External communication and social media

Despite its multiple functions and the crucial role in centralizing information about CPI, however, the website is updated less frequently than the other digital platforms used by the group for outreach. These platforms allow the continuous advertisement of the national or international activities of far-right groups, including cultural, protest, solidarity or even violent events. As noted in previous studies, online activities also allow the legitimation of racial hate speech through the phenomenon of ‘reasonable racism’ (Meddaugh and Kay 2009). This stems from practices of ‘information laundering’ (Klein 2012: 445) consisting of the presentation of anti-immigrant discourses and ‘hate appeals’ that ‘can take on the encoded and protected forms of public debates, or popular culture, subsequently affecting the mainstream dialogue’. As regards this particular aspect, CPI and some of its national leaders can also count on official and personal accounts on both Twitter and Instagram. Yet the most widely used social media is certainly Facebook.2

Created in 2009, CPI’s official Facebook page has over 250,000 followers and is updated with new content several times a day. On Facebook CPI devotes special attention to the community activities of CasaPound and its militants. This represents a major means of image-management and self-legitimation, which includes the promotion of the volunteering actions of the association SOL.ID, and the diffusion of photos of La Salamandra activists (see Chapter 4) side by side with the victims of earthquakes and other natural disasters. In addition, CPI pays much attention to the coverage of its actions by Italian and international quality media, especially when the accounts reproduce the image of CPI that the group wishes to convey. The Facebook page of Gianluca Iannone links to the long read by The Guardian on ‘The fascist movement that has brought Mussolini back to the mainstream’ (The Guardian 2018). It also posted the Vanity Fair Italia article on ‘Blocco Studentesco’ entitled ‘Quei bravi ragazzi’ (‘Those good guys’), which describes the group’s ‘demonstrative actions, cult of the fire, but also the problems these new fascists have with their mums’ (Vanity Fair Italia 2018).

As can be seen in Figure 7.1, the official Facebook page of CPI has a higher number of followers than other extreme-right parties in Italy, such as FzNv (248,428 followers) and MS-FT (2,953). Similarly, CPI’s leaders Simone Di Ste- fano (140,286) and Gianluca Iannone (31,113) are more followed than other extreme-right leaders such as Roberto Fiore (leader of Forza Nuova) and Attilio Carelli (leader of Fiamma Tricolore). However, CPI’s official pages and leaders remain considerably less followed than the most popular M5S and LN. While

Facebook followers for CasaPound and other political organizations and leaders

FIGURE 7.1 Facebook followers for CasaPound and other political organizations and leaders.

Source: Facebook. Note: Data to 1 January 2018.

the official pages of these two parties have many fewer followers than their respective leaders (Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini), the opposite is true for CPI, as the group is more popular on social media than its prominent figures and leaders. In this respect, at least online, the personalization of communication seems to count less for CPI than for other parties, at least on Facebook.

Social media, and notably Facebook, thus serve a crucial function for building the community of sympathizers and supporters of CPI. Along with information diffusion, their main political function is to advertise CPI to potential sympathizers and members (Gerstenfeld et al. 2003). As noted above, social media offer an image of the group as a community of political activists sharing the same values and also work as a connection point with the local branches of CPI, and with other groups on the Italian far right. A recent analysis of the network of Italian far-right groups on Facebook shows that 935 pages out of 2,700 far-right pages belong to CasaPound (Patria Indipendente 2016). Put differently, CPI accounts - alone - for more than a third of Italy’s far-right groups on Facebook. Tо illustrate this further, Table 7.2 reports information on CPI and FzNv, the two major aggregation points for the extreme right online. Next to the official pages of the two groups, the table reports the number of followers and interactions for their respective national leaders, and for a subsample of CPI’s parallel organizations (presented in Chapter 4).

As can be seen in the column ‘reciprocal likes’, the organizations that ‘like’ the official page of CPI on Facebook roughly correspond to the group’s parallel associations, or to other groups that closely follow its activities, such as the sports clubs, the bookstores and the thematic associations. This finding could reinforce the thesis of the existence of insular and homogeneous web users’

TABLE 7.2 Interactions among extreme-right organizations and their leaders on Facebook

Page

Followers

Interactions

Interaction/

Jan

Reciprocal

likes

Ongoing

likes

Outgoing

likes

CasaPound Italia

265987

15352

0.06

49

380

21

Simone Di Stefano (CPI)

131981

1341

0.01

7

169

15

Gianluca Iannone (CPI)

29860

205

0.01

6

156

7

Forza Nuova (FzNv)

249738

10127

0.04

28

436

17

Roberto Fiore (FzNv)

38541

3168

0.08

14

215

12

Blocco Studentesco

26009

258

0.01

43

146

15

La Salamandra

12592

219

0.02

16

105

19

11 Primato Nazionale

65711

18350

0.28

1

209

0

communities, aggregated along partisan lines (Adamic and Glance 2005). At the same time, it suggests that social media platforms work as much as means of internal communication than as tools for external propaganda.

 
Source
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >