The Ugly Italians

Italians are putting on a new face these days. Not the endearing “Volare & Loren” image of yesteryear, but one of snide self-assurance.  It’s a behavior born of insecurity more than success.    Italy is under the microscope, economically and as a global player.

The Chinese sensed the change this week after a couple of Dolce & Gabbana TV ads hit an ethnic nerve. They featured a Chinese lady trying to pick up a cannolo with chopsticks in one advertisement, and a slice of pizza in another.  The suggestive tagline was “Is it too huge for you?”  Things got so unpleasant for the Italian fashion firm that Sig. Gabbana himself is still apologizing to save his business in China.  He may be more unpopular there than Donald Trump!

In 2013, the late FIAT Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne showed his ugly side when commenting on the new Alfa Romeo 4C saying, “I won’t put an American engine in that car. … it needs to be a wop engine.” Before that, he characterized interest charges on government loans to save his company as “shyster rates.”

Back in Europe, the new Italian government is challenging the Teutonic rules of the European Union. Suffering from economic stagnation, Italians are resisting the same austerity measures that the EU forced on Greece making it an international basket case, even calling one EU official an alcoholic.  Italian leaders have provoked Brussels with their proposed high-deficit budget.  In short, the third largest economy in the EU is in rebellion.  Europe hasn’t seen an assertive Italy since Mussolini, but he had more arrows in his quiver.

The Italian bad-boy talk extended to Hillary Clinton this week. The Democratic standard-bearer recently came out against open borders, warning European leftists that allowing unfettered immigration was a recruitment tool for nationalist parties.  Italy’s right-wing politicians berated Clinton for coming late to her senses.  Italians, left and right, already knew they were treated as doormats by illegals and the EU.  Once, they might have just ignored her words, today they voice resentment.

Italians are saying and doing things unlike before, inspired by the Trump example and direct counseling from his ideologue Steve Bannon.  Yet, Italians still function in a public relations vacuum, not quite accepting the premise that a nation is judged by its image.

I can’t recall one time when Italian diplomats or Italian media representatives here refuted anything negative written about Italy or its national character.  It falls to our Italic Institute, led by Senior Analyst Rosario Iaconis, to publish letters and op-eds in defense of Italy’s dignity. Italians are hell-bent on pedaling their bipolar image of Italy as a symbol of the good life and organized crime.  If their chickens are coming home to roost – as they lag further behind in global standing and ethnic pride – they can thank their journalists, academics, filmmakers, and diplomats.

Italian academics ply their malicious trade here – some inventively linking the assassination of JFK to the Mafia, while others exploit long gone Italian anti-Semitism in an endless loop – to attract publicity. In one recent lecture at New York University, 19th Century Italian anarchists were defended as “unfairly vilified.”  These murderers killed heads of state in Europe – including Italy’s King Umberto – and were implicated in the 1920 Wall Street bombing that killed 38 bystanders and wounded hundreds. Italians don’t get any uglier than that.

I’ve reported on the Primo Levi Center, a darling of the Italian diplomatic corps, whose mission is to Nazify the reputation of the Italian forces in World War II and eliminate the moniker – la brava gente (the nice people) – applied by many subjects in occupied Europe. What is the purpose of vilifying Italian soldiers but not Anarchists?

Our Institute has seen Italy’s new face in the ugly treatment we have received concerning La Casa Italiana at Columbia University, from ignoring our appeals to misleading us.  It’s not worthy of our ancestral homeland.

The Italic People should loath la brutta figura. –JLM

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