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Majority of Italians says racist violence is ‘justifiable’

Hate speech, racist attitudes, and even hate crimes are becoming more socially accepted in Italy, a polling firm warns.

Acts of racially inspired violence are at least sometimes justifiable, a majority of Italian respondents said in a recent poll. The results follow a slew of highly publicized racist and antisemitic crimes across the country and mark the first time in a decade in which more than half of respondents did not condemn racism outright.

The polling firm SWG conducted the survey, which obtained responses from 1,500 people. A total of 45% of respondents said that racists acts are acceptable depending on the situation, while another 10% said that such acts are “always” justifiable.

The polling firm has conducted this survey every year for more than a decade, but only this year has it found a majority of respondents defending racist acts. Enzo Risso, scientific director at SWG, placed some blame on increases in hate speech online and the general public “becoming more used to” this rhetoric.

“What this means is that there has been a relaxation in attitudes towards racism—not necessarily that people have become racist, more that they are becoming more accepting of racist acts and do not consider them so scandalous,” said Risso.

Anger and vitriol against immigrants from Africa and the Middle East has flared in many parts of Europe, due partly to native Europeans associating the immigrants with increased crime and other social problems. Anti-immigrant political organizations and parties have gained members and seen their poll numbers grow in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and other nations.

But anti-Jewish activity has also increased in recent years. Italian authorities assigned Liliana Segre, a Holocaust survivor, a polic escort last week after she received a barrage of online threats–including death threats–from far-right extremists.

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