History of Italy / Politics / Society

The ups and downs of politically correctness in Italy

The Italian First Republic was famous for the Byzantine language used by its leaders, known as “politichese” (political language).

The Second Republic saw a U-turn in the communication style, with new politicians aeger to present themselves as men of the people and ready to use even trivial language to expose their concepts.

Mr Silvio Berlusconi routinely insulted his adversaries, be they leftist politicians, prosecutors, judges or even leftist voters. Mr Umberto Bossi, the disgraced founder of the Northern League, once invited a protester waving the Italian flag to “throw it in the toilet and flush the water”. Mr Beppe Grillo went further, even turning the Italian term “vaffanculo” (f**k you) into a trademark.

Ultimately, the rise of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Pope Francis are clearly and powerfully reversing the trend. Mr Renzi built his success (and Mr Grillo’s defeat) over soft tones reminiscent of the old Christian Democratic Party. Recently, he sacked a Prefect who had said during a public event that a mother unaware of the use of drugs by his son “should commit suicide”.

The new Pope, in turn, adopted very conciliatory tones towards divorcees and homosexual and an unusually strong language against social differences, political corruption and organized crime.

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