How Far Can Politicians Go For Publicity?

Matteo Salvini – painted portrait” by thierry ehrmann is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When Matteo Salvini brought a young girl on stage during a political rally

A few days ago, Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing party the League (Lega), ended the party’s rally in Pontida (Lombardy) by bringing a girl on stage, named Greta, who, according to various sources, was separated from her mother — and recently reunited — in a child trafficking case.

Salvini did not specify where Greta was from, he simply told the audience she was taken and other cases like hers should not happen; however, news published the story that Greta was part of the children involved in the Bibbiano child trafficking case. This was also published by the party’s official Twitter account.

This tweet reads, “Salvini ends his political meeting on stage with Greta, a girl from Bibbiano.” (Source: The League’s Official Twitter)

The children of Bibbiano, as explained in this article previously published by Italics Magazine, were taken away from their parents by a charity who would counterfeit proof of non-existent psychological or physical violence and in exchange for money, they would then sell these children to other families.

“Salvini is using a minor for publicity.”

Others rushed to comment that since Bibbiano’s numerous trials are still ongoing, stepping on stage showing the girl’s face and mentioning her name was not wise for safety nor legal reasons. Although, Salvini’s on-stage ambiguous presentation of the minor does make one question for much of it was just for publicity; and he is not the only one.

Social media and politicians

A study carried out by the newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore demonstrated that out of 8 politicians studied, only 2 had more real followers than fake followers on Twitter. Fake followers were defined as profiles that did not have a profile picture, were inactive for more than 120 days, their username was recognized as spam, have drastically reduced their tweets in their last year, did not write in Italian, and/or declared an nonexistent location.

Nicola Zingaretti, seen as the left wing democratic party’s (PD) last arrival and supporter who was criticized about the formation of Italy’s new government, seems to have 66,8% fake followers. The evaluation of Matteo Salvini’s twitter account instead found 62,8% fake followers. The interesting part is that out of this ‘fake’ percentage, 41% were opened only recently, coincidently foreseeing the European Union’s elections.

What about celebrities?

Endorsements and publicity

Donald Trump demonstrated that having an entire community of celebrities in the world of music and film against you does not guarantee that you’re going to fail — or win in the case for Hilary Clinton as shown in this article on Vanity Fair during the 2016 US Presidential Campaign.

During the 2016 elections several Italian celebrities expressed their preference for Rome’s Mayor. The captain of AS Roma football team, Francesco Totti, alongside actors such as Sabrina Ferilli and Claudio Santamaria, supported the Five Star Movement Party. Singers Fiorella Mannoia and rapper Fedez even wrote the party’s anthem. And Nobel Prize-winner Dario Fo sold several of his art pieces to support the Five Star Movement representative for Turin’s local elections, Chiara Appendino.

Publicity of age

As long as you are of age (often 18 and over), and — hopefully — mature, then anyone including celebrities can endorse particular politicians. It is bringing a minor on stage that makes taking a stand significantly harder.

This young girl may have had no idea of what was happening and being picked up by what might as well have been a complete stranger does not help things. “She asked me to come on stage”, stated Salvini. Making a point that it’s a horrible thing that parents could be unjustly separated from their children, often in those horrendous cases like those in Bibbiano, where charities made a profit from those separations, is a necessary and right thing to do.

Bringing a minor on stage… Maybe not so much.

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