Political communication

The repertoire of communication defines the set of activist media practices that a group uses to reach social actors within and outside the movement milieu (Mattoni 2016). In this chapter, we show that CasaPound’s communication involves a twofold hybrid dimension. On the one hand, it implies a variegated infrastructure and a set of media practices addressing a range of audiences. On the other, it combines the communication style of social movements and that of political parties. We will show that the coexistence of these different levels is aimed at satisfying the needs of composite audiences and is thus reminiscent of the ‘marketing mix’ approach adopted by professionals in highly competitive political communication environments (Kavanagh 1995; Vliegenthart 2012). Using data collected through interviews, participant observation, qualitative content analysis of online and offline material and online popularity indicators the chapter provides an overview of CPI’s media infrastructure addressing internal and external publics (7.1). Subsequently, it outlines the main traits of CPI’s communication style and traces the evolution of the group’s strategy of media management (7.2). The concluding section discusses how CPI’s hybrid repertoire of communication helped the group to attract media attention, while also accompanying its progressive engagement in the electoral arena.

Infrastructure: media outlets and targeted audiences

CasaPound’s communication relies on various media outlets and practices used for sharing information internally, but also to disseminate CPI’s campaigns and ideas externally. Three different channels stand out: first, CasaPound’s newspaper, which is similar to the house organ papers of mass political parties and addresses primarily CPI members; second, a set of ad hoc online media aimed at reaching audiences both internal and external to CPI, including the website, web radio and web TV of the group; and finally, the social media profiles of CPI, notably the Facebook pages, which have a core role in external communication.

Internal communication and the house organ of CasaPound

A main platform for internal communication is CasaPound’s newspaper II Pri- nhito Nazionale, created in 2013 as an online news journal, with the running title Quotidiano sovranista: literally, ‘The Daily Sovereigntist’. Since 2017, it is also available, monthly, in print version. While, as a newspaper, one might consider that II Primato Nazionale also has external communication purposes, the paper addresses almost exclusively an internal audience. This is confirmed by the fact that the director, Adriano Scianca, is one of the prominent national leaders of the group, and by its very limited circulation outside the restricted circle of CPI. Moreover, when it was first launched to 7,500 newsstands in Italy (II Primato Nazionale 2017a), the newspaper included the slogan Non e un abbona- mento, e un arruolamento (This is not a subscription, this is recruitment). II Primato Nazionale thus represents the semi-official press organ of CPI, reporting the group’s positions on key issues, and hosting articles and opinion pieces by prominent political figures of the group, and by the intellectuals from whom CPI takes explicit inspiration.

II Primato Nazionale is edited by Altaforte, an editorial group created in 2018 and closely linked to CPI. In this respect, the outlet is part of CPI’s broader investment in the ideological and cultural training of its activists, which we addressed in Chapter 4. Altaforte, in fact, also publishes political essays, investigations and comic novels targeting CPI members and sympathizers, and which are used by CPI as internal literature. Through these internal communication channels, CPI members and militants are expected to learn and comply with the official positions of the group on each political topic, and to learn specific ways to communicate these positions in public. The connection between CPI and Altaforte also serves the purposes of legitimation and propaganda, as shown by the controversy concerning the publisher’s participation in the 2019 Turin international book fair. The inclusion of a publisher with close links to a neo-fascist party led many intellectuals and institutions - including the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum — to boycott the event. Altaforte was ultimately banned from the book fair, but the controversy helped to focus attention on CPI’s cultural engagement. The group could thus present itself as a victim of censorship at a time when it was under heavy pressure for preventing a Roma family access to a council flat it had been legally assigned in the Casal Bruciato district of Rome, and for the arrest of a town councillor belonging to the group for alleged gang rape. Interviews suggest that CasaPound’s activists acquire familiarity with the group’s beliefs through internal channels of communication, internal literature and official magazines. From this point of view, the circulation of books, articles and opinion pieces produced by CPI’s thinkers represents a system that supports socialization. While being accessible to the wider public, most of the books used for the training of activists primarily address insiders. This includes the book by Gabriele Adinolfi, one of the founders of Italy’s ‘Third Position’, the volumes written by Adriano Scianca, the official in charge of culture for CPI (notably Riprendersi tutto — Getting it all back) and the work on right-wing squats in Italy, written by the group’s lawyer, Domenico Di Tullio. In addition, CPI promotes a monthly magazine (L’Occidentale, The Westerner) and a quarterly paper (Fare Quadrate, Closing Ranks).

Thanks to CPI’s internal circuit of communication, these magazines and books, and notably II Pritnato Naziouale, have become a source of information and political socialization for members and sympathizers. This is in line with Bowman-Grieve’s (2009: 999) report on the circulation of ‘internal literature’ in the empirical study on the virtual online communities of the far right, notably the online forum Stormjront. The circulation of movement literature, and in particular information about the history and ideology of CPI, allows people to develop ‘an understanding of specific issues and the importance of these issues to the movement and to the individual’s own development of self-identity’ (Bowman-Grieve 2009: 999).

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