Italian newspaper Libero has sparked controversy publishing a headline seemingly correlating economic decline with an increased number of gay people.
The headline, published on the front page of the daily newspaper on Wednesday (January 23), reads: “Not much to be happy about. Revenue and GDP down, but gay people increase.”
The summary below the headline further established the bizarre link between business conditions in Italy and data on people’s sexual orientation.
“Three in four entrepreneurs avoid electronic receipts and the economy suffers. The only ones who do not feel the crisis are the homosexuals: they keep increasing,” it read.
The article eventually clarified that the data on LGBT+ people refers to the UK statistics released on Monday—which showed a decline in the number of people identifying as heterosexual in the country—and failed to produce comparable data for the number of Italians identifying as LGBT+.
“Is there a link between the decrease of GDP, the avoidance of electronic receipts and the rise in openly gay people? We don’t know, but that’s the snapshot. That too. It explains the Italy that changes and the one that does not,” the article clumsily concluded.
Italian newspaper headline condemned as ‘homophobic’
The headline was met with widespread backlash, starting with the government undersecretary for publishing, Vito Crimi, a lawmaker with the ruling party Five Star Movement who expressed “disgust” at the headline.
“A newspaper that receives public funding that first publishes racist headlines, and now also homophobic,” he said in a statement quoted in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. The minister, who along with his party has been pushing to eliminate public fundings towards newspapers, added that he would launch an internal procedure to block funds to Libero.
Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, who is also the leader of the Five Star Movement, condemned the headline in a Facebook post also aimed at pushing his party’s agenda.
“Didn’t we do well in cutting funds to these kinds of newspapers? They will write these stupid things without a euro of public funds,” he wrote.
Italian newspaper editor defends ‘homophobic’ headline
Libero‘s news editor Pietro Senaldi defended the headline during a TV appearance on Wednesday. He said the newspaper was presenting accurate facts and data.
He also claimed that the “but” preceding the words “gay people increase,” was supposed to be “adversarial” and thus presenting good news—an argument that TV host Myrta Merlino soon objected to, pointing to the initial element of the headline—”Not much to be happy about”—framing the data negatively.
Fashion designer and LGBT advocate Bruno Tommassini, who also appeared on the show, remarked that there was good news within the headline.
“The good news is that gay people increase because it is easier for us to be out. Society progresses despite economic problems,” he said.
Tommassini was among the founders of Italy’s LGBT+ rights organisation Arcigay. The current secretary general of the organisation, Gabriele Piazzoni, described the headline as a “boorish attempt to insinuate a link between the two phenomena, the decrease in GDP and a rise in visibility of LGBT people, which obviously have no direct causal link.”
The LGBT advocate condemned the newspaper’s headline choice as instigating hatred.
“Besides saying something false, [the headline] alludes to a bizarre causal relation—Are gay people causing the decline in GDP? Or do economic crises make people gay? Or do gay people bet over economic crises?—and instigate hatred, because whichever interpretation of the headline, the aftertaste is always bitter.”
Piazzoni said the newspaper has a history of “using hate speech” for sensationalist headlines.
“They did this against migrants, Muslims, women, LGBT+ people. But precisely because these headlines are evidently part of a strategy, we are not willing to tolerate them neither to normalise them,” he said, adding that Arcigay would bring forward a complaint to the Order of Journalists, a membership organisation that is meant to act as a press regulator.