Online platforms to communicate internally and externally

Similar to most contemporary political organizations, CPI also invests in the internet to communicate (Chadwick 2006; Dahlgren 2009). A second crucial dimension of CPI’s communication thus rests on the galaxy of online media platforms created by CPI. These diversified media outlets allow CPI to network with its members and potential sympathizers, but also to disseminate its messages to broader audiences. The most notable online platforms are CPI’s website, the radio channel Radio Bandiera Nera (Black Flag radio) and the group’s web TV (Tortuga Web Tv). These digital platforms sustain both internal and external communication, and provide a video and audio archive of the main actions promoted by CasaPound.

Notably, Black Flag Radio broadcasts political and cultural news on a daily basis, and hosts interviews with local and national CPI officials, thus complementing II Primato Naziouale. In addition however, CPI’s radio also airs music and cultural debates, including singers and songwriters usually associated with the left, and far-right music such as identity rock (Dornbusch and Raabe 2004; see Chapter 5). CPI’s president Gianluca Iannone defined it as ‘a window on our world, on our lifestyle, on our way of thinking, having fun, fighting’ (ADN Kronos 2007), confirming the double role of the radio as a means to spread information among CPI’s members but also about CPI’s activities. At the time of our fieldwork, the radio was supported by 15 offices in Italy and three abroad.

Black Flag Radio, the web TV, as well as II Primato Naziouale and other online outlets created by the group can be accessed through the main website, which centralizes all information. CPI’s web portal (updated in 2019) has a user- friendly structure, which facilitates access to sections containing information about the structure of the organization, its main activities and the manifesto for the 2018 general elections, as well as CPI’s territorial chapters and its parallel associations. As regards the latter, each section provides links redirecting to a Facebook page or external website providing infonnation about activities, beliefs and events. The website thus offers information to users interested in CPI’s electoral activities, and to those who are more interested in CPI’s engagement in a wider cultural, entertainment and sport environment. The user-friendly interface of CPI’s website may be a response to the highly competitive galaxy of far-right activism which is very fragmented and extremely populated in Italy (Caiani et al. 2012). On the Web, a multitude of far-right groupuscules compete for the attention of a limited amount of sympathizers, by producing a dense, yet variegated, landscape of blogs, webpages and discussion forums. The possibility that potential sympathizers get lost among the myriad of competing products currently available is thus very high.

While the main function of the website is to report and give visibility to CPI’s political and social activities, the portal also allows the group to perform additional communicative and outreach tasks. It provides an official description of CPI for external observers, including a subsection providing the English version of CPI’s 2018 electoral manifesto. Furthermore, the website details the modalities by which sympathizers can become members. It therefore has a crucial organizational function, giving the possibility to users to become ‘regular supporters’ or ‘web-supporters’ by paying a regular or reduced membership fee (see Chapter 4). In addition, the website helps to strengthen the group identity, offering activists and militants an information repository, for popularization purposes, for merchandizing and fundraising (Toscano 2017: 84-5). Finally, the website also fulfils a media management function. The main page header includes — along with the classic navigation menu linkages — the necessary information to contact CPI’s press office, which is ‘organized in a network of regional press officers, responsible for local initiatives, and a national coordination office that must be contacted for interviews, articles and videos regarding the general aspects of the movement’ (CPI 2019).

Hence, CPI’s website serves multiple hybrid functions of communication. It hosts traditional part)' activities concerning membership and participation. It serves an external communication function, disseminating information about CPI’s activities to the wider public. And it facilitates networking across the various channels of online participation offered by CPI and its affiliated organizations. Overall, it centralizes the galaxy of political, social and communicative practices of the group, increasing the recognizability of CPI and its activities. The popularity of CPI’s website is confirmed by an analysis of its web traffic, which is higher than most other extreme-right organizations in Italy. Table 7.1 reports the number of monthly unique visitors on the website of CPI and of other political parties in Italy, providing a proxy of the online popularity of each

TABLE 7.1 Website traffic statistics of CasaPound and other political parties in Italy (2018)

Parly

No. of total visits (unique users)

M5S

909,772

Partito Democratico

395,462

Lega

270,558

CasaPound

82,204

Forza Italia

54,151

Forza Nuova

28,396

Fiamma Tricolore

< 5,000

group. Notably, we included parties with which CPI usually competes, albeit for very' different reasons. Forza Nuova (FzNv) and Movimento Sociale-Fiamma Tricolore (MS-FT) are the two main competitors of CPI on the extreme right of the political spectrum. The Partito Democratico (Democratic Party, PD) and Forza Italia (Go Italy, FI) are the two Italian political parties that have been in government the longest in the past two decades. Finally, Lega Nord (LN) and Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) represent major populist parties in Italy, with which CPI inevitably has had to interact over the years.

The analysis of web traffic reveals that, while CPI’s website is substantially less frequented than those of established political parties in Italy, the group has taken the lead across the Italian extreme-right scene. Indeed, its website is considerably more popular than those of both FzNv and MS-FT, displaying a figure of unique visitors almost three times higher than the main competitor, FzNv. Perhaps in response to this, the website of Forza Nuova was renovated in 2016, emulating some of the key features originally used by CPI on its web portal, such as the thematic display of content, and the visibility provided to parallel organizations engaged in volunteering and other non-political activities.

 
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