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More political incorrectness September 11, 2007

Posted by dorigo in news, politics.

There are times when one gets tempted to put momentarily aside one’s  moral beliefs. Times when witnessing the irony of fate and the chant of Thalia, the muse of satire, drive one to write very politically incorrect considerations. This is what it feels like today. I recently got flamed when I innocently added some colour to an otherwise dull report of a CERN seminar, but I did not imagine an uproar then. Somewhere in the back of my mind I expect some after this post, but I would be glad if for once I was allowed a private rant in public!

Mario Borghezio (left, in Bruxelles today) is an italian member of the european parliament and a leader of Lega Nord, a party which has always expressed separatist intent and proposals bordering into racism. I really hate the guy: he is an extremist  and a xenophobic racist of the worst kind. I remember him entering train compartments where peoples of foreign ethnicities were sitting, to spray disinfectant on their seats. I also know he was convicted of beating a Moroccan child. The italian Wikipedia provides further details on the xenophobic actions of this repulsive individual, reminding us that he was also found guilty in 2000 of putting to fire the beds of homeless under a bridge in Torino. 

Borghezio is thus not new to attention-seeking actions aimed at gathering political support from the extreme right. Today, though, it all went bad when he and some other anti-islam activists showed up in the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks to the US in rondpoint Robert Schuman, near the center of Brussels, despite the explicit veto of the major of the city. Their aim was to demand “Stop the islamization of Europe“. The happy congress included members of the dutch movement “no sharia here”, the belgian “vlaams belang” movement, the german “Pax Europa”. Groups that do not hide their xenophobic views and aims. 

Europe, it appears, might not like to be islamized, but for sure for the most part it also does not tolerate the fascist activities of Borghezio and friends, nor their disregard of an explicit denial of the use of public space for his xenophobic show. I usually regret it when I see the police beating up somebody who is resisting arrest, because I usually repel violence, especially if it is the violence of the strong against the weak. But today I could not help rejoicing upon hearing Borghezio had finally had a rough time with the local policemen. Along with fifty other who resisted police orders, he was soundly beaten and arrested, although regrettably he was released soon thereafter.

Two things to note in the aftermath: the italian government could have omitted the complaints they issued through their ambassador. The request by Massimo D’Alema, our foreign affairs minister, looks overzealous and rather dumb. Second, Roberto Calderoli, another brilliant leader of Lega Nord, did not miss the chance to show his tact and diplomacy when he proclaimed that in Belgium nowadays it is easier to march in support of pedophilia than against islamism… Sometimes I wonder whether to be eligible in parliament with Lega Nord you have to pass a test showing an IQ below 80 (So much for political correctness today…)



1. Amara - September 12, 2007

Dear Tommaso: You don’t need to travel very far to see this xenophoboic, rascist attitude, though. At any local Italian polizia where they issue permesso di soggiornos, you’ll find the ‘immigration officer’ behaving as.. well, your words above describe the situation.

2. Louise - September 12, 2007

Bravo for standing up to any form of fascism, whether from Lega Nord or Islamic fascists. (U wasn;t offended by your CERM post.)

3. riqie arneberg - September 12, 2007

As much as I despise racism, I fear facism more. Europe has not yet learned that it is better to allow extremists to display their ignorance than it is to “martyr” them. In the US, the liberal group “The American Civil Liberties Union” would defend his right to speak. The same group has often defended Muslims persecuted by the government.

4. Matteo Martini - September 12, 2007

I have to say that, from the Vaffa-Day to the comments to Borghezio, to the replies to your comments about ” sexism “, to the post on the pedophiles in the Church, I agree all the times with you.
It is almost getting boring!!
Keep on the work, Tommaso 🙂

5. jeff - September 12, 2007

I personally think Borgehezio had the right to make a fool of himself without getting arrested or beaten up. I personally don’t like it when someone sounds too sure in deciding who is to be beaten up and who is an untouchable, who is to be frowned upon and who is instead a hero.

Indeed it would be interesting to measure IQs of Lega Nord militants, but also that of extremists on the left. Many people of the Lega Nord are frustrated, narrow minded, afraid (they feel threated) and hence potentially violent. Many left extremists are frustrated, narrow minded, idiots and potentially violent.


p.s. Couldn’t resist throwing this stone again. I hesitated. Here goes:
What is really funny is how the left in general, and particularly in Italy, is always so inclined to socially and historically contextualize violence of thoughts, words and actions when it comes from the side they uphold, with many actually justifying the intimate and verbal forms of violence, but with a few arriving at actually justiying violent actions, while they, those on the left, automatically and totally condemn thoughts, words and actions of those of the opposite camp. For my friends, all shades of grey; for the bad guys, just black and white. In my book this is called circular reasoning.

6. jeff - September 12, 2007

Matteo, there is hope for you. You are getting bored! Boredom is the first step to autonomous thought. A child of his toys is ready to pick up a book. A person bored of a book is ready to read another. Keep up getting bored

7. dorigo - September 12, 2007

Well well well, something to answer here.

Amara, I agree – and I know what you are talking about, since a person who works for us (the caretaker of my mother-in-law) allowed me to get in touch with the insolence of our office toward immigrants. On the other hand, if I think at the way I am usually scrutinized by the INS officers upon entering the US, their taking pictures, fingerprints, interviews (I once had to stand one smart ass asking me questions about my work for thirty minutes, like “what is E=mc^2” – I still do not know whether it was more humiliating for me or for the american people who pay the salary to the guy), I can’t help concluding that it is part of human nature to be aggressive and wary toward strangers.

Thank you Louise, yes I think those are fascists. Borghezio himself was admittedly one, before he entered Lega Nord.

Riqie, I have to agree. A touch of pragmatism is needed with these issues, and if freedom of expression comes about as an added bonus, then I have to concur that the Brussels major did not do the right thing. But I still rejoiced 🙂

Hi Matteo, thank you, hang around here, your comments may be needed now and then.

Jeff, I don’t disagree with you in fact – one thing are my principles, and another my gut feelings. I prefer to stand by the former, and thus agree with your first statement. I also agree on the fact that narrow-mindedness and violence do not carry a flag, although I am quicker to spot them on the other side of the road.
I instead disagree on your claim that it is a leftist phenomenon to apply what you call “circular reasoning”. Indeed, facts are facts, while opinions differ. We agree on condemning the horrors of the XXth century, regardless of the hand who committed them, but we have different solutions to the problems. That’s all.

Cheers all,

8. Amara - September 12, 2007

Yes, already I’ve made strong comparisons here and herebetween similar situations with the Bossi-Fini immigration law and the US INS. I could say more on the Total State model that the US Federal government is following, but maybe these experiences by my colleagues says enough.

9. Andrea Giammanco - September 12, 2007

Are there proofs that he was beaten?
I read the news in a belgian newspaper this morning (I live 10 minutes away from the place where this happened, but wasn’t aware of what was happening) and it only reported about a short arrest for 150 people, just in order to be identified (including Borghezio and a french europarliamentarian of the Front National), but it said that only one was kept more: the leader of Vlaams Belang, who had beaten a policeman.

In the italian press (I looked on the web) everybody talks about Borghezio being beaten…
And I also read about him complaining that the policemen didn’t care that they were politicians (which is, instead, something that I appreciate in general)! The typically italian “LEI NON SA CHI SONO IO!” (= “you don’t know who I am”, usually meaning “I am an important person and I can get you have trouble”), that he probably attributes to the lazy and immoral southern people 🙂

10. Amara - September 12, 2007

I stopped believing the Italian press a long time ago…………………….. (My suggestion to Mr. Grillo is to continue using the Internet as his medium.)

11. Andrea Giammanco - September 12, 2007

But I must add that I have no reason to trust 100% the belgian press, too 😉
For example, this was a francophone newspaper, so there could be a slight bias against anything related to Vlaams Belang (the flemish indepentist party).
This is why I’m asking: has this news being reported by any other foreign press?

12. jeff - September 12, 2007

Grillo said how weird it is that a Minister of the country (Mastella) should feel it necessary to have a blog to debate with him, a commedian! I paraphrase him and say that it is weird, strange and quite sad that a country have commedian as its favorite anchorman. Be careful with Grillo. He will white wash your brains. He is a commedian and a satyrist. Don’t ever forget it. Indeed he is at his best when he remembers it too (see the above mentioned brilliant counter attack to Mastella).

13. DB - September 12, 2007

Random English comment: I don’t think you “repel violence”; rather you “are repelled by violence” or you “abhor violence”. I wish we could all magically repel violence!

14. dorigo - September 12, 2007

Hi DB,

thank you for the comment, I am always thankful whenever somebody corrects my English – I do want to improve it!


15. Amara - September 12, 2007

Jeff: I know. His slant is clear. He and Michael Moore remind me of each other, in how they represent things, but if one ignores that, they (especially Moore) can b entertaining. I’m not reading Grillo in Italian, so I’m sure I’m losing alot of his humor, and what comes across in English is sometimes heavy, instead. If I read too much of him, he makes me depressed (or more depressed, depending on my mood that day).

16. dorigo - September 12, 2007

Hi Andrea,

no, in fact, we only have his own word for it. I agree, it is not hard to believe that he could overemphasize some roughness from the police, just to make the headlines.

Amara, I think indeed that Moore and Grillo do have a lot in common. But they mostly discuss the respective realities they live in. Both have their hands full – don’t we all – with things to complain about. I think they have a function in our society. We will see what they end up obtaining.

Jeff, it is true, Grillo is a comedian, but indeed satire is very important in a democracy: it makes people think. I do not think he brainwashes them. quite the contrary.


17. Amara - September 12, 2007

Tommaso: When I put together what I see/experience, myself, with what Grillo writes, I’m always accurate in my representation of a “condition” in my environment. I’m not successful at convincing Italians who are living outside of Italy, however, of that condition or perception. Like the convicts in Parliament point. In the hallway of the institute where I work, there are people who have posted lists of the names of the Parliamentarians who have been convicted, taken from Grillo’s site. In addition, know that it is a strange idea to accept for nonItalians too. But I couldn’t convince my Italian friends outside that Italians in Italy were fed up with those convicts in Parliament. They argued that there is a tradition to forgive and everyone should have a chance to start over, and because I’m a foreigner, I’m not understanding that. Well, now, despite my less-than-fluent language skills, I think I understand quite a lot here, and the 300,000 people who signed on Saturday, verified that for me.

18. jeff - September 12, 2007

I fear I am missing something. Lost in translation maybe.

I think 300000 is a small number, if only because more people gather from large distances to hear some moron(s) playing crappy music. HAD there been 30000 (10%) or even just 3000 (1%) Grillo “fans” simultaneously in OTHER italian cities, then MAYBE I would have been impressed. I don’t want to nit-pick more than strictly necessary but lets see what happens in real down-to-earth politics, which means getting a law passed.


p.s. A long one. Can skip. Maybe you should skip!

To be franck I am very pessimistic about changing Italy. Why do italians need a “talking Grillo” to make things change? The popular disgust for things that happens in big politics in Italy has always been there but the wish to change just doesn’t flare up. Things just don’t really change. Under the ashes there are NO red-hot cinders. The number of italians that think more and more like civilized people in other countries is increasing? Maybe those civilized few are those moved by Grillo. But in my opinion their number is growing very VERY slowly. Had only their numbers been oceanic! Why so few? Italy is in a vicous circle. The time constant for things to change is so long, compared to the time scale any civilized person wish, that everyone sooner or later goes from being frustrated, to giving up and then becoming indifferent. Any new entries are compensated by those lost in life and to indifference. I know too many italians of all ages, on the right, and on the LEFT, that are truely amoral (mind you not immoral). The italian character is fundamentally amoral as noble and heroic exceptions confirm. I am thinking of those that died fighting the mafia, the cammorra, the small and big corruptions. I am now thinking of the unsung victims of day-by-day amorality that kills people on the highways and back-roads, on jobs, in hospitals, on the sidewalks and streets. Now I am thinking of the many zombie victims of the client-based society that allows all kinds of amoral things to happen. I am thinking also of the wide spread view that accepts and actually imposes the castration of dreams and talents by stifling hopes. I thinking of italian women that let their daughters get swallowed up by a sick view of human relations in which seductive(!) looks are the single most important thing to breaking out from mediocrity and immobility. I’ve seen too many young people grow old and wither away. Maybe life would have taken them anyway, but the italian way-of-life is a sure road to forced mediocrity. I am thinking and getting depressed the more I think. Italy is great! Italy sucks! I love Italy! I hate it! Grillo! MOVE OVER! And LOSE weight too!

19. Amara - September 13, 2007

Hi Jeff: You’re as cynical as me! (maybe more..)
What do you think: “Tutto deve cambiare perchè nulla cambi” ??
Vero? or non?

20. Matteo Martini - September 13, 2007

For Amara
Grillo can be read in English

21. Amara - September 13, 2007

Dear Matteo.. I know and I do. I find the comments to his blog more useful for me (It gives me more information, in a cultural sense), but there are few commenters on the English side, so occassionally I dive into the sea of Italian Beppe Grillo commenters.

22. amara - September 13, 2007

P.S. Jeff: Grillo said that only 300,000 signatures were collected because the forms ran out.. in total all over Italy, or in Bologna only? I’m not sure about what that number represents.

23. jeff - September 13, 2007

Yes I read about to forums running out. I’ll hold my reserves being optimist about the success of the V-day until I get a better pcitures.

One thing that I sincerely liked, a basis for moderate optimism, was that there weren’t the usual flags and political symbols that usually contaminate the legitimate protests of “normal” people. Most of the people I saw in the several pictures and TV covereages seemed quite normal, in the good sense of the word.

24. Amara - September 13, 2007

Dear Jeff, But flags don’t come out except for football..Didn’t you notice all of the new flags last year for the World Cup that were just purchased… the day previously? That is one of the aspects I appreciate the most about Italy. The general lack of nationalism. Similar lack in Germany. Similar lack in Spain. If a country passes through a terrible experience of fascism, that experience serves as a kind of immunization for that ugly face to appear in a significant way in that culture again. Sometimes I think that if Bush wasn’t so dumb, it would not take much more effort on his side to succeed in his presidential term to be a truly terrible dictator. That that experience would immunize the Americans so that nationalism can disappear there too.

25. dorigo - September 13, 2007

How very true Amara. The immunization from nationalism you mention is however a costly procedure, and I think it only lasts a couple of generations, maybe three. We are still far from a permanent immunization shot.


26. jeff - September 14, 2007

Dear Amara
I wasn’t refering to Italian flags, I was refering to red flags with sickle and hammer, flags and banners with photogenic face of Guevara, rain bow colored flags, the usual…. Instead you and Tommoaso immediately go off and say that you are proud italians have no pride. What can I say….

27. dorigo - September 14, 2007

Well Jeff, the second and third flag you mention are rather universal – the face of guevara is not unlike a picture of andy warhol, and the rainbow flag was adopted right and left as a politically-correct symbol of peace. Anyway, I do not say italians have no pride. I say we have on average less belief in the superiority of our nation to others – when it does not come to sports.


28. jeff - September 14, 2007

rainbow flag maybe.
You are telling me that if a person puts up the Italian flag then you suspect he thinks Italy is superior? But then you say I am wrong in jumping to conclusions if I see someone put up a Guevara flag? Tommaso Tommaso Tommaso. That is the best example of biased thinking I’ve read for some time. Bravo.

29. dorigo - September 14, 2007

Hi Jeff,

hmmm you misquote me a lot above. I deny having said, or even implied, either of those two things.

– I do not claim that putting up a a country’s flag expresses a superiority of that country. I actually do not really think that. I am saying that not seeing ourself above other countries makes us less willing to show our flag around. When I travel abroad, I try to conceal my nationality 🙂 and I know other italians do that too. Yes, in some contexts I feel if anything slightly more ashamed of my nationality than proud of it. But that’s just me.

– I did not accuse you of anything, certainly not at jumping to conclusions. I just noted that guevara is an icon of the XXth century, and has lost some of its meaning by the universality of its use, pretty much like the face of marylin reminds us of modern art rather than of her movies… It is less and less a political symbol, but that is just my feeling, maybe biased – how can I avoid that. Thinking can be kept unbiased by strict control of one’s own reasoning process, feelings much less so.


30. Amara - September 14, 2007

Dear Jeff: I don’t know where the misunderstanding is exactly. A culture that frequently shows the national flag usually have strong nationalistic feelings. I’m pretty sure that the priorities for Italians are, in this order: family, neighborhood, town, and maybe weakly their province, but not beyond, so no, not nationalistic. That’s what I meant or was implying.

Those other symbols you describe are political. I don’t really know, I think that a county’s politics is something that only a person who has lived for many years in that culture can understand (so then, not me), and Italy’s political history is complicated. But Bruno Bozzetto’s “Italy vs. Europe” hinted that Italian’s political allegiances change easily (?) (guessing).

And that rainbow flag made one Italian a very wealthy person, since it spread all over the world. Another successful Italian export, like the county’s PhDs.

31. Amara - September 14, 2007

sorry.. didn’t close Bozzetto’s bracket..

32. dorigo - September 14, 2007

Hi Amara,
fixed, thanks
Will comment later.

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