Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Di Canio, Football, Fascism & meaningless words

GEORGE Orwell in a section on 'meaningless words' from his essay 'Politics & the English Language', written in 1946 for Horizon, wrote:
'The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies “something not desirable”.'

In the same essay he maintains:
'The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another.'

What follows from this is that a word like 'democracy' is a praise-worthy word, while 'fascism' is a foul-mouthed word. Today, all manner of régimes would want to embrace the title 'democracy', while few nation states, political parties or individuals would embrace 'fascism' as a label. That's what makes the Italian footballer, Paulo Di Canio's statement in 2005 that 'I am a fascist, not a racist' so remarkable, at least to an Englishman. Does it mean that Italians are more honest in their political language or braver or more brash than the English? Di Canio has 'Dux', the Latin for Il Duce, another name for Benito Mussolini, tattooed on his right arm, and is said to have a lot of books about Mussolini on his bookshelves, and in his autobiography he is said to have described Il Duce as 'a very principled individual'. Oh yes, and in 2005 he gave two straight-arm salutes to fans at Lazio, the football club where he was playing at the time.

The appointment of Di Canio to coach Sunderland has certainly upset some folk, and the Blairite MP and former Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, has resigned on Sunday as vice-chairman of Sunderland football club in protest against Di Canio's politics and Durham Miners' Association is about to ask for its Wearmouth miner's banner back from the Stadium of Light. Orwell, in writing about political language, was concerned about people using words such as democracy 'in a consciously dishonest way'. Yesterday, Michael Walker writing a column in the Daily Mail wrote:
'Sentences (in Di Canio's autobiography [2000]) such as: “Perhaps it's because I am right wing, I fascinated by Benito Mussolini”, left Miliband no alternative but to resign from Sunderland's board on Sunday night.' It seems that 'it's a big stride, even for a politician ... though the New Labour man was comfortable with a venture capitalist (Ellis Short, a hedge-fund dealer from Texas) in control of the club'.

Is Di Canio's politics grounds for sacking him? 

This week, co-incidentally, it is 75-years since on March 31st, 1938, the McNaboe-Davaney anti-Communist bill was vetoed by Governor Herbert H. Lehman. That bill, if enacted, would have barred from teaching and civil service positions in New York State all persons advocating the forcible overthrow of organised government, all adherents to Communism or criminal anarchism. If you strive for consistency, believe in liberty and don't enjoy a twisted logic; if like Northern Voices, you've fought against blacklists in the building trade since 2003; or more recently censorship of small publications like NV; and restraints on free speech generally, then it is hard to see how it is legitimate to sack even a bloke like Di Canio because of his politics. 

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