Another Day, Another Holocaust-Denying, Neo-Nazi High School Teacher in Italy
A little over a week ago, I wrote about a thoughtless, irresponsible column by memoirist and Corriere della Sera blogger, Beppe Severgnini, entitled “Italians Are Not Racists.” You can read my post on Severgnini’s #SpectacularFail here.
What was most irritating about Severgnini’s facile dismissal of the proposition that Italian society might have some work to do in the area of racial sensitivity and cultural integration was the specious distinction Severgnini made between individuals who “treat others differently on the basis of race or ethnicity” (he considers such folks “vulgar, stupid, and loutish”—strong words, indeed!) and the presence of any actual racists in Italy (Severgnini apparently believes they’re a myth, like Santa Claus). Of course Severgnini had no choice but to pursue such a rhetorical strategy: If you have real racists, then you have to have real racism. As long as all you have are individual idiots, then (big, exaggerated sigh and rolling of the eyes) what can one do?
Now comes this piece of news, the details of which continue to emerge, about a thirty-year-veteran history and philosophy teacher in some of Turin’s best high schools who not only teaches Holocaust denial, but has a Facebook profile decorated with images of Hitler and Mussolini and who recently posted a solicitation for volunteers to come over and do some “target practice” with him in order to get rid of the “nigger drug dealers” on his street.
Certainly Severgnini would agree that the teacher, Renato Pallavidini, is vulgar, stupid, and loutish, but Pallavidini himself is almost not the point. The point is that he’s been doing these things for a long, long time. And a lot of people knew about it. Colleagues, parents, and students, in fact, have repeatedly reported him, but no one has thought to fire him.
In 2007, because of such reports, Pallavidini was investigated and suspended from the Cavour High School for the Humanities—the one Fatto Quotidiano describes as one of Turin’s most prestigious. Regarding that incident, Pallavidini bragged, “In 2007, the Jews tried to get rid of me but they couldn’t do it. When all was said and done, all I got was two weeks of suspension. I appealed my suspension and I won. They had to pay me my back salary and give me back my seniority. I’m proud to be one of the few people, since the death of the Führer, who has managed, at least in his own small way, to defeat the Jews.”
And then Pallavidini turned up immediately at another Turin school, the D’Azeglio High School for the Humanities, apparently with no questions asked.
After his December 2011 rant on Facebook (“Here’s a warning to those stinking Jew bastards who run that faggot-infested shithole called California: If anyone tries taking down this photo [i.e,. of Hitler and Mussolini], my pistol and I are going to pay a visit to the synagogue right next door and terminate a few of the Jew parasites who hang out there. Don’t you think you’d be better off letting sleeping dogs lie?), D’Azeglio placed him on “sick leave” with full pay through the end of March 2012. Currently a “school-wide teachers’ meeting is planned” to “respond” to the situation. In other words, Pallavidini still hasn’t been fired.
In fact, it’s all but certain that nothing would ever have happened to Pallavidini if his Facebook postings hadn’t gone quite so viral. Decades ago the quip was that nothing was real until it appeared on television; today’s corollary is evidently that nothing is real until it appears on Facebook.
In any case, it remains unclear whether Pallavidini will actually lose his job or whether—much more likely—he’ll be allowed to retire with a full pension. After that, he’ll sit at home and nurse his psychiatric problems while we all wait to see whether he turns into the next Anders Behring Breivik or simply spends his time quietly curating his collection of SS memorabilia. (OK, I made that last part up—about the SS memorabilia, not about the pension or Anders Behring Breivik. On the other hand, you can go to weekend markets throughout the north of Italy, especially in the Veneto, and buy all the Mussolini paraphernalia you want—it’s all right there out in front for sale—so it’s not a huge stretch to imagine that Pallavidini might have a bust or two of Il Duce at home.)
But I can’t help but wonder what Severgnini would have to say about Pallavidini, other than calling him a lout. More importantly, I wonder what Severgnini would have to say about the Italian system that kept this man in the classroom, spewing race hatred for years—even allowing him to win an appeal of his suspension for teaching Holocaust denial—all until it became public on Facebook and couldn’t be swept under the rug anymore.
See, because that systemic, institutional refusal to do anything about a Nazi-propagandizing, anti-Semitic, gay-baiting, woman- and immigrant-hating teacher … that isn’t just loutish. That’s downright racist.
*Details for the report above come from four sources: the Fatto Quotidiano story translated below, as well as two articles in La Stampa and one in La Repubblica:
Numa, Massimo. “Minaccia strage di ebrei; Indagato il prof nazista.” La Stampa, 6 January 2012.
Mariotti, Antonella. “Torino non è razzista, ma lui lasci la cattedra.” La Stampa, 7 January 2012.
Pasqua, Marco. “Torino, prof neo-nazista su Facebook—‘Potrei fare una strage in sinagoga.” 5 January 2012. .
Turin: Neo-Nazi Teacher Launches Internet Threat to Carry Out Synagogue Massacre
From Fatto Quotidiano, 6 January 2012
A history and philosophy teacher at a Turin high school for the humanities threatens a bloodbath in a place of worship for Turin’s Jews if anyone dares take down the photos of Hitler and Mussolini he’s posted on his Facebook page. Condemnation arrives from all quarters.
As news reports have begun to reflect with increasing frequency, Facebook is no stranger to anti-Semitic threats and insults. But this time the culprit isn’t some Nazi forum, but a teacher of history and philosophy in a Turin high school for the humanities who used Facebook for his diatribes against Jews, gays, women, and the disabled, going so far as to propose a “massacre in a Synagogue.”
On his Facebook profile, the teacher, Renato Pallavidini, uploaded portraits of Hitler and Mussolini and yesterday posted this threat: “Here’s a warning to those stinking Jew bastards who run that faggot-infested shithole called California, If anyone tries taking down this photo [i.e,. of Hitler and Mussolini], my pistol and I are going to pay a visit to the synagogue right next door and terminate a few of the Jew parasites who hang out there. Don’t you think you’d be better off letting sleeping dogs lie?”
As long ago as 2007 (at the time Pallavidini was teaching in one of Turin’s most prestigious schools, the Cavour High School for the Humanities), parents, teachers, and students reported Pallavidini for his denial of the existence of Nazi concentration camps and for his insults to the memory of the Jews. Since then, Pallavidini has never missed a chance to publish his opinions on Facebook, and his hate seems limitless.
Just before Christmas last year, Pallavidini posted a sort of SOS on Facebook in which he said he was looking for someone willing to do some “target shooting” of the “nigger” drug dealers on his street. When the women’s “If Not Now, When?” March was held in Rome last February, his most restrained words for the participants were to call them “frustrated feminists.” And of course there was his suggestion that the disabled deserved to be subjected to the “methods” of the Nazi doctor, Josef Mengele. Pallavidini apparently also wrote to the Mayor of Turin, Piero Fassino, saying that he would refuse to pay his property taxes as long as the money went to provide public assistance to “niggers and gypsies.”
Pallavidini has now been condemned from all quarters, but worry about his actions is equally widespread. Emanuele Fiano and Roberto Della Seta, Democratic Party (Partito Democratico-PD) members in the Italian Parliament, along with an MP representing the Northern League (Lega Nord), Davide Cavallotto, have sent urgent inquiries to the Italian Minister of Education and Research, Francesco Profumo. The president of the Union of Italian Jews, Renzo Gattegna, and the president of the Jewish community in Turin, Beppe Segre, meanwhile, have asked that Pallavidini be put on trial.
The education of our children—tomorrow’s citizens—Gattegna and Segre said– is essential to the building of a mindful society. “The fact that a teacher in a well known high school for the humanities in Turn is using Facebook to publish what are clearly Neo-Nazi photographs and to direct unmistakable threats toward Jews, homosexuals, the disabled, and immigrants is cause for significant concern.”
“Our deepest hope,” Gattegna and Segre continued, “is that from this point forward, this individual—in addition to being tried in order to ascertain his guilt without doubt, be dealt with in such a way that he can do no further harm to young people, neither in any Italian school room nor on the internet.”
Update—6 Jan 12, 3pm: Renato Pallavidini is under police investigation and charged with inciting racial hatred. On his Facebook wall, Pallavidini had posted anti-Semitic comments and threatened a bloodbath in a Turin synagogue as well as encouraged “target shooting” of immigrants. At the same time that an investigation was officially opened in Pallavidini’s case, the general investigation and special branch. (DIGOS) of the Turin police searched his home and confiscated two computers and other digital material. The investigation is being coordinated by prosecutor Sandro Ausiello.