He may be Right, but that’s all right

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PAOLO Di Canio is definitely my new favourite fascist.

There’s not much competition, obviously.

Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator, maybe? And Nick Griffin’s always good for a giggle when watching him struggle with a reasoned counter-argument.

But, as a rule, your common or garden fascist? Just not that agreeable, if you ask me. They wouldn’t ask me, of course. Or, rather, they would. Just the once. And if I gave the wrong answer, I’d probably regret it pretty swiftly.

But there it is. I think when most people think ‘fascists’, they also tend to think ‘massive plonkers’. It’s all that hatred and extremism and, you know, starting World War Two - it just doesn’t make for a great plus one to take to a party.

But PDC, I hold my hands up (both of them, obviously, not just the right one). I like him.

The one time Sheffield Wednesday legend/let-down (delete as your views, er, dictate) was a genius with his feet and genuine with his passion. As a football player, his unpredictably was pure box office. You put him on a pitch, you never knew what would happen. Although you did know the referee was in for an interesting afternoon.

Now, of course, he’s been appointed manager of Sunderland AFC.

And that’s made headlines because old Paolo is, indeed, a self-declared fascist. He has a Mussolini tattoo and was once photographed giving a Nazi salute to the ultra right wing fans of Lazio.

Those views have a little nuance, of course. He calls many of Mussolini’s policies “vile”, insists he’s not racist and has argued, not unconvincingly, that salute has entirely separate connotations in Rome’s working class neighbourhoods where he was raised. He’s also said the Italian government should do more for immigrants.

But such nuance makes not for good headlines. And so this week Di Canio has been painted as the most evil bloke this side of Franco; Sunderland have been hammered for appointing him by everyone from self-serving politicians like David Miliband to assorted characters on the online Owlstalk forum; and, amid the fuss, the really big question has gone unanswered: just what ever happened to Benito Carbone anyway?

Being lined up to replace Dave Jones, maybe? Who knows?

Here’s the thing with Di Canio, though: there is, undoubtedly, something ugly about a 20-something man raising his right hand to a crowd of ultra-hooligans. But there is surely something far uglier about a mob of supposedly anti-intolerants trying to get that same man - 20 years older and wiser - sacked simply because they do not like the things he may or may not still believe.

Because is that in itself not a form of thought-authoritarianism? Intolerance of intolerance is still intolerance, is it not?

So, yes, it is sad Di Canio once declared himself fascist. It is also inconsequential. He is a football manager. He is seeking points, not political office. His beliefs are his own.

In short, those who would have him dismissed for the things he thinks are, basically, fascists themselves.