“Those Lazy [Black] Immigrants!”

Italian journalist Luca Bottura spotted these guys hanging out last Friday in a picture on his Twitter-feed, and just had to sound the alarm:

Basically: “Here’s your government money, these guys go shopping for Prada with their €35! Share this if you are as angry as I am!” And that one-word comment up top: “Shame!”

The key element here was the €35 part, this is the daily money the Italian government provides refugees to survive on while their individual asylum cases are being processed. Meanwhile: what a good life, eh? Sitting around with their new Prada clothes, smilin’, jivin’ – all on the Italian taxpayer’s dime!

Not really, though. Surely most of you recognized these guys, namely the movie star Samuel L. Jackson and the LA Lakers basketball legend Magic Johnson. Lately they’ve been on vacation together in Italy (Capri, Sorrento, that sort of thing) along with their families and other friends. This tweet from Magic Johnson’s own feed shows what was really going on:

How could Bottura get things so wrong? He didn’t; he’s a journalist and columnist for the Corriere della Sera newspaper (and other media outlets, including radio), but he’s mainly known as a satirist, and here he was trying something out, seeing how far he could push the widespread prejudice and resentment against refugees among the Italian population, to see who took the bait.

Indeed, his tweet was widely spread, also through Facebook, and attracted a good bit of racist comment. The biggest fish Bottura caught was Nina Morić, a Croatian model who lives in and is relatively well-known in Italy; once the truth about these gentlemen was out, Ms. Morić then claimed that her own unseemly reaction to Bottura’s tweet was her just playing around as well, to fool all the rubes.

That truth was out as of last Sunday, two days after he had set things going, and Bottura also shared some interesting statistics:

The meme was shared thousands of times. Forty percent grasped the provocation, thirty percent were angry about it, twenty percent found it to be racist and scolded me for not recognizing Samuel L. Jackson and Magic Johnson. Ten percent passed it on with no comment.

Yes, that “forty percent” part is confusing; I interpret that forty percent gave indications that they understood the surface meaning of the incident, i.e. that something “wrong” was being depicted, but did not comment on it further. But you see, I had to translate Bottura’s report at second-hand, from the Dutch that had been translated from the Italian, since a write-up in the Flemish newspaper De Morgen was my main source and how I found out about this in the first place. Otherwise, reports are only starting to creep onto the edges of the EN-language press, such as Mashable (with more detail on the source of that government money) and . . . er . . . the Quebec Times.

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