Commentary. There was good news for Radio Radicale on Thursday as parliament voted to secure its funding to remain open. But the Five Star Movement is intent to force il manifesto and other newspapers out of business.

The hard wall of reality

Di Maio and his Five Star Movement, along with all their political acolytes, have brandished their fury against cooperative and nonprofit media outlets, and against Radio Radicale, without a trace of shame or self-restraint. They’re always ready to compromise on any political issue, but inflexible when it comes to attacking information and newspapers—on this they’re willing to challenge their government partners.

That’s what happened Thursday after the Lega voted in favor of Radio Radicale, which, according to vice-prime minister Di Maio, was a “very serious” issue. He puffed up his chest and insisted that “they will answer for that.”

The M5S leaders, who used to say that the Italian Constitution was the best in the world when they were up against Renzi’s reforms, have now become militant deniers of a right that is constitutionally guaranteed. They are the exponents of a certain ideological furor for the free market of information, which finds its match in the profound and congenital cultural backwardness of the “country of Everyman.”

This mentality is mired deeply in conflicts of interest (since the M5S relies for its communications on a private entrepreneur and on “mother” RAI). But it is, most of all, a result of the authoritarian mixture put forward by their old guru, who built up the movement with the “enlightening” proposal of the Vaffa Day (“Go **** Yourself Day”) against newspapers. Grillo, Di Maio and Co. don’t get the point of having print media at all: going to the newsstands is an old custom that they don’t understand.

As the whole industry is suffering from a terminal crisis, as we as a country are poisoned by the powers-that-be and by media consolidation, as our society has an appalling illiteracy rate, they are unconcerned and can only muster indifference. Have you ever heard them talk about a book, even by accident?

We are happy that, in the end, with bipartisan agreement from all the parliamentary groups, Radio Radicale could breathe a sigh of relief.

The amendment adopted Thursday morning guarantees them the funds to keep going.

However, the amendment does nothing for newspapers, and, among the national ones, we are the number one target. It matters little if the effective gag will end up costing thousands of jobs throughout the sectors connected to printed media.

Moreover, not one euro will be saved from the Pluralism Fund, which will remain available to the government so they can distribute public funds to whomever they please.

If it wasn’t such a dramatic situation, it would be truly ridiculous that a cooperative of journalists and printers like ours at il manifesto, a group of workers all getting paid the contractual minimum wages, with around two-thirds of our budget coming in from sales (i.e. the market) and (a little) advertising, is now the main target of the Five Star “army,” which has otherwise lost all of its aura of invincibility.

Indeed, while at the end of the day Radio Radicale found support from both the right and the left, and while L’Avvenire has never really risked downsizing or closure because the money from the Fund is a small item on its balance sheet, those who will face the prospect of shutting down will be local newspapers and, in particular, il manifesto.

In this situation, our only weapon is to break this isolation by mobilizing our readers with our campaign. It is a life-or-death struggle, like the one that made it possible for us to buy back the newspaper three years ago, rescuing it from the depths of bankruptcy, a victory gained as a result of both our sacrifice and yours.

It is the same situation today: either we can raise €1,200,000 (the sum that the government intends to cut within the year), or we won’t be able to work miracles.

Everyone who picks up a copy of our paper at the newsstand or who is our subscriber needs to be fully aware of this.

However, I am still encountering surprise and astonishment whenever I point out, at public meetings or in private conversations, the numbers and the deadlines that will determine our uncertain fate in the near future.

I understand this to some extent: being detached from reality is comforting. It’s as if people can’t even take seriously the possibility of the end of our newspaper, a newspaper which has been on the newsstands every day for the past 48 years.

No one has ever managed to shut us up—so why would it happen this time?

We will try to explain the situation every day, constantly working to improve our campaign, because if there are some among our readers, friends and comrades who still don’t understand, this can mean only one thing: we haven’t explained it well enough, we have not broken through the wall of hard reality.

Of course, spreading the news about the campaign, so that we could also reach those who don’t read us but who care about the freedom of information, would require investments in advertising, both online and offline. We don’t have great resources at our disposal, nor a strong lobbying presence. Most crucially, on the part of the political spectrum that lies to the left of the Democratic Party there has never been any strong concern with the issue of the freedom of information (which is often confused with going on talk shows).

We have an uphill road ahead of us, in every possible way. However, as Marx once paraphrased Aesop’s fable about the athlete who was bragging about the great jump he had made on the island of Rhodos: hic Rhodus, hic salta (“Rhodos is here, this is where you must jump”).

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