Italy is debating on Free Speech, the wrong way.

today22nd August 2023 1 5


I am talking about this massive national debate happening in Italy because, as my name, my gesture and my thick accent gives away, I am Italian. And I am disgusted by what I’m seeing.

The hot summer, the holidays, the cocktails on the beach, in my country, have been abruptly interrupted by something, this year. And everyone is talking about it. In the wrong way.

Let’s start with the facts.

Italian general Roberto Vannacci has been removed from his position as the head of the Italian paratroopers brigade and from the Military Geographical Institute in Florence after he made homophobic and racist statements in his self-published book ‘The World Upside Down’

In his book, which has now reached number one on Amazon Italy’s bestsellers list, he takes aim at environmentalists, leftists, feminists, Jews and the unemployed. The most shocking statements in his book, which were the main reasons he was relieved from his positions, were aimed at the LGBTQ+ community and Black Italians.

”Dear homosexuals, youre not normal, get over it!” He continues: ”Normality is heterosexuality. If everything seems normal to you, however, it is the fault of the plots of the international gay lobby which banned terms that until a few years ago were in our dictionaries”

He then proceeds to list nearly a dozen slurs against the LGBTQ+ community.

After the controversy surrounding the book broke out, he defended his statements about the abnormality of the LGBTQ+ community by saying that they were taken out of context. ”Dear homosexuals, you are in good company, I too am abnormal.” He continues that we are not all born equal and that immigrants to Italy will always be different and uses Italian volleyball champion Paola Egoni as an example. ”She is Italian by citizenship, but it is clear that her facial features do not represent Italianness.”

The book sparked a national debate on Free Speech.

Deputy prime minister and minister of infrastructure and transport, Matteo Salvini, in a live broadcast on his social channels said ”If he writes something that has nothing to do with state secrets or his job, I think he has the right to do so. I am curious to read the book. He is a general who saved lives, defended the country, made complaints about depleted uranium. I refuse to think that in Italy there is Big Brother who says ‘you can read this and you can’t”’

Result: the book is topping all the charts in the country.

We all know that free speech is important, and in Italy like in many other countries, it’s protected by the Constitution. But Free Speech is not OFFENDING. Saying to a gay person “you’re not normal” it’s blatantly offensive, homophobic, and no, there’s no other way to read it. Talking about ITALIANNESS isn’t much different than talking about “pure race”.
And this is where one of the G7 countries is, thanks to a right wing government that has been voted by the majority of the population. Population that now is buying this so-called book to read better this pages, this words, and maybe be fuelled by it.

Salvini, the deputy prime minister, is not new to things like that, and he’ll do ANYTHING to please his social media fanbase (because that is what very serious politicians do), so who cares if the book is offensive, must be free speech.

It is shocking, and demotivating to see a country that have already struggled behind other countries so much, because of the heavy involvement of catholic beliefs and the Church itself in politics, going so much backwards after having had a few years where we have seen some little improvement in equal rights.

It’s the same country where a few weeks ago, they started removing the names of non-biological gay mothers from their childrens birth certificates under new legislation passed by the ”traditional family-first” government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

It’s the country where Matteo Salvini becomes Deputy Prime Minister, and then can go on social media, between a selfie with a pizza and some Nutella on toast, to defend a guy who wrote those things under the principle of ‘free speech’.



If the Deputy Minister of my country, along with a highly decorated general of the army, says that I am not normal, IT IS NOT FREE SPEECH. IT’S JUST BLATANT HATRED TOWARDS ME, BECAUSE I AM WHO I AM.

In all of this, the little surprise: The Defence Minister of the right wing government, Guido Crosetto, who fired the General after the debate sparked. He’s now left politically alone, but he doesn’t backtrack.

I have noticed also much silence on my social media about all this. Members of my family, friends, former colleague, people I knew in Italy, stayed silent on the matter. And you know why? Because surely many of them voted for this government in charge, surely many of them totally agree with the former general, while pretending to smile at me and be happy for me and my husband. Some of them might have also been at my wedding, why not, pretending happiness for us, while secretly thinking that it wasn’t ”normal”. I won’t do the same mistake and I won’t exercise my ”right to free speech” like they are doing. I’m tempted, but I won’t.

And THIS is Italy today, where if you say that ”gay people are not normal” you bump at the top of the book charts.

Eugenio Ceriello

Written by: GlitterBeam

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