Andare a fondo di una notizia: “Generalmente sono di piccola statura”

Ad oggi ci sono più di tremila cinquecento pagine web che citano un testo interessante che parte dicendo “Generalmente sono di piccola statura e di pelle scura…”. Questo testo, che descrive con toni molto pregiudiziosi una popolazione di immigrati, potrebbe essere preso da articoli di oggi, invece viene attibuito ad un rapporto del 1912 sull’immigrazione italiana negli USA al Congresso.

Sorprendentemente nessuna di queste pagine cita la fonte e pur rammaricandosi di questo, non mostrano remore nel riportare il testo, e non descrivono tentativi di individuarlo. (No, non ho guardato tutte le migliaia di pagine, ma su quelle che ho guardato non c’era questo tipo di indicazione…)

Esiste un servizio Ask a Librarian della Library Of Congress, che permette di fare a tutti domande ai bibliotecari via internet e questi rispondono entro cinque giorni.

Ho ritradotto verso l’inglese il testo e ho fatto quindi la domanda: si può risalire alla fonte?

Sembra di no. Ma sono bellissime per quanto sono approfondite ed utili le due risposte che ho ricevuto:

Question History:

Patron: To the Digital Reference Section:
I need to locate a report issued to Congress in October 1912 by the USA Immigration Authorities.

The following paragraph—which I am translating back to English from Italian—is being widely quoted in Italy (more than 3000 websites and blogs as of today), without a link to the source, other than the date of the report:

“They are generally of small stature and dark skin. Many are smelly
because they keep the same clothes for weeks. They build shacks in the
suburbs. When they get closer to the city center they rent expensive
apartments in crumbling buildings. They arrive in two looking for a
room with kitchen use. After a few days they become four, six, ten.
They speak incomprehensible languages, maybe antique dialects. Many
children are used to begging, often in front of the church women and
older men plead mercy, with petulant and plaintive tones. They have
many children who they struggle to maintain and they are very united
among themselves. It is said that they are dedicated to theft and, if
stopped, can become violent. Our women avoid them because they are
both unattractive and wild and because of widespread rumors of rapes
of women consumed when returning from work. The powers that be have
opened our borders but, above all, have not been able to select from
among those entering the country to work and those who think they can
live on gimmicks or even criminal activities.

I propose that preference is given to those from Veneto and Lombardy,
slow of understanding and ignorant, but more willing than others to
work. They are suited to homes that Americans refuse so that their
families remain united and they do not dispute the salaries. The
others, those who have reported much of this first report, come from
southern Italy. I invite you to check the documents of origin and
repatriate them. Our security must be the first concern.

Report from the Inspectorate for Immigration in the U.S. Congress on
Italian immigrants in the United States, October 1912.”

Librarian 1: We have been searching for this document without success thus far.  What we can tell you is that there was no official body named “Inspectorate for Immigration” in the United States government in 1912.  That may be a translation error.  There was an Immigration Commission in existence from 1907 to 1910 that issued a 41 volume series of reports, but in 1911.  The following link takes you to a formatted record from our online catalog describing this:
Some of their reports are in Google Books:
There was a United States Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization that issued annual reports covering this time period.  I have requested that these be pulled from the stacks.  I will get back to you with further information after examining them.
Finally, Congress was not in session in October 1912 (<>) but that does not necessarily eliminate the possibility that a document was published with that date.
A document with these paragraphs may exist but it is unlikely that the title is exactly as the one referenced.
I will followup after examining the annual reports referred to above.

Best wishes,
Digital Reference Section
Ask A Librarian Service
The Library of Congress/

Librarian 1: I have looked through documents from the time period such as the annual reports of the United States Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, committee reports of the U.S. Congress, and some of the volumes produced by the Immigrant Commission for evidence of your referenced report without success.   I have determined that the title conferred on those that ran the individual immigration stations located throughout the United States was Inspector.  It is possible that a report issued by an individual station may have had a section on this topic.  I have not been able to find any such thing in the materials I have examined however.
The Library is actually not the repository for the records of Congress or for the various federal agencies.  Those records are held by the National Archives.  If a report was submitted to Congress it would perhaps be kept with the appropriate committee records.  If a report was prepared by a federal agency for Congress it may be found in the administrative files of that particular agency.  These kinds of documents would be held by the National Archives.
The next step in your research will have to be contacting the official repository, the National Archives, and perhaps the Historical Offices affiliated with the Congress.  The following are links to relevant websites that may be worth your exploration.
You may wish to start with the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives:
The following site lists the online finding aids to legislative records:
Browsing through these will help you identify the range of dates records are held by various committees and perhaps a historical overview of relevant committees.  For example, the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization falls under Judiciary Committees:
You’ll find that records for this committee are held at the Archives from 1893-1946.
The following link takes you to a description of the federal agencies that dealt with Immigration and Naturalization:
You’ll see the history of the various agencies within major governmental Departments.  Please note that at no time was there an Inspectorate for Immigration.
You may also wish to contact the Congressional historical offices.  The following links take you to their websites:
House of Representatives:
Research into your request may require extensive examination of documents.  You may wish to consider hiring a freelance researcher as the staff of both the National Archives and the Library of Congress are not available to do extensive research for individual projects for researchers.  The Library of Congress provides a list of researchers you may wish to contact although we do not vouch for them.  The following link takes you to a site that provides access to this list:
The National Archives also provides a list of researchers and they actually provides a breakdown by topic specialty:

I’m sorry I could not be more helpful.  Good luck in your pursuit of identifying this document.  It may be a good idea to try and determine who first posted this material and insist on a more detailed reference to validate its existence before viewing it as an authoritative, credible source.
Best wishes,
Digital Reference Section
Ask A Librarian Service
The Library of Congress

7 commenti su “Andare a fondo di una notizia: “Generalmente sono di piccola statura””

  1. Piuttosto normale che nessuno guarde qui per cercare una fonte a quella notizia? Io ho condiviso su FB il testo, ma ho lasciato comento che cercherò la fonte… vedo che sei andato prima…
    Ma.. mi chiedo.. siamo delle pecore? tutti vano dietro alla storia drammatica e lasciano il cervello spento… ayss brutta fine ad un popolo che non pensa… auguri e buona vita!

  2. Francesco Mollaioli

    nothing strange about that report. Most Italians migrating abroad, were poor and dirty. When in the early 60 I went to Switzerland for the 1st time, in a Swiss paper I found the story of an Italian that was growing a pig in the bath tub. Things like that were common. Others grew tomatoes in the bath tub.That’s why in many places there was written: no Italians and no dogs.
    Imagine what could have been 60 years before.

  3. David io non so se quel testo esista davvero e non intendo sposare una causa o l’altra. Noto però che la tua richiesta ad AALS si basa su una RI-TRADUZIONE in inglese, effettuata da te a partire dal testo in italiano. Temo che senza il testo originale qualsiasi tentativo di rintracciare il passaggio in un archivio risulti monco. Tu sai bene che la tua ri-traduzione, per quanto corretta, potrebbe coincidere solo in minima parte con lo scritto originale. A causa del lessico e della sintassi mutati nel tempo, a causa dei possibili sinonimi, a causa delle libertà di resa che può essersi preso il traduttore originale, ecc.E, presumo, la ricerca negli USA sia fatta in archivi digitali per parole chiave, o stringhe di parole o per l’intero testo. Cosa ne pensi?

  4. Naturalmente hai ragione. Diciamo che se la ricerca avesse avuto esito positivo, anche in quel caso il mio messaggio di fondo sarebbe stato valido: troppo poche persone verificano, persino tra i giornalisti, le notizie che vengono allegramente riportate. Andare a fondo alla notizia non è perché si vuole che questa sia falsa o vera, ma perché fa parte delle necessità di un mondo iperconnesso poter effettuare verifiche veloci ma importanti.

  5. Assolutamente vero. Gravissimo per un giornalismo ormai solo di nome, che verifica le fonti in modo superficiale – quando le verifica – e inquietante per la gente comune. Per la quale ogni boutade da social oramai diventa realtà inconfutabile. Eppure, per dimostrare quanto le informazioni 2.0 siano ‘pericolose’, senza verifica o in assenza di un background solido, basterebbe raccontare le due ‘vecchie’, anche se piuttosto innocue, bufale di Dante sui bambini e di Neruda sulla ‘lenta morte’. Riprese e diffuse da milioni e milioni, anche tra le persone colte.

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