Paolo Di Canio’s recent appointment as manager of Sunderland Football Club is widely regarded as being a controversial one, largely because of certain provocative gestures he made whilst playing for Lazio, and an interview a few years back in which he is reported to have said that he was ‘a fascist, but not a racist’.
That Di Canio wholly subscribes to an extremist political movement that is defined by sustained episodes of violent racial discrimination is completely unfounded, and something he has denounced on several occasions; that his comments have been misunderstood and twisted to fit the sensationalist agendas of the press and its slavering audience is a much more likely assumption to make.
The appointment was sufficient for former Labour MP David Milliband to resign his position on the Sunderland Board, given Di Canio’s ‘past political statements’, and for many sports writers and commentators to have a field day in condemning both him and the club for his presumed affiliation with a movement that is said to promote hatred, killing, persecution and intolerance.
But without a full and complete statement of his position, it is difficult to understand exactly what Di Canio thinks and why he declared himself a fascist who wasn’t a racist, when in the minds of many people the two notions are vile and inextricably linked.
It may be that our understanding of fascism is just too limited, too politically distorted, and too riddled with cultural assumptions that we are simply unable to appreciate what may be the subtleties of Di Canio’s unique and personal view.
Perhaps Di Canio was simply referring to his sympathies with certain cultural, political and economic aspects of fascism, as an Italian movement from a period in history that valued collectivism over individualism; personal discipline, hard work and obedience, over laziness, revolt and anarchy; and strong, healthy individuals who lived and worked for the common cause of bettering the Italian nation.
Whilst it may have been an authoritarian and nationalistic movement, it does not necessarily follow that being sympathetic to some of the aforementioned values in their own right entails supporting violence, persecution and racial hatred. Maybe that’s where Di Canio sits.
The problem is we will never get an explanation of Di Canio’s true position now as a result of the media fuelled furore surrounding his move to Sunderland and our tendency to jump to unwarranted rag style conclusions.
Given how we have come to understand fascism in this country, and given the style of news we like to indulge in here, it is highly unlikely that he will speak again on the matter, especially not to the British press gang sniffing around for their next big story. He is here to manage a struggling football club and I am sure he will do that with distinction.
(As an aside, consider the position of an individual who declares that he is a supporter of the Labour Party in Britain. Nothing wrong with that, given the core socialist views that define this party; however, it was under a Labour Government that Britain entered into an illegal war with Iraq.
Does supporting Labour then automatically mean someone who agrees with invading other countries without mandate, and engaging in deplorable acts of murder in the name of fake national interests? Perhaps David Milliband could help answer that question, as he takes his principled leave from the Stadium of Light.)