Today’s Italian elections have all the right people sweating up a storm, even here on this side of the Atlantic. “As Italy votes, Europe fears populist gains” worries the Chicago Tribune for example, wringing its hands over what it claims have been the campaign’s “prime-time airing of neo-fascist rhetoric and anti-migrant violence that culminated in a shooting spree last month against six Africans.”
The main source of Tribune‘s fear – and that of respectable opinion in general – is the decline of the pro-EU center-left and the rise of various anti-establishment parties, especially the national-populist Lega (formerly the regionalist Lega Nord), headed by Matteo Salvini, but also the more difficult to classify 5-Star Movement.
The panic is hardly limited to the Tribune. The New York Times has published repeated fretful pieces, including hatchet jobs on Salvini and the Lega, and in a near-hysterical article published a couple of days ago, Why Italy’s Insular Election Is More Important Than It Looks, worried that “in Italy, the birthplace of fascism”
The populism, the electronic misinformation, the crumbling of the left and the rise of the anti-immigrant, post-fascist hard right that has floated in the European ether for years all crystallized in the Italian campaign…
Populist and far-right parties now stand to make some of their deepest inroads anywhere. Chief among the populist forces, the insurgent Five Star Movement, polling around 30 percent, is likely to come out on top in a fractured field.
Italy’s center-left prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, has sought to sound the alarm, telling the newspaper Corriere della Sera on Friday that the election was the most important in a quarter-century, a “contest against populism” with the system of free markets and an open society at stake.
And perhaps even more horrifying to our friends at The Times:
Fake news about migrants, and much else, clogged the Facebook and Twitter feeds of supporters of the League and Five Star, and at times, their sites seemed related.
The messages often reinforced Italy’s growing tilt toward Russia, as well as admiration for its leader, Vladimir V. Putin, who dismissed the notion of meddling in the Italian election because, he suggested, the options were so good there was no need.
The party with the deepest suspicion of Russia, the Democratic Party of Matteo Renzi, has hemorrhaged support, extending a trend across Western Europe.
Sounds good to me…!
For a summary of the contest from an Alt Right perspective, see John Bruce Leonard’s Brief Guide to the Italian Elections.