Indro Montanelli is considered the godfather of journalism in Italy. Because he was a racist rapist, some are calling for the statue to be torn down.
Racist rapist in bronze: The alienated statue of Indro Montanelli in Milan Photo: Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters
Indro Montanelli has been lucky once again. In various countries, statues have recently been put to the sword, landing in harbor basins because slave traders and racists were worshipped there. But the larger-than-life Montanelli is still enthroned in Milan, bent over his typewriter, in the centrally located park that bears his name: "Giardini Montanelli.
However, he was slightly battered a few days ago with a bucket of red paint that activists from the left-wing student collective "Rete Studenti Milan" dumped on him.
In a short message, the perpetrators stated that they demanded the removal of the statue, because they were worshipping someone who had "made slavery, colonialism, misogyny, fascism and racism part of his mentality.
The attack is a serious one, since it is directed against someone who is considered by many in Italy to be the greatest journalist of the 20th century, against a right-wing conservative who, however, in his later years also enjoyed a high reputation on the left because he opposed Silvio Berlusconi, who had just entered politics at the time, in 1994 and maintained this stance until his death in 2001.
A 12-year-old girl
But before he became a journalistic myth in postwar Italy, Montanelli, then 26, had volunteered for Italy’s colonial war in Abyssinia in 1935. He was not further involved in the immediate atrocities of war, including the use of poison gas. Montanelli, however, bought himself a 12-year-old girl.
"A pedophile and rapist" he was therefore in the eyes of those who now want to see his statue removed. And immediately in the last days a wave of indignation went through the country – not against Montanelli, however, but against his critics, who committed "vandalism" with their paint bucket, who had acted as "fanatics", as "iconoclasts".
Thus Beppe Severgnini, one of the noble feathers of the Corriere della Sera, barks that Montanelli "accepted" to marry the little Destà, still a child, for a time. If Severgnini is to be believed, she was, as it were, imposed on Montanelli by the Eritreans.
Marco Travaglio, Montanelli’s journalistic foster son and today editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, agrees. "That’s how it was done back then," Travaglio comments, and then he also wants to elevate Montanelli to an anti-racist: "A racist wouldn’t have even had a cup of coffee with an African woman, much less married her."
"User contract for a limited period of time"
Stupidly, Montanelli gives an account of this "marriage" to the "docile little animal" that is as blunt as it is cynical, in a 1982 interview, then in an article in 2000. She begins with a sexual emergency. "It was a matter of finding an intact mate, for health reasons." A contract was drawn up, "this was not a wedding contract, but a kind of lease, a contract of use for a period of time." For the girl, a horse and a rifle, he paid the father 500 lire, Montanelli refers.
Then he complains that little Destà stank of goat, and that it took the forceful intervention of her mother to break her resistance to sex with the colonial officer. Even more: during sex the infibulated girl had felt no pleasure at all.
So open, so brutal, so cynical. It is not for nothing that not one of the broad front of journalists defending Montanelli and ranting about "marriage" quotes the words of the protagonist. Only one admits to having looked a little closer: Milan’s mayor Beppe Sala. He is "disturbed" by the "frivolity" with which Montanelli talks about his past, but then Sala also gets his act together. Could one ask for a "flawless life," hadn’t each of us already missed? In short, the statue must remain in its place.
But the students’ collective does not let up. Under the slogan "Rape and pedophilia are not a ‘mistake’", it called for a protest rally in front of Milan City Hall last Monday.