White Night Too Red for Rome’s Right-Wing Mayor

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This year, the city-wide, all-night, late-summer street party known as Rome’s “Notte Bianca” almost didn’t happen.

The Notte Bianca or “White Night” (spending a “notte in bianco” is what you do, in Italian, when you’re up all night—either ‘cuz you’re insomniac or because you’re having too much fun), is an annual event, and is celebrated in many European cities, including Berlin, which threw the first White Night back in 1997, and Paris; Rome’s White Night dates to 2003.


The logo from Notte Bianca 2007, the last to be sponsored by the City of Rome.

During the Notte Bianca, concerts and other exhibitions go on from dusk to dawn and—a lot more interesting—almost all of the city’s museums and other monuments are open and free of charge, including some extraordinary buildings that are otherwise essentially never open to the public.

But last June, Rome’s new mayor, Gianni Alemanno (who replaced Walter Veltroni during the country-wide rout of the “left” last April) decided there wouldn’t be any financial or organizational support from the city of Rome this year, effectively canceling the Notte Bianca. It was a waste of money, Alemanno said, rather gleefully seizing the occasion to accuse his predecessor of cooking the books and hiding debts that he (Alemanno), of course, was now forced to deal with.

Ex-mayor Veltroni immediately responded with a point-by-point denial, characterizing Alemanno’s allegation of a “buco“ (hole) in the city’s finances as “the biggest media farce we’ve seen in recent times.”

Moral of this story: no one really knows and apparently no one really cares whether there is or isn’t a shortfall in Rome’s budget or whose fault it is. And that’s because the point of all this was the opportunity for the right to take cheap shots at the left and get lots of media coverage doing so. Politicians like Alemanno are not weaned at the breast of Silvio “Multi-Channel” Berlusconi for nothing.

Meanwhile, dumping Notte Bianca was Big Fun for Alemanno, who got to blame Veltroni for ruining everyone’s party and, in the same fell swoop, tickle the bejeesus out of his own much-further-right cronies by putting an end to an event that was born in a leftist, populist administration.

Meanwhile, a “mini” and noticeably reduced version of the Notte Bianca was organized on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, not just in Rome but in Genova and other cities. The left says it was a roaring success, the “comeback of the Roman suburbs,” the “White Night of the people.” Il Giornale, the right-leaning paper owned by Berlusconi, published a guide to avoiding the festivities so that citizens could move about the city without getting any of “the people” on them.

In other words: Thesis. Antithesis. The Italian press.

Alemanno, just to bring you up to speed, is one of the founders of the so-called “center right” National Alliance, a “new” party (born in the mid-1990s) with deep roots in the old Movimento Sociale Italiano, a party formed in 1946 by survivors of the Fascist government. Alemanno himself is a former youth leader of the neo-Fascist Movimento Sociale Italiano-Destra Nazionale and, since he’s been mayor of Rome, he seems to be spending a lot of his time rewriting history.

Earlier this month, for example, while on a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Alemanno seemed to feel the setting was right to provide a little education about how Fascism (the old-fashioned, Mussolini kind) really Wasn’t So Bad, If You Think About It. Fascism and the twenty-year nightmare of Mussolini, couldn’t be “condemned” wholesale as an “absolute evil,” Alemanno said, because Fascism was “a complex phenomenon.”

Now, before you go getting all indignant, Alemanno wasn’t referring to Mussolini’s famous anti-Semitic Racial Laws, promulgated in 1938 and accompanied by a vicious press, literary, and pseudo-scientific campaign to demonize and criminalize Jews in every facet of Italian life. The Racial Laws were Bad.

But it’s not like the Racial Laws were actually the Fascists’ idea, you understand. It was more one of those things where, you’re hanging out with your friends, the Nazis, and they’re like, “Hey, let’s start rounding up the Jews and expelling them from the country,” and you’re all, “Naw, c’mon you guys, let’s just go get a burger instead,” but they’re like, “Don’t be such a pussy, Benito.” And so you go along, because they’re your friends and all and you don’t want to, like, make a big hairy deal out of it and everything. So it wasn’t, you know, absolutely evil, it was just a case of peer pressure. Which I hope clears things up.

But those Jews, what a bunch of insult-collectors they are, and so now you’ve got Renzo Gattegna, the president of Italy’s Jewish Communities, saying things like you couldn’t really separate the evil of Mussolini’s anti-Semitic laws from that of the fascist regime itself, and one of those Italian Auschwitz “survivors,” Piero Terracina, telling reporters that “Without fascism there would never have been any racial laws. (It was) was a contagious disease.”

As if it weren’t enough that Alemanno already has his hands full trying to run a city as big and crazy and Rome, he’s also got a Filofax jammed full of items like “Teach those Red bastards a lesson,” “Reject Oliver Stone’s bio-pic about George W. Bush from the Rome Film Festival because Silvio won’t like it,” and “Rehabilitate Fascism.” Now the commie media is totally misinterpreting his comments at Yad Vashem, all so they can write their “journalistic headlines” rather than reflect the “reality of (his) statements” (Alemanno to the Italian news agency, ANSA, on 8 September 2008). It’s the kind of thing that’d give anyone a notte bianca.

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Posted on 12 September 2008, in Italy, Italian, Italians (in that order) and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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