The Public Opinion and the Return of the Tribe

by Tony Coal

[…] L’intelligenza non avrà mai peso, mai, 
nel giudizio di questa pubblica opinione.
Neppure sul sangue dei lager, tu otterrai
da una dei milioni d’anime della nostra nazione,
un giudizio netto, interamente indignato:
irreale è ogni idea, irreale ogni passione,
di questo popolo ormai dissociato
da secoli, la cui soave saggezza
gli serve a vivere, non l’ha mai liberato.
Mostrare la mia faccia, la mia magrezza
alzare la mia sola, puerile voce –
non ha più senso: la viltà avvezza
a vedere morire nel modo più atroce
gli altri, con la più strana indifferenza.
Io muoio, ed anche questo mi nuoce. […]

Irrationality, cynicism, indifference, cowardice, moral blindness. These are the traits of italian public opinion that we can recognize in a fragment of Pasolini’s poem “La Guinea”.[1]

In Pasolini’s thought, intelligence is a concept completely unrelated to those of scholarship and culture, and even less represents a quality that can be attributed exclusively to the educated. Intelligence is common sense, it is knowing how to reason, it is ability to solve problems regardless of cultural level or degree of education. There are educated people without brains and people without culture, even illiterate, with great intelligence. Ignorance is not, therefore, the “fault” of which Pasolini speaks.

Unless we are in the presence of what Isaac Asimov defined as the “cult of ignorance”,[2] the result of a widespread anti-intellectualistic attitude, or of a choice dictated by the refusal to become aware of reality, no matter how forces act that escape individual control, in ignorance does not seem to contain elements capable of generating significant distortions of public consciousness. In other words, the elaboration of false beliefs does not seem to be directly linked to the degree of ignorance. In this respect it is agnostic, although it represents an obstacle to reciprocity it does not inevitably lead to false belief, rather it can be associated with lack of knowledge and therefore absence of any opinion or belief. If I ignore something – in an agnostic sense – why should I get angry when I hear a rationally argued opinion being expressed? This could easily happen if my false belief clashed with a rationally grounded opinion of the opposite sign.

But are we then sure that the rate of ignorance, assuming it can be quantified, has grown over time? I do not think so. Indeed, we can reasonably be sure that the ignorance of the population is not worse than a century ago. It seems to me then that in Pasolini, and his aversion to the “ordinary culture” is proof of this, intelligence has more to do with reason, common sense, wisdom. All things that seem to be lacking in a public opinion – like the Italian one – mainly guided by pre-rational or non-rational elements such as intuition, feeling, emotion, but where often factionalism, prejudice, lack of critical sense, logical and moral rigor prevail.

Irrationality is therefore one of the most appropriate keys to understanding, which best allows us to investigate the dynamics that affect public opinion. But irrationality can be declined in different ways: stupidity, idiocy, emotionality, lack of lucidity, lack of critical sense, but also as a necessary component of the emotional and sentimental sphere. For Gustave Le Bon irrationality is a constant datum of the psychology of the crowds,[3] regardless of the geographical location and ethnicity of the population of reference, “the crowds are not influenced by reasoning and do not grasp anything but gross associations of ideas […] the laws of rational logic have no power over the crowds”. Although many years have passed since Gustave Le Bon wrote The Psychology of Crowds (1895), this attitude of thought seems to characterize – unexpectedly since crowds and public opinion should be considered as two distinct concepts – public opinion at the global level. Certainly not only the Italian one. And despite the possibility, unthinkable until a few years ago, of using communication and information tools such as social networks. On the contrary, we cannot avoid observing how social media profoundly influence the processes of formation of public opinion, in particular when it comes to “giving voice to the unconscious”, conveying inputs that are at the origin of or amplify irrational attitudes and behaviours.

However, we must not believe that the new media have the ability to determine human choices or collective consciousness. Bauman (2017) is certainly right when he says that “it makes it easier than ever – and still is in the off-line universe – both to multiply the inputs, and to limit them rigidly. They are able to facilitate human choices and to manipulate the probabilities, but certainly not to determine those choices, let alone to ensure that they are pursued with consistency and determination until their final implementation in a form consistent with the initial project “. [4]

We can’t, at this point, not ask ourselves some questions. What does this irrational character of (not only) Italian public opinion consist of and how does it manifest itself? What factors are at the origin and feed it? What political and social consequences derive from the diffusion of rationally unfounded convictions in public opinion? Which the implications for democracy? Can we talk about the irrationality of the electorate?

Reason tends to have a problematic role, even today, in the process of forming public opinion, and the experts – those who have always been considered its greatest repositories – are the main ones to pay for it. Never before has access to information been so easy and never before has the refusal of such a categorical and pervasive “reasonable” use of consolidated knowledge been so denied. A refusal that, according to Tom Nichols,[5] is linked to an absurd and illogical claim for equality related to the sphere of competence, in the conviction that, regardless of the subject matter, all opinions are equally valid and should be accepted as legitimate, provided that they receive a reasonable number of appreciations (likes). This tendency is particularly evident in social media, so much so that the distinction between experts and laymen seems to have no more reason to exist and with it the very idea of competence, unequivocal expression of a fearsome elitism.

If this is the case, it becomes possible to support any thesis, even the most arbitrary or improbable: the existence of international conspiracies to promote mass migration[6], the uselessness or even the harmfulness of vaccines, the reduction of youth unemployment directly achievable through the lowering of the retirement age, the assimilation of humanitarian NGOs to criminal organizations that encourage trafficking in human beings, not to mention the addiction to the use of fake news as a tool of political propaganda.

Let’s take the case of the attitude towards migrants, marked until recently by a feeling that we could call humanity mixed with indifference but that in recent years we have seen a radical change in sign coinciding with the worsening of the economic crisis in the last decade. The hostility towards migrants has grown out of all proportion thanks to political propaganda, which has fuelled fear and resentment, massively used by people who have built an unexpected and undeserved political fortune on this very issue. And this has happened in spite of the innumerable positions taken in the economic and cultural field. Among the many critics of anti-migrant propaganda, the film director Gianni Amelio expresses his dissent as follows: “If we think therefore of the desperation of those who leave to emigrate, of the condition of misery that lies behind the stories of these people, we can only condemn the inhuman statements that some politicians have made talking about the latest attempts to land in Italy. They are deliberately dishonest in depicting migrants as a group of tourists on holiday, in describing their request for help as an attempt at aggression, in stating that tragedy is ours and not theirs“.[7]

Beyond the growing cases of racism, hostility towards migrants is largely based on what we can describe as “negative emotions”. In the last few years there has been a reversal in public opinion attitude that has had and is having significant political repercussions throughout Europe, with the strong rise of movements and parties that have based their political action on xenophobic and strongly nationalist demands. The important fact that I would like to underline here is that the judgements of what appears today to be the majority are heavily influenced by negative emotions, such as fear, distrust, racial hatred, erroneous perceptions, distorted information, false beliefs and prejudices. A growing number of governments, extreme right-wing organizations that equate all migrants to invaders or terrorists, but also news, newspapers, social networks – ready to give media space to anxieties and public fears – have supported or even promoted the spread of “insecurity panic” in the population [8].

Above all, economic insecurity for the many who have already been hit by the harshness of living conditions and job insecurity: for them, the migration phenomenon translates into more competition on the labour market, more uncertainty and distrust in the future. In relevant pieces of the working class, that “false consciousness” theorized by Marx as early as 1870 has returned to make its way. Marx referred to the aversion of the English proletarians towards the Irish proletarians, accused of being at the origin of the excessive lowering of wages and living standards. This antagonism, between English and Irish workers, represented for Marx “the secret of the impotence of the English working class, in spite of its organization. It is the secret to the preservation of power by the capitalist class. And the latter knows it very well.” [8.1]

Despite 150 years having passed, to the new exploiters of work, disguised as defenders of the country, it does not seem true to have found new enemies, refugees and asylum seekers, especially black and therefore immediately recognizable, on whom to divert the anger accumulated by the many impoverished by the economic crisis of the last decade. Not only that, driving them even more into illegality, as the political forces of the extreme right intend to do, will have the effect of making available to unscrupulous employers manpower at bargain prices. As you can easily guess – and there is no disagreement among economists on this point – the lack of legal status has precise negative consequences on the salary of immigrants.

But being poor doesn’t mean being stupid: what will happen when they realize that they’ve been made fun of, that the slogan “Italians first” was pure propaganda, as well as a meaningless statement?

Although lacking in rationally founded arguments, anti-migrant propaganda is currently enjoying great popularity, especially in Italy. A real activity of “looting” that uses every fact of news involving foreigners, no matter if regular or not, with the intent to discredit the image or to present them as unworthy of consideration and respect. Refugees who ask for asylum are accused from time to time of any vileness: of spreading lethal diseases, of being at the service of Islamic terrorist organizations, of wanting to take advantage of the European welfare system, of being rapists, and so on.

I have no doubt that these are fascist movements. And neither would Umberto Eco, who wrote in this way in his famous Il fascismo eterno (1997): “Ur-Fascism grows and seeks consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is against intruders. Ur-Fascism is therefore racist by definition.” In recent times, there has been a proliferation of positions on social media aimed at denying, discrediting, altering, underestimating facts, data, statistics, no matter how reliable the sources are, which contradict this narrative. And yet, even if we want to bury our heads in the sand, ignoring, for example, the terrible conditions in which migrants find themselves in the Libyan detention centres[9], we cannot ignore the fact that the landings of migrants on the Italian coasts have dropped significantly in both 2017 and 2018,[10] that the Italian population is affected by a constant demographic decline with a consequent decrease in people of working age,[11] that many sectors are characterized by a high demand for labor in which Italians, young but not only, are not very interested, that closing the borders to immigrants would have unsustainable costs for our welfare [12]. Finally, it is very unlikely that mass migrations will suddenly stop because of a lack of motivation or because more and more efforts are being made to stop them.

The perception of the relationship between immigration and crime, which has spread to a large part of the population, deserves a special mention. It is certainly true that what counts in the formation of public opinion is the perception of a phenomenon and not the reality itself, but I think it is worthwhile to focus attention on some statistics that are deliberately and regularly ignored by the champions of national ethnic integrity – all over the world they are called racists or xenophobes – and by the supporters of the emergence of the migration phenomenon.
As can be seen from the data of the Ministry of the Interior (ISTAT elaboration), there is no crime emergency in Italy, particularly with regard to the voluntary murders committed. In the graph below, we observe that the number of murders committed in Italy has constantly decreased in the last 25 years, and this has obviously happened in conjunction with the increase in incoming migration flows.


With regard to the comparative data, in the graph below (data updated to 27 August 2018) we note that Italy is certainly not among those country with the highest number of murders. In 2016, a total of 5,200 voluntary murders took place in the EU and at the top, surprisingly, we do not find the countries with the highest rate of immigration, including Italy, which ranks 24th on 30 countries.

omicidi int

It is often said that the crime rate of immigrants is considerably higher than that of Italian citizens. Here, the denial of the analyses of the experts of security and criminality seems to go beyond a serious lack of critical sense.[13] All the studies conducted, even the most recent ones, show that there is no correlation between regular immigration and the rate of criminality, in other words, there is no difference between regular and Italian foreigners as far as the rates of criminality are concerned. The differences concern the typology of crimes, in particular those committed by irregular foreigners, but the completely different status of the two populations confronted – regular italians and irregular foreigners – requires a further explanation of the data obtained from the reports and the presences in prison that goes beyond the purposes of this study.

Also on the front of sexual violence we note that Italy is at the bottom of the list of European countries with 6.7 complaints recorded by the police for every 100,000 inhabitants. However, the fact remains that the evaluation of statistics on crimes of this type is a complex issue and certainly not solvable with a simple calculation based on numerical proportions. Marzio Barbagli stresses that “Unlike other crimes, such as those against property, reports of rape do not adequately tell the truth. The sexual violence reported is in fact only a small part of the violence actually committed. Many rapes take place in the family by the partner or, in any case, by a known person and this is a phenomenon that remains largely submerged. Even less do we know about the rape of immigrants against their compatriot women“.


The data on crime that I have reported seem to me to be sufficiently clear and accurate: the positions of hostility to immigration based on alleged increases in crime due to migrants are not reflected. One element that emerges from the statistics is rather the obvious greater propensity of irregular migrants, compared to the regular ones, to commit certain crimes linked to the very condition of illegality in which they find themselves. But if this is true, how can one think that a tightening of the rules on immigration, such as those contained in the so-called “security decree” approved by the Italian Parliament, with double confidence, at the end of 2018, could lead to an improvement in the situation? Regardless of the way in which the decree is applied, the exclusion of asylum seekers (foreigners holding a residence permit) from registration will deprive, as it is easy to foresee, a large number of people of the possibility of using some public services, such as taking charge of social workers, registration at a center for employment, access to social housing, and so on. What will these people do? Where will they go? How will they live? Will taking away people’s rights lead to a reduction in theft, robbery, murder, and rape?

The answer to the latter question can only be negative, but I am sure that a skilled manipulator could equally try to convince someone to the contrary. In the process of shaping public opinion, manipulation by subjects with media power certainly plays an important role, although it is not correct to attribute to such action the paradigm shift that dominates public opinion. It would be a mistake to think that propaganda can convince people of anything as long as it is sufficiently penetrating, skillful, deceptive and capable of exploiting stupidity and ignorance. We live in a world where manipulation is present almost everywhere, but this does not mean to look at it invariably as a dishonest and reprehensible practice, which sees evil subjects on the one hand and poor defenceless prey on the other. The mechanisms of persuasion, conditioning, manipulation, are simply a reality to be taken into account in the context of human interaction, even if they concern subjects endowed with power. From this point of view, it does not seem a gratuitous forcing to assert, as the psychiatrist Jacques-Antoine Malarewicz does, that “any communication is a form of manipulation, because no information exists for its own sake“.[14]

But when, then, does the manipulation exercised through propaganda become evil and to be condemned? [15] For Louis Bernays this happens “when its authors deliberately and with full knowledge of the facts work to spread lies and produce negative effects for the public good“. The demagogues of the far right have grasped the phase of crisis and the widespread socio-economic, political and cultural discontent of the last decade to create fear of refugees, immigrants, Muslims and other minorities, presnting them as terrorists, criminals, extremists, social parasites and cultural foreigners, and therefore turning them into scapegoats responsible for the crises and the problems associated.

Now, even if the antiimmigrant political propaganda possesses such characteristics, it remains to be explained how it is possible that a mass of people with a level of education well above that of a century before and able to inform themselves through a plurality of media could fall prey to propaganda so easily.

An important mechanism, widely investigated in social psychology, concerns the way in which certain opinions are disseminated and the simultaneous reduction to silence of options previously recognized as dominant. According to Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann (2002), public opinion “is an opinion in areas to which a certain importance is attached which can be expressed publicly without fear of sanctions and on which public action can be based“. And of course also political action. Sanctions here do not refer to legal or political censorship, but rather to an irrational element consisting of the fear of openly expressing and recognising as one’s own an opinion that is perceived to be non-dominant. It is the well-known metaphor of the “spiral of silence“[16], that is, a condition characterized by the fear of disapproval and isolation that leads to silence those who believe themselves, not necessarily by reason, a minority.

Many people now think that those who try to cross the Mediterranean by means of fortune risking their lives must not be saved but left to their fate, that those who illegally cross the borders must be repatriated or sentenced to a prison sentence, that those who help Migrants are criminals or a traitors of their country. All this is not the result of reasoning but only of fear and moral indifference that seem to dominate a large part of public opinion.

There is no need to be convinced Nazis or racists belonging to the KKK, to ensure that such a moral attitude towards migrants prevails in public opinion. It is precisely this attitude that we find in the last verses of Pasolini’s poem “the cowardice used to seeing others die in the most atrocious way, with the strangest indifference“. Negative emotions, such as fear, distrust, resentment, and the arguments that are at the origin of the moral cynicism of many, starting from the identification of migrants with terrorists, clearly challenge logic but, as politicians know well, there is no need for logic to manipulate, influence, and subjugate minds. Propaganda and “security” policies do not need solid arguments; on the contrary, the weaker their logical credentials, the more effective they are.

I have already pointed out that propaganda and manipulation of demagogues are not in themselves sufficient to explain the paradigm shift that dominates public opinion in advanced societies. To what can we attribute then the emergence and spread of political attitudes and ideologies based essentially on fear and conflict with different population groups? Why was the policy of fear so successful in the last Italian political elections of March 4, 2018 and in the US presidential elections that saw the affirmation of a character like Trump? According to Bruce Rozenblit’s hypothesis[20], the reason for this would be to deal with an intensification of the tribal response connected to globalization and the accentuation of migratory phenomena (a striking demonstration of tribalism can be found in the widespread conviction that the migratory phenomenon is actually a real invasion). It is the intensity of the tribal response that induces individuals to adhere to a belief system that is clearly irrational but that promises them the possibility of building an individual identity closely linked to a group, to an “us” separated from “them”.

“The “similarity” as opposed to the “dissimilarity”, the “belonging” as opposed to the “otherness” – in short, always us against them – are, and threaten to remain for a long time, indispensable tools in the work of self-identification: in order for there to be “we” there must also be “their”, the “non-us”; or, they must be evoked, or at the very least vague – and they are really present, invented, designated or imagined, in every possible variety or stage of the execution of that work.“[21] The demagogues of our time are trying to build walls, close ports, exclude foreign families from welfare measures, in order to make differences recognizable and lead them back to a relationship of superiority/inferiority. A real “obsession with identity”, as Francesco Remotti would say [22], which inevitably leads to excessive or unjustified judgments and criticisms of “non us” and to damage in the form of ethnic, gender, racial or biological discrimination.


But why are these initiatives gaining such a large and unexpected consensus? Certainly the economic crisis of the last decade, following a strictly materialistic logic, has had remarkable social and psychological consequences[23] that cannot be overlooked, but I do not think it is sufficient to explain the spread of inhuman attitudes in public opinion. In other words, we cannot fail to recognize that the inhuman is in some way already in us. For Rozenblit the reason is tribalism. “The purpose of the tribe is to establish who to support and who to kill. My tribe is superior to your tribe because we do this and you do that, and our tribe is always superior to your tribe, no matter what this and what it represents“. In the territory of each tribe it is not tolerable that superior and inferior can coexist and therefore the question arises of how to eliminate foreign bodies from society, something that could take many centuries if it is possible.

It is clear that in this perspective there is not much space for rational instances, since the roots of these innate behaviors are to be found – in a typically evolutionary vision – in our animal past, dominated by the inability of rational control over behavior. In fact, the tendency of the group to violence is within all of us, and it emerges when the environmental pressures recall it. It is certainly an animal instinct (es) but it is not everything: the choice to adhere to an ideology is always an emotional choice and an important component of the motivation behind it is the generation of a well-defined personal identity, an identity that adherence to the ideology of the group seems to guarantee. Ideology is essentially a system of beliefs and as such satisfies emotional needs to which rational thought can hardly give satisfactory answers.
I have previously stated that irrationality can be a key to understanding, certainly not the only, and perhaps not even the most important, of the perturbations that currently stir public opinion. But with irrationality we have to deal, all of us, on a daily basis. Reducing the tribal response in public opinion in Western and non-Western countries – particularly in Eastern European countries – to a mere question of human irrationality seems at least inappropriate. In the tribal response, especially the more recent one, there is something more: the psychotic component. In order to realise this, we should first ask ourselves a few questions. How can we equate an act such as building fortifications to defend ourselves against armed assaults by invading armies with building walls at borders to stop desperate poor people leaving their land to escape hunger, war, or – as happened in Central America at the end of 2018 – to escape political repression and gangs of drug traffickers?[24] How can one confuse the invasion by a foreign army with the immigration of people who cannot, except in the presence of severely distorted cognitive patterns, be considered hostile? How can we keep together claims of social rights and racist impulses, welfare and exclusion of certain social groups? The latter is a point on which the left and progressives in general should reflect in a less superficial way.

Seen from this perspective, the modern tribal response seems to share with populism, quoting Marco Revelli, “[…] the same structure as neurosis, and in many respects psychosis, lacanianally understood as determinations of the mentality (and of the formation of the subject) produced by the disconnection (or rather, by the non-linear interaction) between signifiers and the plane of reality“.[25] Without going into the different, famous and well-known psychoanalytic interpretations – in particular those of Freud and Jung – it is worth briefly dwelling on the collective dimension of the psychotic disorder. Revelli also rightly recalls that “even a community, a collective aggregation – a people or a substantial part of it – can fall into psychosis, that is, suffering the accident of the injury of that something, within the register of its symbolic, which structures the system of signifiers” (Ibidem). The examples of this drift in public political discourse are manifold and can be traced back to various psychopathological typologies: obsessions linked to false beliefs, paranoid behindlogies, rejection of the principle of reality and consolidated knowledge, complexes of collective persecution, to cite the most evident. Some of these, such as the already mentioned international conspiracy attributed to the billionaire of hungarian origin George Soros, operating through the Open Society Institute, show disquieting similarities with the “Protocols of the Elders of Sion“, the famous fake that in the last century fed anti-Semitism and laid the foundations of the holocaust. A delirious narration, both for the absurdity of the presumed purpose – the ethnic substitution of the European peoples – and for the (inevitable) absence of evidence in support of the same, which represents a serious threat to the critical sense, to the individual capacity to distinguish between true and false.[26] Equally delirious are the speeches on the harmfulness of vaccines, the attempts to criminalize humanitarian NGOs, not to mention the chemical trails and terraplattism, all absurd theses to which the web has given visibility and which have aroused some interest even in certain political circles.

On the other hand, to return to the theme of migrants, not even the choice of reception, as opposed to the refusal to accept, is dictated by a rational calculation. Just as the ideologies, all the rules of conduct, the value options, the moral sense, and so on, created by society are defined by beliefs or by faith. It does not matter much whether beliefs are controllable, verifiable, or demonstrable, because human beings are primarily neither logical nor rational. Those in favour of welcoming are driven mainly by emotionally significant humanitarian reasons, which have little or nothing to do with utilitarian choices. Certainly these reasons can be accompanied, supported, by reasoning of a non-moral nature but the cornerstone of the choice of field has so far been essentially humanitarian. And one can also understand the reason for this. Every time someone, even if unanimously recognized as an expert, allows himself to support the reasons for immigration by going beyond pure and simple humanitarianism, immediately the interlocutors (supporters of the tribe) move the discourse to the field of irrationality, evoking non-existent invasions and hordes of criminals and terrorists who press at the borders or who act within as a fifth column.[27]

Faith in mankind’s rational capacity to gain control of the world has long been questioned. We are (more or less) aware that achieving greater control exclusively with the instruments of rationality, however desirable, demands high costs and can even be counterproductive. If we look at the surveys that seek to assess public attitudes towards immigration, we can certainly conclude that the majority of voters would like to reduce immigration and almost no one would like to increase it. Incidentally, there are many reasons to believe that the average voter, an expression of that average culture so hated by Pasolini, is wrong. If the politics were based on facts, we would be discussing how much immigration should increase – with controlled flows – instead of trying to limit the rights of immigrants who have been living in our country for years (an example of this is the already mentioned “security decree” recently approved by the Italian Parliament).
Unfortunately or fortunately, rationality is not, and probably never will be, the only solution. Values, passions and moral awareness are indispensable components of politics. But if the political and cultural elites – especially those who claim to be not elites but direct emanation of the people – persist in their instrumental attitude of condescension towards the tribal irrationality of public opinion, and if in the latter prevails that “strange indifference” poetically evoked by Pasolini, little will remain of aspirations for a world without war, freer, more egalitarian, democratic and livable.

[1] Pier Paolo Pasolini. Poetry in the form of rose. I. Reality. Guinea. Garzanti Publisher. 2014

[2] Isaac Asimov. A Cult of Ignorance. Newsweek. January 21, 1980, p. 19

[3] Gustave Le Bon. Psychology of the Crowds. Clandestine Editions. 2014

[4] Zygmunt Bauman. Retrotopia. Laterza Editions. Bari. 2017

[5] Tom Nichols. Knowledge and its enemies: The era of incompetence and the risks to democracy. LUISS University Press. 2018

[6] The absolute majority of Hungarians agreed with Orban that behind the mass migrations there are external forces that can be traced back to the American entrepreneur of Hungarian origin George Soros.


[8] It is the essence of the “policy of fear” that has certainly allowed radical political forces in several countries to win elections in recent years.


[9] I refer to the repeated complaints of the UNHCR on this subject, for example in this official note: Very interesting, in this regard, also an article on International dating back to November 29, 2017 signed by Annalisa Camilli, which refers to the agreements between Italy and Libya on migrants that have followed one another over time since 2008.

[10] %5B11%5D

[12] In the 17th annual report published in July 2018 it is stated “[…] to maintain the relationship between those who receive a pension and those who work at sustainable levels, the number of immigrants who will work in our country is crucial“.

[13] “The human tendency to judge the world from a narrow and selfish perspective is powerful. Human beings are masters of self-deception and rationalisation. We persist in our false beliefs even in the face of evidence”.  Richard Paul, Linda Elder. Understanding the Foundations of Ethical Reasoning. The Foundation for Critical Thinking. 2009

[14] J.A. Malarewicz, Guide du voyageur perdu dans le dédale des relations humaines. ESF, Paris 1992

[15] Eduard Louis Bernays.  Propaganda. Manipulation of public opinion in democracy. Fausto Lupetti Publisher. First electronic edition April 2013

[16] Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, The spiral of silence – For a theory of public opinion. Meltemi Publisher, 2002

[17] Zygmunt Bauman. Strangers at Our Door. Polity Press Ltd, Cambridge. 2016

[18] For Bauman there are basically two categories of problems that governments cannot or do not want to address. The first includes the availability of quality posts, the reliability and stability of social positions, the effectiveness of measures to protect against social humiliation and the denial of dignity. The second category of problems has to do with the fight against Islamic terrorism, which targets the physical safety and property of ordinary people. A fight with decidedly uncertain results, considering the way in which the terrorist attacks are carried out.

[19] “[…] big lies produce big fears that produce big yearnings for big strongmen”: big lies generate big fears that generate big desires of big strong men”, as Roger Cohen wrote in the pages of the New York Times of 31/12/2015.

[20] Bruce Rozenblit. Us Against Them: How Tribalism Affects The Way We Think. Transcendent Publications. Kansas City, MO. USA

[21] Zygmunt Bauman. Retrotopia. Laterza Editions. Bari. 2017

[22] Francesco Remotti. The obsession with identity. Gius. Laterza and Sons. Digital edition, 2017.

[23] “An incactivated country. Dark, old, distrustful, hopeless.” Thus the last report of the Censis, the 52nd Report on the Social Situation of the Country/2018.


[25] Marco Revelli. Politics without politics. Because the crisis has brought populism into our lives. Giulio Einaudi editore s.p.a. Torino. 2019.

[26] A narrative, this like many others, made its own by leading political figures such as the Minister of the Interior.

[27] David Hume wrote in the Treatise on Human Nature: “Reason is, and must only be, a slave to passions, and cannot under any circumstances claim a function other than that of obeying and serving them“. In other words, against beliefs, passions, and fears, reason can do little.

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