Italy: An attempt to outlaw defending freedom of speech
October 26, 2009
Antonio Caracciolo is a scholar of philosophy of law who works at the Faculty of Political Sciences of Rome University.
Politically, he is a liberal in the Italian sense of the word: a believer in the separation of Church and state, constitutional democracy, the rule of law and a free market; however he keeps his opinions strictly out of his work, reserving them for his blog Civium Libertas.
Recently, his blog has dedicated much attention to the politics of Israel and the methods used by Zionist organizations in Italy to silence criticism of Israel in the Italian media and political sphere.
The Zionist discourse, in recent years, has focused increasingly on the extermination of the European Jews during the Second World War, and this has led Antonio Caracciolo to touch another topic. As a liberal and legal scholar, he considers the attempt to introduce prison sentences http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_against_Holocaust_denial against “Holocaust deniers” or “revisionists” incompatible with Articles 21 and 33 of the Italian constitution, which protect freedom of expression and of research. In this context, however, Antonio Caracciolo has refused to get involved in historical discussions, or to support any “revisionist” thesis.
His blog – one of hundreds of thousands on the net in Italy – passed unnoticed for over two years, until a few days ago Italy’s leading daily, La Republica, decided to make its existence front page news, under the more-than-misleading title:
Gianni Alemanno, mayor of Rome, immediately demanded that the President of Rome’s University, Luigi Frati, take steps against Antonio Caracciolo. It is ironical to remember that Alemanno is not only the first neo-Fascist to become mayor of the Italian capital, he has also been the historic leader of the mystic current in the Alleanza Nazionale (former MSI) party, and is the son-in-law of Pino Rauti, who introduced the esoteric ideas of Julius Evola into the neo-Fascist movement.
In Europe, even in the Middle Ages, mayors had no right to tell universities whom to hire or fire. However, the President of the University Luigi Frati, thanked Gianni Alemmano for his prompt action and promised to “look into taking disciplinary steps against Caracciolo”, which could include his being fired from his job.
The right-wing president of the Rome town Council, Marco Pomarici, declared that
“one cannot tolerate certain statements circulating freely around Europe’s largest university, especially in a course on Philosophy of Law. Such theories can generate a return of anti-Semitism and it is quite clear that Caracciolo is not suited to teach and must be dismissed.”
Irony again, since Marco Pomarici a short time before had declared publicly that “there were also many positive elements in Fascism.”
Riccardo Pacifici, the very Zionist president of the Jewish community elected by a first-time right wing majority (on a ticket explicitly called “For Israel”) and well known in Italy for an “aid to Gaza” hoax, calls directly for imprisoning Antonio Caracciolo:
“Such “gentlemen” in some European countries – alas, not in Italy yet – are punished by the law for the ideas they uphold.”
The next day, Riccardo Pacifici launched an appeal (directly from Israel) to the academic world, announcing that he would take legal action against Caracciolo’s blog, and calling on university professors to take steps to “prevent allowing certain people having contact with students” (La Repubblica, October 23, 2009). Specifically, he calls upon the professors to “help us so that Italy makes laws declaring holocaust denial a crime.”
Pacifici claimed the existence of a “true Holocaust denial network” in Internet, hardly surprising if we consider that Internet is a network. Pacifici also told the press that he had presented a black list of websites to the police.
“The problem of the net, emphasizes Pacifici, is that it is uncontrolled. The risk is that one can write anything by simply opening a website in Moscow. We also need to intervene in terms of legislation about this.”
Statements of indignation about Caracciolo’s blog “are not enough,” Pacifici goes on. “Unanimous condemnation is not enough. We need to act in terms of criminal law.”
The Caracciolo case opens a new frontier. Not only would unpopular opinions be banned, but also the right to criticize such bans. Pacifici’s proposal, if applied in Germany, would put Henryk Broder, candidate-president of the German Jewish Community, in gaol, as he has promised to fight for the repeal of Holocaust denial legislation. http://www.focus.de/politik/deutschland/henryk-m-broder-publizist-will-knobloch-im-zentralrat-abloesen_aid_446835.html
The following day, October 24, Repubblica itself published an article by Christopher Hitchens which called for a military attack on Iran, no less, but this seems not to have sent any shock waves through the media.
Far more than Holocaust revisionism/denial is at stake. Pacifici is calling for legislation able to outlaw a blog like Antonio Caracciolo, which criticizes a government of the Middle East, analyzes the action of public figures and organizations in Italy and defends freedom of speech.
Such legislation would be possible only if laws were passed forbidding opposition to government policies, or declaring certain foreign states to be above criticism, or forbidding even support for the notion of free speech.
This of course is the basic issue behind “Holocaust denial legislation”, which is actually only part of the general attempt by governments to control the Internet and to make opposition – outside of very limited channels – a crime: one need only think of the Czech Republic, where legislators slipped a few extra words into the the Holocaust denial legislation. In Prague today, one can go to prison for up to eight years for “supporting class hatred” in “print, film, radio, television.” “Hatred” of course is a purely emotional term, and any judge will be free to decide whether the person organizing a strike had such wicked feelings or not.
 The Italian neo-Fascist party, MSI (later Alleanza Nazionale, now dissolved into the governing centre-right party) was a complex coalition, with three main strands: very conservative, largely Catholic anti-Communists; the “left-wing” which saw Mussolini as the “true” Socialist in the progressive and secular nationalist tradition of the 19th century; and a mystic, largely pagan wing with close cultural ties to certain currents of German thought.