Italian journalists are forbidden these days from using the Italian word for foreign migrants who have stolen their way by subterfuge into Italy.
By controlling which words people can use you can control their thought. It is a thoroughly fascist idea and therefore much adored by the liberal left.
You use the law to criminalize no-go words, and schools and universities to ensure that the reasons why people use such words vanish into thin air. You thus change what people think.
And in a generation or two, hey, presto! Everybody thinks—for instance—that a sub-Saharan African man wading, suitcase in hand, out of the sea and into Europe is totally OK and that it is the duty of those on the beach to accompany him not to the nearest police station but to the nearest welfare office.
So it is with a frisson of bittersweet joy that in the name of liberty and truth I hereby commit one small act of rebellion and write the banned Italian word in capital letters: CLANDESTINO.
Just as in America you must call a clandestino “undocumented,” in Italy, which is where I live, you must call him irregolare. It does not end there.
In both countries, it is inappropriate, if not yet illegal, to use the word migrant to describe a clandestino—the appropriate word being immigrant.
But the word immigrant means—according to an online dictionary I consulted—“a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.”
So to call a clandestino an immigrant gives him a foot-in-the-door status to which he is not entitled.
It is therefore a lie. A lie that journalists must write—or else face the music.
I do not know what happens in America to a journalist who refers to a clandestino as an illegal son of a gun. But in Italy, a journalist who calls a clandestino a clandestino risks being sin-binned for a few months, or even disbarred from being a journalist, by the Ordine dei Giornalisti, the so-called profession’s governing body, itself conquered ovviamente decades ago by the thought police.
Even if they were genuine refugees, to call these migrants “undocumented immigrants” is still dishonest. A refugee is not an immigrant—he is an asylum-seeker.
Let us not beat about the bush.
We are talking here about wave upon wave of fighting-age men masquerading as refugees who are ferried to Italy across the Mediterranean from Libya by rescue vessels operated either by the navies and coast guards of Italy and other E.U. countries or by virtue-signaling charities often funded by the billionaire financier George “No Borders” Soros.
Since 2013, about 700,000 clandestini have arrived in Italy by sea from Libya, and yet only one in ten ever gains refugee status. The island of Sicily—Italy’s southern border—is 300 miles from Libya.
Even the Holy See of the global liberal left—the United Nations—concedes that most of these clandestini are not refugees. Nearly all them are from sub-Saharan Africa or Bangladesh where there is no war. Whatever else they may be, they are not refugees. Nor are they poor by African standards, as each has paid the people-traffickers $1,500 roughly for a place on the flimsy rubber inflatables that take them out to the rendezvous off the Libyan coast with the fleet of rescue ships on permanent standby. But the right to everything under the sun, by now well enshrined in Italian law (as elsewhere in the West), plus the lack of political willpower, mean that only about 5,000 of these fake refugees are put on a plane each year in Italy back to where they came from.
Imagine instead if you or I turned up on the beach in one of those sub-Saharan countries, or Bangladesh, without a valid passport or visa, seeking not asylum but merely a holiday. Would any of them let us in?
All this helps explain why Matteo Salvini, deputy prime minister in Italy’s new populist government and leader of the radical-right Lega, is now Italy’s dominant politician, and why a perturbed Time has just put him on its cover with the anxious headline “The New Face of Europe” and the subtitle “Matteo Salvini, Italy’s Immigration Czar, Is On A Mission To Undo The E.U.”
Naturally, Vivienne Walt, the author of the Time article, describes the 500,000 clandestini known to be in Italy and whom Salvini promised to deport on the campaign trail before the elections in March as “undocumented immigrants.”
I would like to ask Ms. Walt: Do you honestly think that this description best describes these people? If not, did you write it because the law censures you or because, worse, the censor is inside your head?
The Italians, in common with a growing multitude across Europe, will not vote anymore for politicians who refuse to stop the clandestini getting into their country, or to deport those clandestini already in their country—or who refuse to call a clandestino a clandestino.
Of course, it is not just the clandestini that the Italians are angry about, but for them and for so many other Europeans the migrant crisis is emblematic of all that has gone so wrong in Europe as they wonder in despair: Who are we?
This is the core issue: identity. The Italians, like everyone else in Europe, are losing not just their jobs but their country, culture, and way of life—i.e. their identity.
Once, the Italians were more in favor of the E.U. than any other people in Europe, but since the Eurozone Crisis of 2011, which followed the global banking crash of 2008, they are among the most hostile—especially the young.
That failure of the banks and therefore of capitalism brought the single currency to the brink of collapse. And it caused a political war to break out in Europe between the forces of nationalism and internationalism, and those of patriotism and globalism.
This war will decide the fate of the nations of Europe, of the euro, and of the European Union.
It is similar to the First World War, when nations rebelled against the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today, the empire is the E.U. Then as now faceless and rootless cosmopolitans pull the strings.
The enemy of the nationalists is an unholy alliance of the internationalist “no borders” and “humanitarian” left for whom nations are the root of all evil and the global corporatist right for whom nations are an obstacle to profit.
This is not a war between right and left.
The conflict sees left-wing, blue-collar workers and right-wing conservatives determined to defend their countries, culture, and way of life united in battle against left-wing metro intellectuals in cahoots with right-wing robber-baron capitalists.
This is why the bankster capitalist Soros, for example, supports the “no borders” internationalist left.
It is of course all about the money: The Europe wherein women no longer produce babies is dying—he figures—and the only way to maintain cash flow is mass immigration.
Salvini, aged 45, has rapidly emerged as Europe’s nationalist-in-chief. Very down-to-earth and usually tieless, always ready with a barroom joke, he spends much of his time on Facebook, where he has three million followers, or at public meetings, often in a T-shirt, jeans, and sneakers and posing for selfies with anyone who asks. He abandoned a university degree in history to become a full-time politician.
His adversary is French President Emmanuel Macron, who is Europe’s globalist-in-chief. This buttoned-up 40-year-old ex-Rothschild banker, ex-socialist, and darling of the global liberal left, never mingles with the people.
Salvini is today’s standard-bearer of Gen. Charles De Gaulle’s concept of what the E.U. should be—“L’Europe des Patries.” And basta!
He is hostile to the euro because it has abolished the monetary sovereignty of 19 member nations and until a year or so ago was determined to return Italy to the lira. But when Marine Le Pen of the Front National (now renamed the Rassemblement National), who had promised to hold a referendum in France on the euro, lost the 2017 French presidential election to Macron, he shelved the idea—for now.
To create jobs and better infrastructure he has promised to bust if necessary the budget deficit limit of three percent of GDP imposed by the E.U. on member states in an attempt to reduce public debt.
Macron, meanwhile, is the new—perhaps the last—great hope of those who dream of abolishing the nations of Europe and replacing them with a United States of Europe. The euro was meant to be the carrot and stick with which to cajole Europeans into achieving this dream. But as even fools know, you cannot have a currency union without a political union, and there is no political union—only purgatory.
Eurozone membership has condemned the poorer, less efficient southern members such as Italy to economic stagnation since the global banking crash of 2008. Youth unemployment rates in Club Med countries are 40 percent, give or take. In Italy, little more than 50 percent of the working-age population actually do work, and Italy’s public debt is a staggering 132 percent of GDP (the fourth highest in the world). The GDP growth staggers along at one-point-something percent, but GDP remains smaller than it was before the crash.
Macron—of course—is right. Saving the single currency (and by definition the E.U.) while dragging its poorer members out of penury does indeed require “ever closer union,” which is the mantra repeated in successive E.U. treaties. But political union can be achieved only if it is imposed on the people of Europe, because they will never vote for it. Least of all the Germans, who would be compelled to accept joint liability for the stratospheric debts of the southern Eurozone countries.
The E.U. is much more like an empire than a U.S.-style federal democracy. Its executive arm—the European Commission—is unelected, and its Parliament toothless. The more it moves toward political union, the less democratic and more imperial it becomes.
Above all, the people of the 28 member nations of the E.U. would never vote in favor of political union for a quite separate reason: patriotism.
No Italian, German, Pole, or whoever considers himself—regardless of all the decades of propaganda—to be first and foremost a European. The nations of Europe are not American states but countries with different languages whose peoples have fought wars with one another for 2,000 years.
Does there—I wonder—exist a single citizen in Europe who feels any emotion stronger than faint embarrassment when confronted by the insipid E.U. flag, which must rank as the most uninspiring flag ever invented? Of course not.
What the people of Europe do have in common is Christianity, but this was loudly and deliberately excluded from the preamble defining what Europe is all about in the 2007 Lisbon Treaty, the closest the E.U. has to a constitution.
Yes, if the aim is to create a United States of Europe, then Macron’s imperialist solution is technically the right one, and Salvini’s nationalist solution the wrong one. But only the elite support Macron, whereas the people support Salvini.
All summer Salvini and Macron have been slinging insults at each other—mainly about the clandestini and what to do with them. But while the popularity of Salvini, who has two children and whose girlfriend is a television cooking-show host, soars in the polls, that of Macron, who has no children and whose far-older wife was once his schoolteacher, plummets.
In Italy’s March elections, at which no party secured enough votes to govern on its own, the Lega got 17 percent (compared with 4 percent in the previous general election in 2013) and formed a coalition government with its opponent, the alt-left Five Star Movement, which had got the most votes (32 percent).
According to the polls the Lega is now consistently at 32-percent approval, while Five Star has dropped to 28 percent. Together, that adds up to a very impressive 60 percent.
And it is Salvini and the Lega that are in charge.
Salvini’s opponents brand him racist, nationalist, and fascist. Progressive Catholics have called him Satan.
Yet support for Salvini continues to grow. This is because—I am convinced—he is a patriot. And the people of Italy and Europe are crying out loud for patriots.
George Orwell, the author of Nineteen Eighty-four, which was above all about the control of thought by totalitarian states, was a revolutionary socialist but at the same time a patriot.
He drew a distinction between patriotism (good) and nationalism (bad) in a 1945 essay called “Notes on Nationalism.”
Patriotism is the healthy desire to defend one’s country, culture, and way of life from other countries—he wrote—while nationalism is the dangerous desire to impose one’s country, culture, and way of life on other countries.
Among the countries Orwell defined as nationalist was Soviet Russia, which used international socialism (communism) as a beard for her nationalism.
When I interviewed him in Rome in June, I mentioned this distinction between patriotism and nationalism to Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist and chief executive of Breitbart.
Bannon’s new mission in Europe—where he aims, he has said, to spend 80-90 percent of his time—is to help populist parties in each E.U. country crush the liberal center, which for decades has called the shots in Brussels, at the European Parliament elections in May 2019 via a foundation he has set up in Brussels called The Movement.
The aim for these countries, he says, is not to exit the E.U., as Britain has done, but to enforce root-and-branch reform of the E.U. from within.
His buzz phrase to define his brand both in America and in Europe is “National Populism,” and his take on Italy, because she has found a way to merge left-wing and right-wing populism, is that she is “the center of the political universe”—an experiment which, if it works, “will change global politics.”
I told him that European populists were loath to use the words national or nationalist because of their associations with Hitler’s National Socialism, and preferred the word patriot instead.
“That’s bullshit,” he told me.
I got the feeling not that Bannon wants to resurrect the Nazi way of doing things but that the word nationalist means something much less dangerous in America than it does in Europe.
Salvini’s message to the migrants (there may be millions) lining up on the other side of the Mediterranean in Libya is simple: “La pacchia è finita.” (“The party’s over.”)
In June, he refused to allow NGO rescue vessels that pick up migrants off the Libyan coast to dock anymore in Italy.
For the first time in many years there are now no NGO vessels operating off the Libyan coast.
Salvini then turned his fire on the fleet of E.U. naval vessels involved in Operation Sophia, set up by Brussels in 2015 supposedly to stop the Libyan people-smugglers but which also ferries clandestini to Italy, and on his own coast guard, which plays a key supporting role. In August, he refused to let an Italian coast-guard vessel—the Diciotti—disembark its cargo of 177 rescued migrants in Catania, in southeastern Sicily, insisting Europe should take them.
In any normal country, it would surely be unthinkable that the deputy leader of a new government elected specifically to stop refugees being ferried across the Mediterranean from North Africa to his country should face trial for actually doing so. But Italy is not a normal country, and so prosecuting magistrates in Agrigento, Sicily, immediately placed Salvini under formal investigation for kidnapping migrants (maximum sentence: 30 years in jail).
In a normal country this would perhaps have been a fatal blow, but in Italy it was a stroke of great luck that made Salvini even more popular than he already was.
For in Italy, it is a badge of honor to be hounded by an Italian investigating magistrate, because Italy’s arbitrary, incompetent, and politicized justice system is widely seen as the enemy not just of the people but of justice itself.
As Machiavelli noted: In order to prevail, a successful prince needs Fortuna as well as virtù.
Salvini has got them both.