There’s more to that ‘racist’ meme of Samuel L. Jackson and Magic Johnson than meets the eye
It’s certainly a zany story with a catchy headline — Italians mistake actor Samuel L. Jackson and legendary basketball player Magic Johnson for “lazy migrants.” But there’s much more to the story than a clickbaity title, and it taps into a widespread debate on populism, racism, and immigration.
It all started when left-wing satirical writer Luca Bottura posted on Facebook a meme of Jackson and Johnson on holiday in Forte dei Marmi for what he later described as a “social experiment”— in a nutshell, to troll migrant-haters in the country.
The caption reads: “Boldrini’s resources in Forte dei Marmi shop at Prada with our €35. Share this picture if you are outraged!!!”
It’s a derogatory reference to Laura Boldrini, president of the lower house in Italy — the UK equivalent would be the Speaker of the House of Commons — who is a champion for migrants’ rights in the country.
Bottura’s meme intentionally mimics in style and language similar hate memes that are being shared all over social media by supporters of far-right and anti-immigration parties in Italy, such as the Northern League.
Their trolling strategy routinely focuses on Boldrini, who in February published an open letter to Facebook founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, calling him out for failing to control hate speech and fake news on the platform.
Boldrini has been the target of rape threats and recently posted some of these messages on Facebook, along with the hashtag #AdessoBasta (#EnoughNow).
Bottura’s intention was to test how many Italians on Facebook would take the bait and fall for the fake meme.
And naturally many did, though not all of them as those articles want you to believe.
As Bottura later said on Facebook: “The meme was shared thousands of times and 40% of people understood the provocation, 30% were outraged and 20% thought it was a racist meme and I had failed to recognise Samuel Jackson and Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, (I will not reveal the 10 per cent).”
But his attempt kind of backfired when Nina Moric, a Croatian fashion model who lives in Italy, re-shared the picture with a similar caption:
Moric recently expressed her support for Casa Pound, a far-right political movement which is considered the new face of fascism in Italy.
So obviously many people took her post seriously — thinking she failed to recognise Jackson and Johnson — and started schooling the model on the real identity of the people in the picture.
However, Moric made it clear from the very first reactions to the comments that she was just trolling her critics.
Just a few minutes after the post, someone objected: “But he’s the American actor.” To which she replied: “You’re the life and soul of the party.”
Another one said: “Nina Moric, you’re an idiot,” before sharing an article mentioning Samuel L. Jackson and Magic Johnson at Forte dei Marmi.
The model responded: “Ladies and gentlemen we have a winner. He even brought us some evidence!”
Moric was clearly enjoying this piece of trolling.
She later said: “Each comment causes me a respiratory crisis [from laughter]. Please, stop”
There’s no denial that the debate on immigration and racism is spiralling out of control in Italy.
But exercising some critical thought is key if you don’t want to feed the trolls and lose yourself in that holier-than-thou attitude.