[en] Freedom to read, or Censorship Italian Style

“Don’t read that book, idiot!”

In her book “L’Idiota in Politica”, the sociologist Linda Dematteo traces a groundbreaking analysis of the communicative style of Northern League (henceforth NL), suggesting that their “fool”-like style of acting and their simplifying rhetoric are the main clues to their success. Her thesis is a controversial and fascinating one, and it has gained her academic reputation and popularity alongside many criticisms from Northern Leaguers. However, in Sesto Calende (near Varese), it is virtually impossible to read her book and develop an independent opinion on the matter.
The episode was denounced by reporter Alessandro Gilioli in a column of his blog on the online version of “L’espresso”, on January 27 2012. According to Gilioli,Marco Colombo, mayor of Sesto Calende, came up with a wonderful trick: one of the NL councilors (Silvia Fantino Cardani) borrowed the book from the City Library for over four months, and when she returns it, another NL councilor will be there, ready to check it out. The councilors will rotate in checking out the book, thus guaranteeing that nobody can access this dangerous source of information. Nobody has denied these allegations yet.

Writers against Book-Burning

In the same day when Gilioli denounced this sad episode, a year had passed since another episode of censorship, which also involve members of the Northern League and of the far-right coalition then in power.
On January 16, 2011, in Venice, Provincial Councilor Raffaele Speranzon blacklisted 54 authors who had signed a petition in favour of Cesare Battisti in 2004. Mr. Speranzon proposed to eliminate their books from the public libraries across the Province of Venice unless they retreated their support to Battisti. He also suggested that these authors be declared “unwelcomed guests” in Venice and in all surrounding municipalities. These suggestions were enthusiastically welcomed by the right-wing policemen union COISP. More importantly, they were backed and relaunched by Ms. Elena Donazzan, PDL representative and Culture Alderwoman on the Board of the Region of Veneto, also known for her neo-fascist sympathies. Donazzan proposed to write a letter to all the headmasters of High Schools in Veneto, strongly recommending that any of these books were not made available at any of their school libraries.
The blacklist included award-winning authors such as Tiziano Scarpa, popular writers such as Sandrone Dazieri, Valerio Evangelisti, Tommaso Pincio and the collective Wu Ming, respected scholars such as Carla Benedetti, journalists such as Loredana Lipperini, and even the acclaimed philosopher Giorgio Agamben.
The episode raised immediate concern among the Italian intellectuals and writers: a group called “Writers Against Book-Burning” was formed to fight back and take action. Solidarity came regardless of the views on the Battisti trial itself: Carlo Lucarelli – a crime novelist who had also been actively engaged in promoting awareness against mafia – promptly expressed solidarity although he had different views on the matter. The National Association of Librarian also stood firmly against the proposal. As many of the involved authors pointed out, what was at stake was not even the personal judgment over the Battisti trial, but the defense of freedom of speech as such.

More censorship

After 3 weeks of appeals, calls to action, and rallies, the Speranzon-Donazzan ban was retreated and their proposal forgotten. However, the episode is far from being isolated. Attempts at censoring unwanted ideas seem indeed to have proliferated in the turn of a few years. In October 2009, for instance, the mayor of Musile di Piave asked his local library get rid of “politically-oriented” newspapers such as “La repubblica” and “Il manifesto”. In May 2009, a library in Genoa was requested to withdraw support to the public initiative “Two queens two kings” (“Due regine due re”). Both episodes were condemned by the National Association of Librarians as severe violations of the freedom of expression.
Early in 2011, while Speranzon and Donazzan were busy at blacklisting and censoring those who they had labeled as “Battisti’s friends”, another author was being targeted on totally different grounds. Roberto Saviano, the internationally acclaimed author of Gomorrah, had nothing to do with Battisti. He had actually signed the same petition in 2004, but he had later withdrawn his adhesion three years later, allegedly not recalling the reasons of his support. However, an anonymous librarian in Preganziol (near Treviso) denounced that Saviano’s books had literally disappeared from the library shelves, although they were still registered as “available” on the catalogue. Having publicly criticized the Northern League and the Ministry of Interior Roberto Maroni on the national TV Show “Vieni Via con Me”, Saviano was fairly unpopular among Northern Leaguers. The anonymous denounce was collected by journalist Loredana Lipperini who raised awareness and concern: a national rally was held in Preganziol (January 27 2011) against all censorship, while the anonymous librarian (who had meanwhile been singled out and targeted) received solidarity from across the country. The participation to that rally was crucial in restoring the freedom to read both in Preganziol and in the whole region of Veneto; however, all these episodes prove that Italy is running backwards on the issue of freedom of speech, and attempts at censorship no longer provoke shock among too many citizens and are an accepted part of the current political culture.

Related posts:

– [en] Acting the Fool: Idiocy and the Northern League

Sources:
– [en] text WuMing on their english blog
– [fr] text Rue 89
– [es] text WuMing in spanish
– [es] text WuMing in spanish on Donazzan
– [es] text Update in spanish from WuMing
– [it-en] text Loredana Lipperini’s blog
– [it-en] text More on Loredana Lipperini’s blog
– [it-en] text Again on Loredana Lipperini’s blog
– [it] text A letter to Loredana Lipperini’s blog
– [it] text Carmilla online
– [it] text Carmilla online on Battisti case
– [it] text Association of Italnan libraries
– [it] text More from Association of Italian libraries
– [it] text L’Espresso
– [it] text L’Unità
– [it] text Il corriere del Veneto (local newspaper)
– [it] text Il Gazzettino (local newspaper)

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