute the book for free in a high school in the same neighbourhood. Fascist groups continue have a worryingly strong influence on young people in Italy’s deprived neighbourhoods.
Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) is one of Italy’s most prominent far-right parties. After polling at 4-5% in 2018, the populist far-right party has grown exponentially. It is now one of the strongest far-right parties in Italy, gaining 16,3% of votes. The party has gained popularity thanks to its leader’s pop icon status. Giorgia Meloni was born in Rome in 1977 and has been the face of FDI for the past few years. She has taken part in rallies against gay marriage, covertly known as “Family Day”, to promote the idea of so-called ‘traditional families’. It is ironic to note how participants and supporters of this rally, however, don’t exactly practice what they preach. For one, Giorgia Meloni herself has had a daughter outside marriage, and the husband of Alessandra Mussolini (granddaughter of Benito Mussolini and politician) has been under investigation for having relationships with minors. Furthermore, the right-wing Northern League’s Matteo Salvini has had multiple girlfriends and children from different relationships.
Meloni has been able to ride the wave of this digital era. Although her infamous chant against same-sex couples went viral among her followers, a DJ duo from Milan created a mock remix of her chant which became popular in the Milan clubbing scene in 2019 and has furthered her notoriety among LGBTQ+ communities. Italians are obsessed with trash TV, allowing the song to quickly make her even more popular than she was before. Her pop icon status has made her the poster-girl of the Italian far-right, together with Northern League’s Matteo Salvini who has been able to use the internet to his great advantage by being constantly active on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, as well as appearing on national tv shows.
Meloni is also very close to the neofascist group Casapound. Casapound, born as a club for admirers of Mussolini in the early 2000s, has since expanded dramatically. Their way of operating is heavily reminiscent of the years of Mussolini’s government, and they state that their membership is more than anything just “a way of life”. By establishing book clubs, sports clubs, and by putting up posters in the streets, they take direct action on their territories and put enormous effort into ‘recruitment’.
Its members are known for their violent approach to politics, although they are smart enough to never claim responsibility for the violence, they also never condemn it either. In 2018, 28-year-old Luca Traini went on a shooting rampage in the city of Macerata. Even though he was mostly involved with the Northern League, he was also close to neofascist organisations such as Casapound and Forza Nuova, who took the time to defend him and defend all those “Italians who get left behind”.
Tor Bella Monaca, where Meloni’s book is being distributed for free, is a district of 30,000 inhabitants, built in the 1980s to provide a solution to the housing emergency. Today it faces problems of drug dealing, violence, and a stigma attached to it due to the narrative of being a degraded neighbourhood. As is often the case in other difficult neighbourhoods in Italy, such as the outskirts of Milan or Napoli, its inhabitants are often left to their own devices due to being abandoned by the government and have to resort to self-organisation as a result.
Young people and children in this area are especially vulnerable, and Casapound and other militant neofascist groups can often be found outside schools, recruiting young people to take part in their group actions and protests. Despite the murders and violence members of Casapound commit, they often disguise themselves as an activist group with good intentions. The group presents itself as “a space of liberty, where anyone who has something to say and can’t say it elsewhere will always find political asylum”. Needless to say, this is oftentimes a compelling promise for all those who feel left behind by the system. As Norwich Radical’s co-editor Alex Valente once summarised in an article:“Fascism preys on the uneducated, on the disenfranchised, on the ones that feel forgotten by society”.
Earlier this month yet another news story exploded, as a high school in Messina, Sicily, had organised a presentation for Meloni’s new book during school hours, and had made it compulsory for school children to attend. Meloni has since denied having ever been invited to the school – however, it remains unnerving that the school even had the intention of organising an event of this kind in the first place.
Perhaps one person refusing to sell Meloni’s book might not be enough to counteract the wave of the far-right’s internet popularity and the allure of Casapound amongst the weaker parts of society, but it is at least a sign of resistance and hope when confronted with the exponential rise of the far-right, and their ability to infiltrate schools which should be politically neutral spaces free from fascist propaganda.
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