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Gianluca Casseri: The Dracula of Florence? Making Sense of Racism and Muslimphobia that Kills

Deep seated racism and anti-Muslim sentiment based on the Islamophobia Industry’s conspiracy theories coupled with a neo-fascist ideology can lead to deadly results.

Gianluca Casseri: the Dracula of Florence? Making sense of racism and Muslim-phobia that kills

by Gabriele Marranci (Islam, Muslims and an Anthropologist)

On the 13th of December, in my birthplace Florence, an Italian gunman killed two street vendors from Senegal, wounded another three, and committed suicide when the police reached him. The killing was racially-motivated and Gianluca Casseri, 50, was a writer for and member of CasaPound, a neo-fascist group. The Senegalese street vendors he killed (Samb Modou, 40yrs old, and Diop Mor, 54yrs old) lived in Italy for a considerable time and leave behind their wives and children in Senegal. The life of migrants in Italy, in particular for Muslims such as the Senegalese, is known. The xenophobic Lega Nord has built its political reputation on the exploitation of Italians’ frustration with a badly managed migration policy and an increase of refugees. Furthermore, Italians often know very little about Islam and Muslim culture, despite the centuries of, for the most part peaceful, cultural and scientific exchanges. The ‘Mamma li Turchi’ attitude, facilitated by local newspapers and Italian neo-fascist websites, has reached its epitome. The former Berlusconi government and its rhetoric has also played a part in cultivating such atmosphere. The difficulties that Muslims in Italy face to build a proper mosque often seem insurmountable.

This killing in Italy did not catch me by surprise. During my visits in Italy I became aware of how a certain anti-Muslim rhetoric, which Fallaci powerfully expressed, has found not only sympathizers and fervent believers, but also the attention of a general public for which anti-Muslim attitudes posses a cathartic function within a country condemned to a populist political and economic decline. Among the millions screaming in forums, in newspapers and on blogs against the immigrants, Muslims and the now fully implemented (it appears) Shari’a in Italy, there will always be some who dream of being a ‘hero’.

Such people, in the name of the Italic supreme race, or in the name of Jesus, or both (as is often the case), will fantasize about taking matters into their own hands and spilling the hated blood of the ‘Saladin’ in order to bring Europe back to Christendom.  Some will depart from fantasy and take a step further and plan actions. On the 13th of December, Gianluca Casseri succeeded in what was planned as a ‘suicide’ terrorist action.

Although many are the differences between Breivik and the more mysterious Casseri, many are also the similarities. The isolated lonely life, the love of fantasy literature (Casseri published some books), the Celtic imaginary tradition (so dear to the Lega Nord), and the reference to heroic resistance to Islam through more or less mythological heroes. In the case of Casseri, this ‘hero’ was the cruel Dracula whom historically in 1461 killed every Turk and Muslim he could find in southern Walachi.

Analyzing some of the messages left by members of radical far-right forums, we encounter again the Nazi imagination which is full of a mix of pagan symbolism and empty Christian rhetoric and the need of an enemy other, in this case the Muslim rather than the Jew. The similarity, in those forums, of the rhetoric praising Breivik and Casseri is impressive. Both them have been mythologized in a similar way to how suicide bombers or jihadi fighters are.  Perhaps most striking is the evident hate of the ‘different’ and an impressive lack of empathy. Empathy is indeed the key to understanding these incompressible acts of hatred.

Racism, or attitudes of hatred towards the so called ‘out-group’, which often is the main cause of radicalism, as I have suggested in my last book, is better explained through processes of identity and emotions. Recent psychological, neurological and even endocrinological behavioral studies (to which anthropologists have paid too little, if any, attention) have shown what I call a ‘natural‘ bias that we have for the ‘other‘, in particular when phenotypical traits are involved (such as skin colour for instance).

Just to mention some of these studies, Matteo Forgiarini (2011) have investigated ‘the existence of a racial bias in the emotional reaction to other people’s pain and its link with implicit racist biases.’  The study confirmed, while testing Caucasian people, ‘a reduced reaction to the pain of African individuals was also correlated with the observers’ individual implicit race bias’.  Alessio Avenanti et all (2010) studied the empathic sensorimotor resonance with other-races as far as pain was concerned, and again this study found that  although ‘human beings react empathically to the pain of stranger individuals […] racial bias and stereotypes may change this reactivity into a group-specific lack of sensorimotor resonance’.

More recent studies, interestingly, have even challenged that the famous Oxytocin is a bit more sinister than the ‘hug hormone’ we knew, and found, as Carsten K. W. De Dreu et al’s study (2011) has shown, that it may have a role in the emergence of intergroup conflict and violence. Yet this seems not enough to explain the actions of Gianluca Casseri. Indeed, there is another element that we have to consider: dehumanization. Now, for a long time social science, and in particular anthropology, has discussed the dehumanization of certain groups as merely a cultural process.

Yet the reality again becomes more dramatic when we combine what we know from interviews with what neuroscience, through fMRI studies, can tell us. Lasana Harris and Susan Fiske (2006) have shown that dehumanization is not just an attitude, but rather something that is clearly identifiable within brain functions – such as the absence of the typical neural signature for social cognition, as well as exaggerated amygdala and insula reactions (consistent with disgust) and the disgust ratings they elicit.

I could provide other evidence of the fact that all of us, as human beings, have these ‘natural’ biases, yet the difference is that the majority of us is able to control them, to see them as stereotypes which we have been educated to reject or at least challenge. Yet the above ‘natural’ characteristics, as they can be controlled, they can also be reinforced and transformed into a cognitive lens through which to make sense of the world. Paranoia is surely the result and it is clear that both Casseri and Breivik were and are paranoid, but not crazy. Indeed, they are the result of certain rhetoric, ideology and culture – what in other words is becoming, to use Dan Sperber’s epidemiological model, a robust replication system.

Casseri needed his victims’ blood to become the mythical hero of those Italians (but also Europeans, Americans and Australians) whom have decided to live in the darkness of their ignorance and believe that they are fighting a civilizational war; a belief marked by an explosive mix of mythology, religion and fantasy. Casseri is at the same time the extreme product of such robust replication system and another ‘infectious’ agent. Like in the case of terrorism perpetrated by Muslim fanatics, Cessari’s fantasy can only be the nightmare of the too often silent moderate majority; the only force that can stop the system from replicating beyond return.

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  • Long before Angela Merkel became the current chancellor,she was quoted as saying:”When I see a Muslim man in a long beard I cross to the other side of the road.” She was obviously trying to get enough votes by inciding hatred again another group. What kind of leaders are these?

  • Reynardine

    BigT, Dracula was pretty damn evil. The difference was not in the evil done, since the scale of his slaughters was matched only by the Inquisition in those days; the difference is that in his case, the evil is easily sourced in both his own experiences and the universal violence and cruelty of his times. Furthermore, he did his own murders, rather than inciting others to act with dogwhistles and then sitting back and saying, “Oh, nothing.” These people know objectively- if they have the capacity to be objective- that they are inciting violence against those who have not harmed them, simply because their targets are easy to get, unpopular, and can’t strike back, and all this is because they haven’t got the clangers to stand up to their real oppressors (or, in the case of the actually powerful, that they are the real oppressors)

  • The_BigT

    how can you compare Dracula to these people, even Dracula isn’t as evil as these neonazi terrorist scum.

  • Reynardine

    I had not really heard much about Oriana Falacci since the Sixties, when her journalism was actually admirable. She, however, was or became the sort of person who, if she had one or two negative experiences with a few members of a group, could swiftly brand an entire nation or faith with being demonic. The hardship visited on women who went outside the box could understandably have engendered a rage-filled bitterness that needed to be vented on somebody, but a journalist who loses fairness and objectivity is a journalist no longer, and when they continue to represent themselves as such to their reading public, they are really betraying their trust.

  • This article describes a favorable climate for terrorism to emerge and persist in Italy. The reason why Greece’s November 17 and the National Socialist Underground in Germany enjoyed long runs (27 years for November 17) is that the climate for the terrorists and terrorism.

    The climate that is most favorable for a terrorist cell is one where there is some public support, including tacit, and that includes tacit support to outright “ineptness” from the police and intelligence services. The targeting of Folk Devils Muslims with violence is now a real danger, as they get no sympathy from the public. The Greek police were described as “inept” when it came to November 17 and some of the public viewed the victims of November 17 as “junta men” who got no sympathy and are even “heroes.” Here Gabriele Marranci describes this pro-terrorist climate in Italy.

    QUOTE: “This killing in Italy did not catch me by surprise. During my visits in Italy I became aware of how a certain anti-Muslim rhetoric, which Fallaci powerfully expressed, has found not only sympathizers and fervent believers, but also the attention of a general public for which anti-Muslim attitudes posses a cathartic function within a country condemned to a populist political and economic decline. Among the millions screaming in forums, in newspapers and on blogs against the immigrants, Muslims and the now fully implemented (it appears) Shari’a in Italy, there will always be some who dream of being a ‘hero’”

    Also, the police and security service might see these killings as “derserving victims.” The police and security services are another part of the problem. We have the outright Islamophobic practices of security and intelligence agencies across Europe since the 9-11 attacks. The targeting of Folk Devil Muslims is what the police and intelligence services are doing in an official capacity, and some of this involves the demonization of Islamic religious practices as “radicalization.” We have seen the data on terrorism in Europe. As of now, the least likely deadly attack in the European Union would be from an “Islamist.” Yet we have national intelligence agencies (in Germany and the Netherlands) that deploy immense intelligence assists against Muslim youth who hang out at parks of festivals. In the Netherlands, the single murder of Theo van Gogh is justification for this type of bigotry in security and intelligence services.

    We also have both an irresponsible media and national leaders in Europe who give propaganda point to terrorists through statements like: “Muslims have no place in Germany” and “multiculturalism has failed.” When some imam stands up in a remote corner of the world as says “Americans don’t belong on Arab lands” why is that different from “Muslims don’t belong in Germany” from a German minister?

    Statements like that define a segment of a national population as threatening and dangerous by a national leader are irresponsible and are not “freedom of speech.” Geert Wilders is the one who is largely responsibile for the pro-terrorist climate emerging in Europe through the use of threat discourse. Incitements to violence and rejecting a portion of a national population are simply NOT “freedom of speech.” These irresponsible statements by David Cameron, Angela Merkel and Hans-Peter Friedrich are just as much propaganda to terrorists as similar incitements by an “Islamist imam” in a remote corner of the world. Ask yourself, why is there a difference?!

    Now, German interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich spent the early part of this year giving propaganda points to would-be anti-Muslim terrorists across Europe. How does Friedrich feel now?

  • Reynardine

    The Impaler, who was sent as an eleven-year-old boy to be a hostage in Istambul in return for his father’s alliance with the Ottomans and who was violently maltreated by his captors, at least had palpable roots for his insane hatred. The kind of people we’re dealing with here don’t. They need to vent their rage on somebody…anybody…and they choose whoever is the flavor of the moment. You can’t change their minds, only their targets.

  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 5:32) Warning Contains Irony

    Zakariya Ali Sher
    I go along with most of what you say about the celtic countries apart from the Basques because they are not only linguistically isolate but musically and culturally as well. I would think it arguably more easy to claim Northumbria than the Basque country . 🙂
    It amuses me as the european loopy ones seem to think that celtic music is the only pure “white ” music when there are proven Berber connections rythmically, modally and dance wise . This makes sence when one considers transport/trading links in the so called ‘dark age europe’ Galway to Andalucia would be as quick as Dublin to London .
    Unfortunetly I suspect the loopy ones see celtic = ayran and we know where that comes from and leads to

  • Stoned Gremlin

    @Crow lol Each sect doesn’t think the other are “true” Christians. How many times have you heard, “Oh Catholicism isn’t true Christianity, baptism isn’t true Christianity, Jehovah’s witnesses aren’t real Christians, I don’t trust evangelicals…” etc. etc.?

  • Sir David writes: I don’t get the referance to the “the Celtic imaginary tradition” as someone with Irish roots and who plays the music I don’t get the connection. Can someone enlighten me please.

    You’re not the one who needs to be enlightened on this topic.

  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    @ Sir David: Yes, well today most Americans associate the term ‘Celtic’ with Ireland, but in a broader sense it refers to pretty much all of the Iron Age cultures of Western Europe who may or may not have been related to each other. They shared a common culture and artistic tradition and to be honest we know precious little about them because Rome went to great lengths to actively ysuppress them. Ireland and most of northern Scotland were never Roman; other Celts include the Welsh, Cornish, Manx, Bretons, Galicians and by some accounts even the Basque people (who are actually a linguistic isolate).

    There were, and to some extent still are ‘Celts’ on the mainland, at one point extending up to modern day Turkey. The Celts even sacked Rome at one point. But when the Romans conquered Gaul and Iberia they worked hard to impose Latin on the ‘barbarians.’ So how does this tie in with the neo-Nazis? In the 19th century you had a Celtic revival spurred on by Romantic nationalism and new archaeological discoveries that tended to dub every ancient civilization in Europe ‘Celtic’ regardless of whether they were or weren’t.

    This trend has continued into the modern day with many white supremacists adopting supposed Celtic imagery, especially tattoos, never mind that they themselves might be of English, Scandinavian, or even Polish descent. The Lega Nord draws on an odd mixture of Celtic, Lombard (a Germanic tribe that sacked northern Italy) and even Roman/Etruscan imagery, sprinkled liberally with the obligatory boring Nazi fare.

    I should point out in all fairness that Northern Italy is pretty Germanic, sharing a border with Austria and all.

  • Al

    Dracula?! wow

  • Sir David ( Illuminati membership number 5:32) Warning Contains Irony

    I dont get the referance to the “the Celtic imaginary tradition ” as someone with Irish roots and who plays the music I dont get the connection . Can someone enlighten me please .

  • Crow

    The stupid usually hate people that are different, look at lawrence or jihadbob perfect examples. Also When these so-called former Muslims come out and say all that Muslims are all the hateful things the ignorant haters want to hear instead of reading about Islam and getting to know Muslims, that’s like thinking evangical christians actually represent true Christianity.

  • mindy1

    RIP to the vendors 🙁

  • Believing Atheist

    Unfortunately many of what Italians know about Islam comes from one of Italy’s most influential journalists, Magdi Alam. Alam is a convert to Christianity (Catholicism) from Islam and he now champions ideas against his former religion such as a ban on Mosques, the nullification of multiculturalism and a biased and uncompromising love for Israel. Many Italians hence, believe that Alam must know all about Islam and Muslims since he was one.

    But they fail to recognize that being a former Muslim does not necessarily mean you were a former Muslim scholar.

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