The problems of the progressive press to call Giorgia Meloni 'fascist'

The new Italian Prime Minister belongs to the nationalist right, in vogue in Europe. The attempt to link her to Mussolini is not going over well with the press.

The media have a problem when it comes to defining Giorgia Meloni. The delete key will have moved the cursor back over the word "fascist" on many occasions. The problem with calling him a fascist is that he is not one. Another possible problem is that if their proposals are fascist, we are forced to accept that we are surrounded by fascism wherever we go, and that this political current is much more popular than we are willing to admit.

Some people have no problem calling Giorgia Meloni a fascist. It would have been disappointing if The Atlantic didn't do it, but it has lived up to expectations. Ruth Ben-Ghiat has written an article entitled "The return of fascism in Italy":

Meloni would also represent continuity with Italy's darkest episode: the interwar dictatorship of Benito Mussolini. (...) Brothers of Italy, which Meloni has directed since 2014, has an underlying, sinister familiarity. The party was formed a decade ago to continue the spirit and legacy of the far right in Italy, which can be traced back to the Italian Social Movement (MSI), the party that was formed in place of the National Fascist Party, banned after World War II.

Ghost hunter journalists

In other words, Brothers of Italy inherits a spirit that dates back to post-war Italy, and we have a ghost-hunting journalist who has captured it. He leaves us very little time with the intrigue of what that spirit will be like, because right away he says that in reality it has nothing to do with Benito Mussolini, but with Viktor Orban and Donald Trump.

The New York Times does not disappoints, either. Ben Domenech, from The Spectator, points to an article from the NYT that uses the word "fascist" 28 times. We don't know if the author, Jason Horowitz, has been left wondering if 28 is enough to make it clear what he thinks of Meloni.

At NBC, they need fewer mentions of the word:

On the other hand, Nouriel Roubini is an economist who is permanently preaching an imminent crisis. That is why always, when recession comes, he has made some recent statement that has brought it forward. So his credit as an economist falls when the economy rises, and recovers when activity plummets. Being so pessimistic, it is only natural that he has the worst omens about the new Italian prime minister.

Normally, the media are not as extreme as the centrist The Atlantic, and do not engage in ghost hunting. At most, they talk about neo-fascism, with mention of Benito Mussolini, like CBS:

Fan of J.R.R. Tolkien

Even a medium as far to the left as Mother Jones denies the F-word to Giorgia Meloni. Says Abigail Weinberg: "Technically, she's not a fascist, she's Khy-ri, the dragon of the Undernet" That's too technical a definition for some, who probably don't know what she's talking about. Abigail Weinberg herself explains this in the article, in which she describes Meloni in cultural terms:

Meloni is also completely obsessed with J. R. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, and considers the series - which has been revered by Italian fascists for decades - to be an almost biblical text. In his twenties, Meloni roamed the web as 'Khy-ri, the dragon of the Undernet'. Tolkien, he told the New York Times, explains 'better than we do what conservatives believe in.' Your opinion about Mussolini? 'Everything he did, he did for Italy.'

Abigail wants Meloni's words about Mussolini, which say nothing, to say everything. If what Mussolini did was for Italy, then Giorgia Meloni likes Il Duce and is therefore a fascist. But another article adds more information of interest in this regard. David Harsanyi, in The Federalist, recalls:

Meloni has reported to fascism, stating that Italy "has given fascism to history for decades". The National Alliance shed its fascist ideas long ago. In the 2000s, its leader Gianfranco Fini visited Yad Vashem in Israel and rated Mussolini's regime of "absolute evil". It may have all been a decades-long ruse to gain power, but it is a context worth noting. Many did not.

The work done by Harsanyi could have been done by Harsanyi could have been done by other journalists, but they should have saved the F-word for a better occasion.

If he cannot be called a fascist, then the next rung on the ladder of political opprobrium must be stretched. We descend from "fascist" to "ultra-right". But then it has to be "the most right-wing government since Mussolini". To what extent Mussolini was right-wing is debatable. He came from the Communist Party, and was a tireless critic of capitalism and liberalism.