On the 30th of September, the Italian Senate approved the establishment of a committee proposed by the life-senator Liliana Segre, an Auschwitz’s survivor, to fight the harsh racist and anti-semite messages that she receives every day. What’s outrageous to many, to some extent more than the comments themselves, is that all center right-wing senators abstained from voting.
According to an interview she released with the Italian daily La Repubblica, the senator receives around 200 messages of insults on social media every day. This prompted her to propose the foundation of an investigation committee, aimed at prosecuting the perpetrators. The vote received support by the current government coalition, namely the 5 Star Movement and the Democratic Party, but faced abstention from the right-wing League, led by former Minister of Interior Matteo Salvini, Brothers of Italy and Forza Italia, the latter headed by the former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. After the vote, they also refused to stand up and pay respect to the law’s first proposer, indeed Liliana Segre.
But what led them to make this choice? And is it supported?
The critics mainly regarded the text of the law, which defines nationalism and ethnocentricity as being among the motivators of racial behaviors. These ideologies are at the heart of the right movement, which felt discriminated and outlawed by how the law was framed, stating that in its current state it represented a political censorship rather than a fight to anti-semite movements (read this article from Reuters). The opponents approved the idea of prosecuting racist behaviors, but only without resulting in the categorization of some ideas as ‘’politically correct’’ and not accept the other political spectrum, even if to some it might seem ‘’extreme’’.
The leader of Brothers of Italy Giorgia Meloni, one of the main allies of Matteo Salvini, firmly criticized the law by asserting that it is immoral to exploit such delicate topics for introducing censorship tools against people who do not agree with the government’s idea. She instead supports the motion brought forth by an important exponent of the Jewish community in Rome, which has the goal of modifying the current law to reach a unanimous political consensus. She is also the one who tempted to have the great grand-son of Mussolini elected in the last European elections. Along with Berlusconi, they dispute the initiative of leftists which prospected the foundation of a new crime of opinion which, for example, did not even include any referral to the growing risks of Islamic radicalism.
This leads us to think about a bigger question: what should we be allowed to think? And should more extremist ideologies be allowed just for the sake of freedom of speech?
As history has shown, living at the extreme has never been fruitful for anyone in the long-term. Additionally, it is to be questioned whether there should be the right in the first place to manifest such ideas in public, especially in the case that they either lack respect for other people or can be seen as threatening and dangerous.
However, this can be considered one of the advantages (or disadvantages, depending on the point of view) of democracy: everyone’s opinion must be respected, even if it seems immature or pointless to us. As nationalism movements keep growing exponentially all over the world (just look at Trump’s policies or the Brexit movement) we will see in a few years the actual pay off of such behaviors. As they say, democracy is not perfect but is the best option.