Meloni & Our Lying Media
Here we go again:
For the hundredy-hundredth time, let me say: the reporting of the US media on the European Right is not to be believed. I don't say that as a right-winger who gets his nose out of joint when CBS News calls a politician I like "fascist." I do get my nose out of joint, but that's my problem. It's your problem because you depend on the news media to tell you what's happening in the world, and they are entirely misleading you. You don't have to see this as a conspiracy; they lie to themselves about what's going on, because they have been trained to disable their own skeptical instincts when it comes to maintaining the Narrative.
It is true that Meloni's party, the Brothers Of Italy, has roots in twentieth-century fascism. But she herself is a standard right-wing populist, in that she is a social conservative (particularly, she values religion and opposes gender ideology) and is skeptical of political and economic globalism. Meloni was raised working class in Rome by a single mother; her father abandoned the family. She still holds on to her strong Roman accent. Below, watch her 15-minute speech in English at the National Conservatism Rome conference in 2020, and tell me with a straight face that that woman is a Fascist. The only thing that would set her apart from a standard US Republican is a more critical attitude towards capitalism, but in the post-Trump era, not even that would be a big deal (e.g., Gov. Ron DeSantis said in Florida recently that "America is a country with an economy, not the other way around" -- which is Meloni's position captured in a phrase). If CBS News is right and Giorgia Meloni is a "fascist," then I'm telling you, half of America is fascist. Then again, they probably do believe that in the CBS Newsroom in New York.
Please, I want you to watch this, or at least part of it. It's important to see and hear for yourself the radical distance between what CBS News and other media say Giorgia Meloni is, and what she actually is. It's important so you can grasp how badly you and all of us are gaslighted by the media when it comes to politics, especially when politics intersect with culture. They hate Meloni because she takes a hard line on out-of-control immigration, and because she believes in defending the traditional family (which entails rejecting transgender ideology). Ergo, "FASCIST!"
As regular readers know, I personally experienced how wildly distorted the Western media narrative is about Viktor Orban's government in Hungary. I went there expecting a somewhat repressive country, based on what I had been told by our media and US institutions. What I found was a normal country -- certainly one with a government that is more conservative than the usual EU suspects, but in a way that is totally normal, at least to American eyes. The Orban government got extremely crossways Brussels in 2015, when it said NO to the mass migration into Europe of Middle Eastern Muslims, invited by Angela Merkel. Orban believes in borders, and in national sovereignty. Meloni too does not oppose the EU in principle, but says that it should be a confederation of sovereign nations -- more sovereign than Brussels wants, obviously. Orban believes the same. The Orban government is also extremely crossways Brussels because it opposes gender ideology, and supports protecting children from the kind of insane gender propaganda that is becoming common in the US.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, in her now-infamous threat to Italian voters, said the quiet part out loud: that the EU had been punishing Hungary and Poland for voting for conservative governments of which Brussels disapproved. All this "rule of law" harassment against those countries has been a cover for raw political abuse, and the assertion of EU hegemony over member states of which the EU elites do not approve. It should not be hard for American readers to understand why European voters resent that. In reading and listening to reporting about the Italian election, you should be aware of what a huge freaking deal uncontrolled migration into Italy is in that country, especially the crime that comes with it. Journalists committed to the "diversity is our strength" narrative either ignore this evidence, or they judge Italians who resent what's happening to their country as racists who don't deserve respect.
A great example of this came in the New York Review of Books, a flagship publication of liberal intellectuals, a few years ago, when the Columbia University scholar Mark Lilla published a 2018 piece called Two Roads for the New French Right. In it, Lilla focused on a distinct group of conservative French intellectuals emerging onto the public scene, young Catholics who stood between the conventional French conservative party, and the National Front -- both of which are secular. These new intellectuals -- some of whom are my personal friends -- are serious Catholics whose faith guides their political ideas. Prior to reading Lilla's piece, I had had conversations with them in Paris about the uselessness of the conventional Right, but the dangers of the radical Right, which they oppose as Catholics. I was delighted to see Lilla pay attention to them, because in doing so, Lilla told an interesting story about what's going on in European politics now.
Well, in the next issue, the Washington Post's man in Paris wrote to chide Lilla for supposedly whitewashing the French neofascists. I've reproduced the exchange in the letters section, so you can see how and why the US media reads the European Right so wrong -- and why a genuinely curious liberal intellectual like Mark Lilla has the courage to see nuance. Read on:
To the Editors:
As The Washington Post’s correspondent in Paris, I have interviewed a number of the characters Mark Lilla cites in his essay “Two Roads for the New French Right” [NYR, December 20, 2018]. Lilla’s account fails to confront the white supremacy at the heart of a movement he ultimately describes as a “coherent worldview.” Although he is correct that there are important evolutions underway on the French and European right, he overlooks an implacable bigotry that remains the essence of the project. Any responsible discussion of the movement’s new developments must begin and end there.
“Something new is happening on the European right, and it involves more than xenophobic outbursts,” Lilla writes. But in many cases, xenophobia is far from peripheral. The hatred of migrants and foreigners is the essence of the pitch that the contemporary European right has made to voters. How else do we explain the tendency of right-wing parties across the continent to focus on a so-called “invasion” of migrants, even as their numbers continue to fall? Arrivals are down to their lowest levels since 2015, when Europe experienced a historic influx of migrants and refugees that triggered a political crisis with no apparent end in sight. The leaders of far-right and, now, mainstream conservative parties across the continent are focusing squarely on immigration and the alleged threat to national identity it poses. In many cases, the rhetorical line between “right” and “far right” is increasingly difficult to delineate.
This is exactly the climate that has enabled the rise of Marion Maréchal—formerly Marion Maréchal-Le Pen—the twenty-nine-year-old scion of France’s, and probably Europe’s, best-known far-right dynasty. A darling of Steve Bannon, Maréchal addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington this past February. Lilla quotes Maréchal’s remarks in that speech extensively, as ostensible evidence of a new intellectual movement among a younger generation of European conservatives. But he selectively omits other lines from that same speech, which clearly situate Maréchal in a right wing terrified by the prospect of a white majority apparently under siege. “After forty years of massive immigration, Islamic lobbies and political correctness,” she said at CPAC, “France is in the process of passing from the eldest daughter of the Catholic Church to the little niece of Islam, and the terrorism is only the tip of the iceberg.” Given that Lilla quoted so much else of what she said, readers of The New York Review deserve to read the extreme words from a woman Lilla presents as both “calm and collected” and “intellectually inclined.” Her speech was also fundamentally dishonest: according to most available estimates, Muslims count for no more than 10 percent of the total French population.
I have interviewed Maréchal twice for the Post: once in Paris in April 2017, and then again in September 2018, when I saw her at the Institute of Social, Economic, and Political Sciences (ISSEP), the new educational enterprise she founded in Lyon. What bothers me most about Lilla’s account is that he appears willing to accept uncritically and at face value the image that Maréchal and her associates attempt to project, which is that they are intellectuals and thus entitled to legitimacy. But if we must discuss her ideas, there is one animating concept that seems to fuel her entire project: le grand remplacement, the notion that Europe’s white majority is in the process of being replaced by Middle Easterners, North Africans, and sub-Saharan Africans. It’s a concept largely derived from the polemicist Renaud Camus, but it is by no means confined to France’s, or Europe’s, political extremes. In any case, few have defended it as doggedly as Maréchal. As she said in 2015: “There is in fact today a substitution of certain parts of the territory of so-called native French by a newly immigrated population.” To that end, in Lyon, when she described to me the project of ISSEP, she kept using the word enracinement—“rootedness.” A rather suggestive choice for a business school’s mission statement, no?
I would also point out that a number of the widely discussed evolutions on the French and European far right today—especially the attempted inroads with the gay community, the Jewish community, and women—also belong to this same narrative. Right-wing leaders have largely based their appeals to these groups by stoking fears of a Muslim other that is somehow a threat to the local “civilization.” To take just one example, consider what Maréchal told me in 2017: “Today we have a phenomenon of radicalization where sharia is being applied in immigrant neighborhoods,” she said. “Women’s rights are losing ground in those neighborhoods.” However much we discuss the degree to which right-wing figures like Maréchal are evolving on these issues—and I am still unsure how much of that narrative to believe—we have to acknowledge that the hatred of the other is prior to that evolution, and in fact is often the reason behind it.
Lilla describes Maréchal’s ideas as the sign of a new politics that somehow blends traditional conservative social values with an attention to ecology and a hostility to market economics. I agree that what we’re seeing does present a new blend of ideas that once would have had nothing to do with each other. But this new blend is still an ideology of exclusion, and there are important historical antecedents to consider in that regard.
For example, Lilla seems particularly intrigued by the environmental consciousness of the leaders of this new far right. He is of course correct that any substantive environmentalism is certainly lacking on the American right these days, but ecology was also a fundamental component of French intellectual history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. For the reactionary French writers of that era, such as Maurice Barrès, ecology was primarily a means of defense, as it appears in his novel Les Déracinés (1897): it is a return to the land, almost always invoked as the territoire, but most importantly it is a reaction against modernity and the forces seen to inspire it. For many right-wing French writers in the nineteenth century, those forces were the Jews. Today’s far-right extremists do not deviate from that history when they blame migrants for France’s social ills. After reading Lilla’s piece, I replayed the recording of my most recent conversation with Maréchal, and the words she chose are the same as those invoked by previous advocates of organicist conservatism. “We are in a territoire,” she said at one point. “We have an ecology to respect.”
“Marion is not her grandfather,” Lilla writes, referring to the founder of the Front National and notorious Holocaust denier Jean-Marie Le Pen. But what evidence does he have for that claim? When I met her for the first time, I asked Maréchal about her grandfather. This was her response: “I am the political heir of Jean-Marie Le Pen. At the Front National, we are all his heirs. He was a visionary.” Although she has nominally condemned anti-Semitism, she ultimately had this to say about his infamous 1988 remark, repeated many times since, about the Nazi gas chambers being a mere “detail” in the history of the Second World War: “I do not think he meant to harm anyone by saying that,” she told me.
I agree with Lilla that we should absolutely be paying attention to what is happening in these circles, but we must also be more honest about what, exactly, we are witnessing.
The Washington Post
To the Editors:
Mark Lilla’s calm and moderate piece on the new French right tracks what has been developing in France over the last two years, especially regarding Marion Maréchal. But he might have gone even further. It is clear that during this period there has, as he says, emerged a coordinated and sympathetic affinity between seemingly disparate nations, but less as a new right Popular Front, as he suggests, than as a new Fascist International. One could include in this International not only many governments in Central and Eastern Europe, but also those of Italy, the Philippines, Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, India, soon Brazil, and even Israel (under its current and seemingly permanent regime, but culturally impregnable in terms of the stranglehold the religious right holds). There is also potential for fascist governments in France, Argentina, and Chile, and possibly in Australia and Japan—with the US and Russia as the two poles of gravity. Building such an International is not only Steve Bannon’s serious project but also apparently that of the Trump administration: as Richard Grennell, the US ambassador to Germany, recently said, his job was less to fulfill traditional diplomatic obligations than to support and coordinate the Alternative für Deutschland with fraternal movements across Europe.
Lilla’s mention of Charles Maurras was essential. He cast a postwar spell over more people than anyone wants to talk about, and his burial was never complete. But one might also think of the section in The Great Gatsby where Tom Buchanan rants about the colored empires and the end of white hegemony (“If we don’t look out the white race will be—will be utterly submerged”), which Nick doesn’t take seriously: “Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas.” In America such ideas will never be stale, and that goes double for Europe.
Mark Lilla replies:
Writing about the political right has never been harder. Different kinds of right-wing ideologies and political formations are proliferating and shaking liberal governments around the world, as Greil Marcus points out. This makes it difficult to keep track of all the developments, distinguish them, and establish the connections between them. At the same time, liberal and left forces that want to resist these developments are increasingly hostile to learning anything that does not conform to their settled ideas about the right. A misplaced wokeness works like Ambien, dulling our curiosity and willingness to engage, and thrusting us into an intellectual twilight where the only thing we see is the familiar specter of white supremacy.
James McAuley has written excellent pieces on the French right and Marion Maréchal, so perhaps it is a déformation professionelle that leads him to read my own article inside out. It was not an article primarily about Marion; had it been, I would have discussed most of the things McAuley mentions. Neither was my ambition to offer an overview of the French right and reach a general conclusion about it. Rather I was concerned with new elements on that right, two of which drew my attention. One is newly active Catholic social conservatives who fall between the establishment Républicains party and the far-right Rassemblement National (né Front National), both of which are generally secular. The other is a group of young Catholic intellectuals who have rather coherently linked their social conservatism to a severe critique of contemporary globalized capitalism. Having written a book on reactionary intellectuals, I am quite aware of antecedents to that link running back to the nineteenth century, not only on the right. But ever since mainstream right-wing parties embraced neoliberalism in the late twentieth century, there has been no serious critique of capitalism on the right in any major Western country. These young French writers remind us that it is still possible. That Marion has picked up some of their ideas, or at least the rhetoric, shows that they might have consequences—though not necessarily those they intend.
All of this strikes me as not only worthy of note, but important given the growing influence of the right just about everywhere. That is not to say that it is benign. As the title of my article stated clearly, there are two paths before these young intellectuals. One is to start developing “a renewed, more classical organic conservatism” inflected by Catholic social teaching that could have a moderating effect by counterbalancing the far right and offering an alternative to it. The other is to contribute to building an aggressive Christian nationalist ideology that one writer I quoted called “revolutionary, identitarian, and reactionary,” in concert with other similar forces in Europe responsible for the “xenophobic populist outbursts” I also mentioned. McAuley is quite right to point out Marion’s caginess in speaking in these two registers. And like him I would probably bet on the nationalist strain dominating in the end. Which would force these young writers to choose: that’s the drama.
In any case, this is what I was trying to get at in the article. But a reader of McAuley’s letter who had not seen the piece might come to a different conclusion: that it was intended to whitewash Marion (or her grandfather, or right-wing forces everywhere; it’s unclear which) and ignore the real animating forces on the right, which are “white supremacy,” “hatred of the other,” “bigotry,” and “an ideology of exclusion,” all whipped up by the phantom of immigration. In other words, never mind all the things that seem new, forget the writings about family and sexuality, forget all the talk about organic community, forget the lashing out against neoliberalism and tech giants, forget Pope Francis (an inspiration for some). It all comes down to hatred: “Any responsible discussion of the movement’s new developments must begin and end there.”
That sentiment is so common on the left, and not only in France, and so fruitless for confronting the contemporary right, in all its manifestations, that I’m moved to respond, though this was not my original subject. The forces McAuley lists are real enough in our societies. But it is foolish to deny or minimize social realities that xenophobes exaggerate and exploit, in the vain hope of cutting off their oxygen. Equally foolish is an unwillingness to take up fundamental political questions that the xenophobes give bad answers to, and to try giving better ones—questions like Ernst Renan’s “What is a nation?” These avoidance instincts must be resisted. If there is anything we’ve learned in recent decades, it is that closing our eyes or establishing taboos on what can and can’t be discussed, or how, always backfire. The left needs to present people with a fuller reality than the right presents, not an equally restricted one.
For example, illegal immigration in France has indeed dropped since 2015—but the levels before then were already fueling anger and frustration, since neither the French state nor the EU had been able to master them. And unless one believes in open borders, citizens are perfectly right to expect that whatever level of legal immigration has been democratically decided will be enforced. If not, the democratic system itself will look illegitimate. Uncontrolled immigration, along with economic globalization, are the major factors behind the growing distrust plaguing liberal democracies. It is not just bigotry.
But of course, as McAuley knows quite well, the term “immigration” is really a euphemism in France for the Muslim population as a whole, which is largely made up of citizens and legal residents just living their lives. It obviously serves the xenophobes’ interests to use the term to undermine their legitimacy. This is the real danger. But it does not help to deny that there are pressing problems of Muslim integration into European societies, or to pretend that this is simply because of that xenophobia. There are challenges in neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, and prisons. And those challenges contribute to demographic worries, which a demagogue like Renaud Camus exploits with his dystopian “great replacement.” Though the Muslim population has grown to only 10 percent so far, over a quarter of all children born in France have at least one parent born outside Europe, most from Muslim countries. So the Muslim population will continue to grow. What this will mean for French republicanism, the secular ideology that undergirds the state and the educational system, is unclear. But labeling any discussion of such matters racist will only sell more copies of Renaud Camus’s books.
For those concerned about the antiliberal forces gaining strength in world politics, the most important thing is to maintain one’s sangfroid. Before we judge we must be sure of what exactly we are judging. We need to take ideas seriously, make distinctions, and never presume that the present is just the past in disguise. Greil Marcus falls into that last trap, I’m afraid, by shifting from discussing the affinities among countries to imagining a Fascist International with poles in the US and Russia. Whatever we are facing, it is not twentieth-century fascism. Hell keeps on disgorging new demons to beset us. And as seasoned exorcists know, each must be called by its proper name before it can be cast out.
Keep in mind that Lilla is himself a man of the Left. He is trying to shake his own side out of its self-induced blindness, of the sort that looks at the Right and sees only "hatred". Lilla calls this strategy "fruitless" for confronting the contemporary Right, because, as he (correctly) puts it, the concerns that give rise to the Right are often real, and are not being answered by the Left -- except to try to shout down discussion by saying it's bigoted to notice these things.
Lilla knows what he's talking about. After Trump was elected in 2016, he published an op-ed in the NYT titled, "The End of Identity Liberalism". In it, he wrote:
But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good. In large part this is because of high school history curriculums, which anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country. (The achievements of women’s rights movements, for instance, were real and important, but you cannot understand them if you do not first understand the founding fathers’ achievement in establishing a system of government based on the guarantee of rights.)
When young people arrive at college they are encouraged to keep this focus on themselves by student groups, faculty members and also administrators whose full-time job is to deal with — and heighten the significance of — “diversity issues.” Fox News and other conservative media outlets make great sport of mocking the “campus craziness” that surrounds such issues, and more often than not they are right to. Which only plays into the hands of populist demagogues who want to delegitimize learning in the eyes of those who have never set foot on a campus. How to explain to the average voter the supposed moral urgency of giving college students the right to choose the designated gender pronouns to be used when addressing them? How not to laugh along with those voters at the story of a University of Michigan prankster who wrote in “His Majesty”?
This campus-diversity consciousness has over the years filtered into the liberal media, and not subtly. Affirmative action for women and minorities at America’s newspapers and broadcasters has been an extraordinary social achievement — and has even changed, quite literally, the face of right-wing media, as journalists like Megyn Kelly and Laura Ingraham have gained prominence. But it also appears to have encouraged the assumption, especially among younger journalists and editors, that simply by focusing on identity they have done their jobs.
Recently I performed a little experiment during a sabbatical in France: For a full year I read only European publications, not American ones. My thought was to try seeing the world as European readers did. But it was far more instructive to return home and realize how the lens of identity has transformed American reporting in recent years. How often, for example, the laziest story in American journalism — about the “first X to do Y” — is told and retold. Fascination with the identity drama has even affected foreign reporting, which is in distressingly short supply. However interesting it may be to read, say, about the fate of transgender people in Egypt, it contributes nothing to educating Americans about the powerful political and religious currents that will determine Egypt’s future, and indirectly, our own. No major news outlet in Europe would think of adopting such a focus.
It's so true! But as we know, 2016 was not the end of identity liberalism; in fact, it exploded after that. And Lilla, for his sins, was denounced by the Left for having written that piece. In a major essay, his Columbia colleague Katharine Franke accused this liberal professor trying to save liberalism from progressives of attempting to "make white supremacy respectable," and compared him to Klan leader David Duke. He swiftly became a non-person on the academic Left for the sin of saying that the world is a lot more complicated than progressive ideologues would have you believe, and that it is in the interest of liberals to try to understand that. I'm old enough to remember when a stance like Lilla's would have been considered a virtue. No more.
Now, it can be tempting on the Right to look in on this and chortle about how the vain, ideologically insane Left is eating itself alive, but this is not a healthy or wise stance. Whether one stands on the Left, on the Right, or in the center, one should strive to see the world as it truly is. It might not seem to you, as an American, like it matters what voters in Italy do today (or what voters in any country do). But the United States looms very large over European life and politics -- and what European countries do matters very much to our national security and economic well being. As I have been writing in this space for some time, there is a large and growing resentment among conservative Europeans, especially in central and southern Europe, of the US for its cultural imperialism on gender ideology. You never, ever see this reflected in American reporting. It became common for me to meet Hungarians, Poles, and others from that part of the world who would put to me some version of the question, "What happened to you Americans?" These people, always old enough to have lived through the Cold War, would explain that they used to look to America as a source of hope, but now they see us as a hegemonic power that wants to bully them into surrendering their faith and their traditional beliefs about family, and gender. Of course the European Left wants to do the same thing, but what's new here is that America is now a power intervening in European life, in soft and hard ways, on the side of cultural revolution.
This matters! If Americans had to put up with the kind of things that Europeans do, regarding crime, religious and ideological extremism, and terrorism, all related to uncontrolled migration, we would be electing leaders that would make Donald Trump look like AOC. If you depend on the US news media to tell you what's going on in Europe, you are making a big mistake. For that matter, if you depend on the US news media to tell you what's going on in the United States, you are also making a mistake.
It may be that the American Left is uneducable, because reality violates too many of its ideological principles. David Brooks recently asked in print, "Why is there still no strategy to defeat Donald Trump?" The answer is that to build a political movement capable of decisively defeating him requires abandoning, or at least meaningfully marginalizing, left-wing identity politics. Non-self-hating white men, for example, would be crazy to vote for the Left today. Ordinary Americans of all ethnicities are correct to fear and loathe what leftist ideologues are doing in public schools regarding mainstreaming racism, and transgenderism. I've been writing in this space about how in the absence of professional journalism, it has fallen to activists and polemicists like Chris Rufo, Matt Walsh, Libs of TikTok, and others to expose what the medical industry, particularly in children's hospitals, are doing to sexually mutilate minors, and to coerce parents into consenting to this barbarism.
The political and ideological Left cannot allow itself to think that it has gone too far with race, sexuality, and identity politics. On the Left, there are no limits. Mark Lilla called this back in 2016: "But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life."
That's why there is still no strategy to defeat Donald Trump.
I should say, in the interest of fairness, that we have a similar problem on the Right. For a very long time, what we now call "Zombie Reaganism" prevented arising on the Right any serious critique of capitalism. It took a figure like Donald Trump to come along and clear that ground -- and for that, I am thankful. Yet among the hardcore MAGA people, you could say that "the fixation on Trump's cult of personality has produced conservatives who are narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life." When I was at the NatCon3 conference in Miami, everybody I talked to believed that Gov. Ron DeSantis ought to be the GOP presidential nominee in 2024, because he stands for most of the things Trump stands for, but does so without the crazy personal drama, and with real governing competence -- and these factors make him electable. But nobody believes that DeSantis could beat Trump in a primary contest, because Trump has such a grip on the passions of the Republican base. If these MAGA true believers actually wanted to change things in this country, they would thank Trump for his service, and move on to DeSantis, who would stand a good chance of succeeding where Trump failed. But for them, it's a closed feedback loop, same as on the Left. They have pledged themselves internally to a Narrative that they can't violate. Put another way, these orthodox partisans of both Left and Right have come to treat politics like religion. And, as I write in Live Not By Lies, Hannah Arendt said a polity that has given up on wanting to find the truth, preferring instead to have its ideological views confirmed by the media, is a polity that is ripe for totalitarianism.
So yes, this is a problem for us on the Right, but because all our institutions -- especially the news and entertainment media -- are solidly controlled by the Left, this is a much bigger problem for us all. Giorgia Meloni's party will probably win in Italy today, and you will see a massive freakout by the American media, and the Washington blob. Anne Applebaum will wet her pants all over the pixels of The Atlantic website. I can't urge you strongly enough to be intensely skeptical of what you read, see, and hear from them. Meloni's party, and Meloni's platform, would be standard conservatism in America. At least half the country here would vote for Meloni's party, and wouldn't bat an eye. Same with the Vox party in Spain, also routinely scarified as "far right" by the US media. Same with Viktor Orban's Fidesz party in Hungary. These people aren't neo-fascists; by American standards, they are commonsense, patriotic conservatives.
It is true that European countries do have serious far-right movements. Some of these are pretty frightening. It is a huge mistake, though, for these ideologically blinded US journalists, and members of ruling class Atlanticist institutions, to lump mainstream populist conservatives like Meloni, Orban, Abascal, and the others, into the same camp as the truly far-right figures. This does not add to our American understanding of European politics, but rather obscures it. Think about how useless it would be for a French journalist to come to America and report that the Democratic Party was being led by Communists. What if European readers and viewers came to believe that this was true, and that there was no difference between Joe Biden and Lenin?
What I do not understand about the American news media is why the people who run it don't understand that they are destroying their own brand by this idiotic, ideologically determined coverage. It's going down from the national to the local. I can't find it right now, but the other day I watched a local Ohio TV station's report on controversy surrounding the Akron Children's Hospital's activities providing transgender surgeries and hormone treatments for children. The reporter repeated gender ideology claims (e.g., about a trans woman, "N. chose to become her true self") as if they were fact. And of course critics of what Akron Children's Hospital is doing were construed as trolls and menaces. Again and again I say unto you: whenever it has to do with cultural issues, contemporary journalism is more about constructing and reinforcing a progressive Narrative than dealing with actual facts. Back in 2011, the journalism professor Terry Mattingly called this kind of thing "Kellerism," after the recently retired executive editor of The New York Times, Bill Keller, said that the Times tries to play it straight in its reporting, except when it comes to cultural issues, in which case it reflects back to its progressive urban readership what that readership believes. When asked if the Times slants its coverage to the Left, Keller said, “Aside from the liberal values, sort of social values thing that I talked about, no, I don’t think that it does.”
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Now, given that the Italian election is turning on crime and immigration, and to a lesser extent sexual identity politics, you should be aware that the news media are going full Keller in their reporting. Same in Hungary. Same in the US.