Following my September 18th report on Scandinavia, I thought some news from the other end of Europe would not go amiss. Here are two stories.
The one that really had me transfixed this week was the public self-criticism performed by Guido Barilla, chairman of the privately-owned Barilla Group, the world’s leading producer of pasta.
This story begins September 25th when, in an interview with an Italian radio station, the 55-year-old Mr. Barilla was asked whether his company planned to do an advertisement featuring a homosexual family. Barilla replied:
Non faremo pubblicità con omosessuali perché a noi piace la famiglia tradizionale. Se i gay non sono d’accordo, possono sempre mangiare la pasta di un’altra marca. (“We will not do advertising with homosexuals because we like the traditional family. If gays do not agree, they can always eat another brand of pasta.”)
Invited to elaborate, Mr. Barilla said that homosexuals “all have the right to do what they want—of course they do—so long as they don’t disturb others,” but that his firm aimed to serve the traditional family, with the woman in a key role.
Innocuous enough, surely. Mr. Barilla sounds like a live-and-let-live sort of guy, but prefers to target his firm’s product at traditional families.
Given that Italy’s Total Fertility Rate is a dismal 1.41, ranked 203 out of 224 in the world, and that their country is a prime destination for illegal immigrants from Africa, patriotic Italians keen to preserve their nation’s character and culture have good reasons to worry about the demographic future. Such worries might reasonably generate doubts about the wisdom of promoting the homosexual lifestyle.
But Mr. Barilla did not take that position, nor any other political position, only remarking that Non la penso come loro—“I don’t think like them.”
He quickly learned that in the Western world of today there is only one permitted way to think. The homosexualist lobbies and their Leftist allies went into a feeding frenzy, launching boycotts via the Twitter hashtag #biocottabarilla and venting their outrage on talking-head TV shows.
The Daily Beast reports that pasta aisles were vandalized in grocery stores in Bologna, “considered the most gay-friendly city in Italy.” [Italian Gay Activists Boycott Top Pasta Maker, by Barbie Latza Nadeau, September 27, 2013] The president of a homosexualist group opined that Mr. Barilla’s view “that if you don’t agree, you can just eat another type of pasta” was “a dangerous message.” A Leftist parliamentarian was less alarmist, saying only that “we need to educate the public who agree with Barilla’s sentiment.”
[Note: For my usage of the word “homosexualist,” see the first paragraph here.]
The outrage spread worldwide. Barilla is international: The Economistreported in 2007 that the firm has 25 percent of the U.S. market.
The chairman buckled. He put out a short video clip, recanting his heresy. This was the item that had me transfixed.
Yesterday I apologized for offending many people around the world. Today I am repeating that apology. Through my entire life I have always respected every person I have met, including gays and their families, without any distinction. I’ve never discriminated against anyone. I have heard the countless reactions around the world to my words, which have depressed and saddened me. It is clear that I have a lot to learn about the lively debate concerning the evolution of the family. In the coming weeks I pledge to meet representatives of the groups that best represent the evolution of the family, including those who have been offended by my words.
It is also nonsense. No person on earth can truthfully say he has respected every person he has met, unless he has never met a pickpocket, an embezzler, a bully, a habitual liar, a welfare sponger, a drug addict…And there is of course no “lively debate” in any Western nation, only an orthodoxy to which all must conform or suffer catastrophic loss of respectability.
As with the Paula Deen business a few weeks ago, I longed for the heretic to spit in the faces of his accusers, to take a stand on the right to mild, traditionalist, tolerant opinions, with “tolerant” not a synonym for “approving.” I longed for a worldwide, or at least Italy-wide, burst of laughter to greet the assertion that being left free to pick one’s own brand of pasta is “dangerous.” I longed to read that the Italian public had risen up in indignation at the notion that they need to be “educated” out of their preference for customary family life.
Of course, no such things happened.
It’s hard to blame Mr. Barilla for caving. Although he does not answer to shareholders, he has 14,000 employees to think about. It’s not Mr. Barilla’s fault the civilized world has yielded to radical minoritarianism, nor is it the fault of his employees.
In a sane culture—that is, one not dominated by hysterical, power-crazed intellectuals—Mr. Barilla’s remarks would attract no notice. But in the culture we actually inhabit, they are news, and a businessman of mild, harmless opinions has been obliged to humiliate himself.
Whether his business will suffer remains to be seen. The Cultural Marxist lobbies are loud, and control the commanding heights of the mainstream media, but they are very widely resented. Paula Deen’s book sales soared after the media campaign against her.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Ionian Sea, leaders of the Greek nationalist party Golden Dawn were arrested on Saturday.
Golden Dawn is a legal political party, and a modestly successful one. They won seven percent of the vote in last year’s elections, giving them 18 seats in the 300-seat Greek parliament. Subsequent polls have shown their support increasing to 15 percent.
Some of the party’s popularity arises from resentment at the EU in general, and Germany in particular, for the onerous austerity conditions imposed on Greece in return for financial support. Much, though, is driven by anger at high levels of illegal immigration from Africa and Muslim West Asia:
Current figures suggest that, this autumn, up to 350 migrants were attempting to cross into Europe through this border [from Turkey] every day. And 90 per cent of all illegal immigrants arriving in Europe pass through the Greek land border…Just inside the Greek border, the scale of the problem is undeniable. All along the edge of the main road out of Orestiada, where rolling plains of ploughed fields and olive groves are flanked by distant mountain shadows, trudge migrants—single file, in battered trainers [=sneakers], as lorries thunder past. [Fortress Europe’s busiest frontier is awash with illegal immigrants—despite mines, forest and razorwire, By Harriet Alexander, Daily Telegraph, December 4, 2010.]
As with Italy, the swelling inflow of blacks and Muslims is the more threatening because of indigenous demographic failure. Greece’s Total Fertility Rate, at 1.40, actually puts the country two places below Italy in world rankings.
Taki Theodoracopulos describes Golden Dawn party members as “mostly laborers, martial artists, cops, security personnel, and good old-fashioned patriotic Greeks,” while allowing that the party is “not house-trained.”
That’s putting it gently. The party contains a street-fighting element—as of course do the country’s numerous “antifa” [anti-fascist] Leftist factions—and sports a twisty-S symbol that a party seeking to avoid a “Neo-Nazi” tag from the MSM would have had second thoughts about.
Greek politics at its best, though, is not genteel, and a vigorously nationalist Greece would not likely be a threat to the peace of Europe. Golden Dawn speaks for itself on an English-language website here.
Well, on September 18th an antifa activist was stabbed to death during a street gang rumble in an Athens suburb. The man arrested for the killing is a Golden Dawn member. Antifa protests broke out nationwide the following evening, with much violence and counter-violence. Party officials deplored the activist’s killing and denied any involvement.
Last Saturday, September 18th, the leader of the party, Member of Parliament Nikolaos Michaloliakos, was arrested, along with four other MPs and two dozen party members. The charges were “belonging to a criminal organization” and involvement in the September 18th and other murders.
A sixth Golden Dawn MP went into police custody voluntarily. He could do so without much fear of coming to harm: Golden Dawn is well represented in the nation’s police forces.
Several police officers suspected of links to Golden Dawn were suspended ahead of the arrests to prevent the MPs being tipped off about planned raids on their homes. A policeman thought to have been working as a bodyguard for the party has also been arrested.
[Golden Dawn leadership to appear in court on Tuesday, By Colin Freeman, Daily Telegraph, September 29, 2013]
Three of the released MPs were released on bail this Wednesday. Emerging from the courthouse, they gave a spirited display of their lack of house-training: “They kicked and shoved journalists out of the way before hailing a taxi.” [Greece’s Golden Dawn lawmakers freed before trial, Reuters, October 2. 2013]
Whether Golden Dawn is more of a threat to rational government in the cradle of democracy than the antifa hooligans can be debated.
Much less in doubt is the point gently made by Colin Freeman, the Daily Telegraph correspondent:
This kind of volatile, explosive politics is a sign of what can happen when illegal immigration isn’t checked, and that is something the EU should perhaps face up to a little more. [Uncontrolled immigration is fuelling Greece’s violent street politics, Daily Telegraph, September 30. 2013]
John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimismand several other books. His most recent book, published by VDARE.com com is FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle).His writings are archived at JohnDerbyshire.com.