Saturday, 17 May 2008

Quotas: footnote

It looks like it's all to do with numbers. How many people come in, how many people are forced to leave. Alemanno says he's going to expel 20,000 illegal immigrants from Rome and I wonder how he arrived at this number, the way I wonder how Stalin arrived at his daily quota of traitors to be arrested and tried and murdered. Do these people use pins, or dice, or multiples of their birth date? And if the numbers don't tally, what then? If there simply aren't enough clandestini? Or too many?

Numbers are part of the rhetoric. The number of Italians who want gipsies expelled, according to a recent opinion poll, is 61 in every hundred. And yes, that includes the 70,000 gipsies with Italian citizenship (as potential expellees, obviously: they're hardly likely to have been asked their opinion on the matter). But what was the question, and how was it framed?

On Annozero the other night, a middle-aged man from, I think, Morocco said that immigrants weren't chattels, to be bought and sold, but human beings. He went on to accuse Roberto Castelli, ex-Minister of Justice, of being a delinquent. This is the kind of language that's used all the time during political debates on Italian TV; it's actually tamer than most. It isn't unusual to hear politicians merrily calling each other shits on prime time telly. Normally nobody bats an eyelid; at worst, there's some muttering about vulgarity in the next day's papers. On this occasion though, Santoro, the ringmaster, silenced the man (physically, by turning his microphone off) and, using the familiar 'tu' form, said he was doing his cause no good and should be more careful before he spoke. Castelli was then allowed to use this act of lèse majesté as an example of how 'they' come over here, insult us, think they have the right, etc. etc.

But how many people watched the show?

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