Voters in yet another EU nation turned away from the leftward tilt of Brussels and more toward self-determination. Italy has elected its first right-wing coalition government in decades, and will almost certainly have its first female prime minister. Georgia Meloni led her Brothers of Italy into a dominant role in the coalition, as both CNN and Reuters describe this as “the most right-wing government since World War II”:
Pardon me — CNN also invoked Mussolini in its report:
Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni has claimed victory in a general election that seems set to install her as Italy’s first female prime minister, leading the most far-right government since the fascist era of Benito Mussolini.
Addressing the media and supporters in the early hours of Monday morning, Meloni said it was “a night of pride for many and a night of redemption.”
“It’s a victory I want to dedicate to everyone who is no longer with us and wanted this night,” she said. “Starting tomorrow we have to show our value … Italians chose us, and we will not betray it, as we never have,” she said.
Preliminary results put an alliance of far-right parties, led by Meloni’s ultraconservative Brothers of Italy party, on track to win at least 44% of the vote, according to the Italian Interior Ministry.
Ahem. If Italy had elected Mitt Romney, that would also be “the most far-right government” since Mussolini. In American terms, Italy’s politics has ranged from the CPUSA to, say, Bill Clinton since World War II. Even Silvio Berlusconi fit within the left-of-center EU salons while dabbling in populism and narcissism.
That didn’t stop American media from treating Meloni like a four-alarm fire. But just how fascist is Meloni and Brothers of Italy? Eddie Zipperer said not much yesterday:
The little bit I could find on her policy positions seemed less “neo-fascist” and more like typical Conservative policy positions you’d find in the U.S.
— Eddie Zipperer (@EddieZipperer) September 25, 2022
Rod Dreher ripped the coverage from the US media as well:
For the hundredy-hundredth time, let me say: the reporting of the US media on the European Right is not to be believed. I don’t say that as a right-winger who gets his nose out of joint when CBS News calls a politician I like “fascist.” I do get my nose out of joint, but that’s my problem. It’s your problem because you depend on the news media to tell you what’s happening in the world, and they are entirely misleading you. You don’t have to see this as a conspiracy; they lie to themselves about what’s going on, because they have been trained to disable their own skeptical instincts when it comes to maintaining the Narrative.
It is true that Meloni’s party, the Brothers Of Italy, has roots in twentieth-century fascism. But she herself is a standard right-wing populist, in that she is a social conservative (particularly, she values religion and opposes gender ideology) and is skeptical of political and economic globalism. Meloni was raised working class in Rome by a single mother; her father abandoned the family. She still holds on to her strong Roman accent. Below, watch her 15-minute speech in English at the National Conservatism Rome conference in 2020, and tell me with a straight face that that woman is a Fascist. The only thing that would set her apart from a standard US Republican is a more critical attitude towards capitalism, but in the post-Trump era, not even that would be a big deal (e.g., Gov. Ron DeSantis said in Florida recently that “America is a country with an economy, not the other way around” — which is Meloni’s position captured in a phrase). If CBS News is right and Giorgia Meloni is a “fascist,” then I’m telling you, half of America is fascist. Then again, they probably do believe that in the CBS Newsroom in New York.
There isn’t much more evidence of nascent Mussolini-ism in the speech Dreher cites than there is in Sweden after last week’s elections, nor in the UK after Brexit and Tory election wins. Might there be in Italy after this election? Possibly, sure — but that wasn’t the basis on which Brothers of Italy and Meloni fought the election, and it’s not the basis on which the voters in Italy made their choice, nor in Sweden or the UK. Meloni isn’t the kind of strutting faux-Caesar of strongman models either, and at least from afar, Brothers of Italy didn’t campaign on top-down autocratic rule.
The real truth is that the left-leaning EU project has not fared well and neither has internationalism among the voters of Europe of late. It’s not difficult to see why, even if American media refuses to acknowledge it. Brussels-mandated immigration and refugee policies have led to massive issues in crime and poverty and have sapped resources that Europeans set aside for their own issues. More recent events have proven Brussels’ leadership suspect, such as the collective and individual-state decisions to addict themselves to Russian energy imports rather than create a rational energy policy based on independence and self-reliance.
Perhaps alone among US media outlets, CNBC offers a somewhat more balanced approach to Meloni’s win:
Speaking as the results emerged, Giorgia Meloni said the party would “govern for everyone” and would not “betray” the country’s trust. She also spoke of the need to unite Italy and make its people proud.
How that plays out, especially when it comes to the European Union, is now a big question for analysts, who say the coming weeks and months will determine “which Meloni” turns up to govern — the pro-NATO, pro-Ukraine Atlanticist, or the political renegade who has expressed a willingness to challenge the EU’s rules, like others on the euroskeptic right-wing. …
Still, just how far Meloni will take Italy to the right remains to be seen. Analysts note that Meloni has also cultivated a close relationship with outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who resigned in July after he failed to unite a fractious coalition around his economic policies.
“We are dealing with a right-wing coalition and we need to understand what type of right-wing coalition,” Francesco Galietti, chief executive and co-founder of political risk consultancy Policy Sonar, told CNBC Monday.
“Meloni is quite the charmer and everyone believes they have a special relationship with her, but in reality we also know that Meloni is quite close to Mario Draghi so her ascent to power is a balancing exercise. She has not ditched her old road companions but she is talking to Mario Draghi. So the question will eventually present itself: Who is the real Meloni?”
Maybe we should find that out before assuming she’s Mussolini in drag, eh?
Frankly, from this description, Meloni appears to be a business-as-usual politician. If Draghi finds her mainstream enough to maintain a political engagement with Meloni, and if Meloni has already set in place the relationships that will make coalition-building and consensus possible, that doesn’t sound very “fascist” to me — and not even very “far right,” for that matter. Time will tell, but this looks like yet another media freak-out over not very much except something that doesn’t suit their tastes.