After Sunderland's recent 6-1 loss the jury is still out on Paolo Di Canio. Di Canio is no longer a Fascist according to himself. Despite his Roman salute (where the Hitler salute derived from) to his people the Lazio fans, a gesture banned in most European countries, he is no longer a Fascist with a capital F. It brings out a debate about extremism in society, sport and how to deal with it.
Free speech and education are the weapons against extremism. As a society we must tolerate those who are not tolerant. Instead of making laws that outlaw you from saying certain things, we must allow them. We must allow them so we can go into schools and educate. Children will be taught that you can say this, or that, but this is why we do not say it. If you ban extreme voices they likely lead to extreme actions. If you allow extreme voices, examine their cause and try to calculate solutions then most extreme actions can be stopped. It is with this approach I allow people, as a British Jew and Member of the Labour Party, to insult my religion, political views and country. I am strongly opposed to the political views of Paulo Di Canio. However, I support his right to air his views and his appointment as Sunderland manager.
It is important though not be charmed by the old line about him having black friends. He knows full well the power of his Roman salute. The man he admires, the former Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini had oscillating views on Italian Jews but was openly racist. He contended that Jews had been in Italy since 'the kings of Rome' and should be left alone. Yet, he enacted (even though he later confessed to regretting it) the Race Manifesto in 1938, which had similar consequences for Italian Jews, as the Nuremberg Laws. This proved unpopular with Italians, many of whom considered the issue of race and Fascism to be separate. He and his army then opposed the deportation of Jews and over 80% of Italian Jews survived the war. His foreign policy spazio vitale 'living space' considered the invasion of African countries acceptable because whites were superior to blacks.
The resistance to Di Canio has always been there - the GMB union cancelled its sponsorship of Swindon Town, worth about £4000, when he became manager. The Durham Miners' Association, the unions and some supporters are still angrily protesting his appointment at Sunderland. So there has been opposition. The problem with the disapproval is if he viewed himself as a Stalinist they would not be protesting. There is very little difference between any of the extreme political philosophies. They all result in the suppression of the people. The only difference was that Fascism was defeated in the Second World War. So even though Communism was greatly feared after the Second World War, all the domestic prejudice executed by Stalin seems to have been bypassed as a product of victory. He was staunchly racist and anti-Semitic.
I am fine with the BBC offering him a column but not with their response to Di Canio. It was made up of cliché-riddled anecdotes. They are in denial over his political posturing and refuse to counterbalance the situation. They simply perpetrate the perpetual myth that sport and politics are separate. I do not need to drag you through the annals of history to disprove that fairy tale. There has been little offered from within football. The Football Association is failing on anti-Semitism, homophobia, racism and sexism because people within football class Di Canio as a 'character'. The FA, BBC, the pundits, the players, the coaches and other managers simply cannot ignore this. It is so important we do not allow any extreme voices in society to become acceptable. I do not want Fascists as managers. I do not want Communists as managers. There should be no -isms in sport - just individuals playing to together for enjoyment. The appointment of Di Canio will force people, who might not normally expose themselves to politics, to be confronted by extreme views. We can now educate people about his opinions.
His appointment has done more for the anti-fascist movement than you could imagine. That is why I support his appointment: he is now in the spotlight.