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Leader of Italy's far-right party Matteo Salvini gestures during a news conference in Rome
Reuters/Guglielmo Mangiapane
Italy’s far-right party leader Matteo Salvini touches his face.

Coronavirus is actually hurting Italian fake news and xenophobic propaganda

Annalisa Merelli
Luca Powell
Member exclusive by Annalisa Merelli & Luca Powell in New York

Italy is in the middle of a war against an enemy that’s both invisible and far too visible in its impact: The Covid-19 pandemic.

But the Italian right-wing hasn’t been fighting the same war. The true enemies—it has desperately tried to remind its receding base—are visible, and the ones right-wing populists have been demonizing for years: immigrants, and especially those coming into the country from Africa, via sea.

The Lega, the biggest right-wing, xenophobic party in Italy, has long blamed them for Italy’s woes; its leader, the former minister of home affairs Matteo Salvini, built a following as “The Captain,” metaphorically leading Italians in their fight, and growing the party’s support base to the largest in Italy.