Elly Schlein speaking into microphone in crowd

MikeDotta/Shutterstock (Licensed)

The Italian far-right wants you to believe Italy’s new Democratic party leader is the Antichrist

The attacks are outlandish.

 

Gabriele Di Donfrancesco

Tech

Italian conspiracy theorists are now obsessed with Elly Schlein, an openly queer woman with American citizenship, who recently became the first female leader in the history of Italy’s biggest leftist party.

One attack has gone so far as to essentially call her the Antichrist. 

Schlein, the “Italian left’s rising star,” is a 37-year-old that believes in everything Italy’s far-right hates: She is a feminist and supports trans rights, abortion, a minimum wage, rescuing migrants at sea, and queer parents’ right to adopt.

But on social media, she’s much worse, a George Soros puppet ready to implement the Great Reset. 

Last Sunday, Schlein was picked to lead the Italian Democratic Party. The victory led to anodyne praise from her opponent, Giorgia Meloni, who said, “I wish her the best, and I expect from her a very stiff opposition, as I did myself.”

But conspiratorial concerns over Schlein were seeded a week before, when Federico Mollicone, a deputy of Meloni’s party, Brothers of Italy, and head of the parliamentary Committee on Culture accused her of being “financed by George Soros.” 

Since she was thrust into the spotlight with her win, many users added to the online pile-on, calling her “Soros’ pupil,” one who would be “pursuing Soros’ agenda” and “American interests” instead of Italy’s. 

Among them was former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s lawyer Carlo Taormina who complained of her “sexual fluidity” and “fundamentalist globalism.”

Schlein’s victory was a cause for celebration for progressive voters, who hope that Schlein will revive the Democratic Party, the biggest leftist party in Italy, after years of divisions and a crisis of identity. The party bottomed out in the most recent election, its coalition of moderate Catholics, liberal socialists, and modern progressives failing against a rising nationalist tide, which won a coalition in government led by Meloni.

It now polls under 20%.

But where there’s hope for a staunchly progressive politician—leftist commentators likened Schlein to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)—her opponents see something much more nefarious, a woke, far-left Americanized takeover of Italian politics.

It doesn’t help that Schlein’s Italo-Swiss-American citizenship has been considered suspicious. She volunteered for Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008, and her father is an Ashkenazi Jew, all red meat to Italian conspiracy theorists. 

The Italian Observatory for Anti-Semitism reported a number of antisemitic tweets linking Schlein to Jewish conspiracies, and a number of posts accused her of being part of the Great Reset

Schlein, along with others, the supposition goes, has been using the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines, and LGBTQ rights advocacy as part of a plan by the World Economic Forum to reshape humanity.

In this world, billionaire Soros is the main nemesis. A meme linking Schlein and Soros has been circulating on Italian Twitter, with the caption: “He dotes for her, she dotes for him.” 

It appears to have originated in a conspiratorial Telegram group.

Byoblu, the reference website for Italian conspiracy theorists, cites an unverified document to tie the two together, noting that the Kumquat Consult, commissioned by Soros, maintains a list of friendly EU politicians, of which Schlein is one.

But conspiracy theories and false accusations weren’t the only attacks lobbed at Schlein by the right, with some attacking her appearance. 

Ex-right-wing deputy mayor Stefano Casali posted a picture on Facebook comparing Schlein to Marilyn Manson

Users piled on, posting transphobic jokes and asking if Schlein, a cis advocate for transgender rights, was herself transgender. Homophobic and anti-trans slurs have become commonplace.

In 2020, Schlein came out as queer and with a girlfriend. Her support of LGBTQ+ rights is way more radical than the positions her party had in the past, which has been seen as a breath of fresh air by the Italian youth. 

But that has also brought on the vitriol, as Meloni’s party rode a wave of anti-gay sentiment to victory. 

On March 1, Meloni seemed to lean into the attacks online, reiterating her belief that women are victims of the “gender ideology” and her opposition to same-sex parenting.

But the biggest false claims against Schlein came from anti-abortion groups, with anti-gay advocate Mario Adinolfi practically calling her the Antichrist, writing on Twitter that she was “the opposite of the Pope’s Magisterium,” and asking Catholics not to vote for the Democratic Party anymore. 

“Schlein wants gay marriage, surrogate pregnancy, supports the Spanish law for trans people, gender theories, and considers abortion a right and not a tragedy,” he wrote. 

The post was mocked by users, commenting things like “She has my vote,” “I’ll be a bigot Catholic then,” and “If what the right says about Schlein were true would be awesome.”

But its tone reflected that of many Catholic legacy newspapers, which raised concerns about Schlein’s “sexual fluidity” and support of abortion.

Abortion has been legal in Italy since 1978, but like in the United States, it has been constantly targeted by the right, with affiliated groups hoping the Meloni government will walk back support for women.

The uproar over Schlein isn’t limited to the far-right, though. The fringes of the populist left are prone to conspiracy theories about her as well. Ex-communist politician Marco Rizzo, founder of the extremist party Sovereign Popular Democracy, tweeted that Meloni and Schlein are “faces of the same coin” for both being pro-NATO and friendly to Ukraine, American agents in the global conspiracy against Russia.

So while many hope that Schlein has the potential to reinvigorate the Italian left, given the slate of attacks against her, it won’t be an easy task. 

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