The populism of Justice

Author: Angelo Cioeta

One of the weapons that makes populism strong is that of judicial proceedings that last for many years. In Italy, it often happens that a trial closes in at least a decade. This situation favours populism, capable of blowing the wind of scandal as soon as an important judicial investigation against a political opponent emerges. Thus, it often happens that you do not expect the final sentence to understand if the person is guilty or not, but it is enough to open an investigation and blow on the fire of indignation to get the maximum electoral and political consensus.

What is the pattern? We think we are the supporters of a Mayor who stands out from the others because he is able to manage his city very well, becoming a model to follow. The Mayor is a decent person, who strictly respects the law and democratic and civil values. At a certain point, a clamorous inquiry emerges against him, accusing him of corruption, falsifying documents etc. Opponents take advantage of this to demand his resignation. Helped by the mass media and by most social networks, they demolish the figure of the Mayor and manage to get his resignation. In the meantime, the investigation goes on, but it doesn’t gather any hard evidence against the mayor. Thus, the investigative bodies decide to close it, sanctioning the innocence of the accused person. This news, however, is not reported on the front page, but is simply made a small communication that will be read only by a minority of people. Many, therefore, will continue to think that the Mayor is a criminal.

A sensational event has happened in Italy in recent years. In Riace, a small village in southern Italy, ruled Mimmo Lucano, a Mayor able to build a futuristic model of integration between local people and immigrants. Thanks to this model, the small town (composed of a few hundred inhabitants and at risk of depopulation) had seen a revival in cultural, economic and social activities, as many immigrants had acquired the skills to become artisans, open shops etc. An investigation against Mimmo Lucano, however, opened by the Prosecutor’s Office, led the Mayor to a 13-year sentence, accused of diverting community funds, using the Riace model to gain political advantages and much more. The news of the investigation and condemnation made the tour of Italy and allowed the populist forces to demolish an important figure for the Italian left. Mimmo Lucano resigned as mayor and the subsequent local elections saw the triumph of political forces opposed to integration models. In October 2023, a new sentence acquitted Mimmo Lucano, reducing the sentence from 13 years to 1 year and 6 months. The only crimes for which he was convicted, therefore, were mainly administrative.

The news of the acquittal, however, did not have the same media coverage as the condemnation. It is one of the forces of populism: focusing attention only on the part that affects the judicial process) that of condemnation), regardless of the final outcome (which will occur only after many years, when the trial will no longer be useful for their consent).

Picture: Image by macrovector at Freepik

The populism of Justice
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