Dante would probably go back to hell if he knew the current state of Italy’s cultural heritage. This Mediterranean country has one of the richest cultural treasures in the world. For decades, Italian culture was the preserve of the left, but since the right-wing government took power in the fall of 2022, it has unleashed a culture war. When it comes to foreign policy, the post-fascist prime minister behaves Georgia Meloni Although this is an act of state, it has already been called harmless abroad. But when it comes to domestic politics, she apparently seeks to determine what Italians watch, hear and read.

And so Georgia Meloni fills the directorates of museums, juries, festivals and academic institutions with her people. Topping the list of opinion shapers is the country’s largest cultural institution, public broadcaster RAI, which has more than a dozen channels. The fact that the government is addressing issues of switching state television is not something new. Meloni’s Legal Alliance is not the first government to exert influence over staff at arts and cultural institutions. But she does it systematically and uses unsurpassed techniques.

Shell game with personal data

So the personnel issue at RAI turned into a real game of thimbles. The last leadership there was the impartial government of Mario Draghi in 2021 with the Roman Carlo Fuortes. To make room for a man she trusted, Meloni made Fuortes an offer he could not refuse, giving him the position of director of the prestigious Teatro San Carlo in Naples.

Directors are only allowed to run the world’s oldest opera house until they are 70 years old. Since the ruling only applied to Italians, Meloni quickly expanded the age limit for foreigners, so that French director Stéphane Lissner was forced to leave early. RAI’s managing director Fuortes rose to the top, and Meloni’s stalwart Giampaolo Rossi became RAI’s CEO.

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Propaganda through entertainment

Russia’s declared enemies are: intellectuals, NGO volunteers or hipsters, “Nigerians and do-gooders” – for him “the scum of the country.” During the coronavirus crisis, the businessman argued with a call to read Hannah Arendt’s works on totalitarianism in order to understand Italian health policy. He also regularly rails against Hungarian-Jewish American investor George Soros, who backs projects and non-governmental organizations through the Open Society Foundations. With such a person at the helm, it is difficult to imagine the future of the television company.

This is especially dangerous because television has a huge influence in Italy: about three-quarters of Italians aged 35 to 44 watch TV every day, and the proportion is even higher in older age groups. Silvio Berlusconi showed how a country can be governed through entertainment. Its Mediaset channels now provide the stage for the protagonists of the Meloni government: such as her former partner Andrea Giambruno, who until a few months ago used his program to incite obscene and naked hatred of women, environmentalists and German politicians.

Right-wing extremist at the top of the biennale

But the right not only wants to influence the mainstream, they also want to take over Italy’s historical heritage. More recently, the new management of the Roman Theater made headlines. The foundation unites four of the capital’s most important theaters, the oldest of which is almost 300 years old. Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano appointed a new director, Luca De Fusco, urgently and without the participation of representatives of the Roman city administration. This caused outrage, because most of the funds in the fund come from the mayor’s office. The capital’s center-left government would likely vote against De Fusco because the director is politically close to Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia. The prime minister responded to the protests from the cultural scene in her usual polemical manner. “Those days are gone, anyone with the skills to do it can now get a job; you don’t have to be a member of the Social Democrats anymore,” she said.

The right-wing culture war is not limited to the international art world. In March, right-wing extremist Pietrangelo Buttafuoco takes office as the new president of the international art exhibition Biennale di Venezia. The TV producer recalls his staunch right-wing career: at a young age, like Giorgia Meloni himself, he was a member and leader of the neo-fascist youth organization Front della Gioventu. He later became a member of the National Council of the post-fascist Alleanza Nazionale party.

The film industry is on alert

Meloni also changed the status quo to transform the national film industry. The law, which interfered with the structure of the Experimental Film Center, caused international outrage. The center unites the National Cinematheque and the country’s most important film school. Meloni, by his decree, ordered the early replacement of the institution’s top management. In the future, the most important positions will be occupied directly by the Minister of Culture.

More than 600 filmmakers protested the move in a letter, including renowned directors Wim Wenders, Paolo Sorrentino, Aliche Rohrwacher and Marco Bellocchio. The foundation’s president, Martha Donzelli, ultimately resigned voluntarily. Actor and director Nanni Moretti described the government’s actions as “violence and brutality.” “I had a prejudice. Now judgment is worse than prejudice,” he previously said of Meloni.

These are all just small examples of right-wing attempts to define the everyday culture of Italians. They too suffered defeats: artistic director Stefan Lissner managed to regain his place at the Teatro San Carlo. Journalist Andrea Giambruno had to leave her show after sexually harassing a colleague on camera. But such glimmers of hope cannot distract attention from the fact that the right-wing government in Italy is using the classic means of authoritarian rule to achieve one goal: to turn society around as it sees fit.

Used sources:

  • isole24ore.com: Fuortes in Beliko in Rai, decree coming soon
  • Istat Statistics: 2022
  • Esquire: Presentable man Meloni, who vorrebbe trasformare Rai in Biobla
  • RaiNews.it: Controversy with the director of the Rome Teatro De Fusco, Meloni: “Lo Scandalo è che Non Ha La Tessera PD”
  • ilsipontino.net: Nanni Moretti vs. Meloni: “Avevo un pregiudizio. Ora il giudizio and peggiore”

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