Field of Science

Why did the Italians elect Berlusconi again?

Silvio Berlusconi, Italian Prime Minister, entrepreneur, real estate and insurance tycoon, bank and media proprietor, sports team owner, songwriter, psycho-dwarf. His coalition lost the election by the slimmest margin imaginable in the 2006 election, but won it all back this year in April.

The victory of Romano Prodi and his L'Unione coalition in 2006 was deservedly covered widely by international news media, while Berlusconi's 2008 victory.... let's just say "not so much." Why was that? Just because it wasn't the insanely tight race that the 2006 election was, or did his victory somehow mean less to the rest of Europe and the World?

Well, never mind why there was more euphoria over getting rid of Berlusconi in 2006 than there was over getting him back in 2008. To me, the real mystery is rather why the Italian people keeps electing this buffoon.

While the media outside Italy has entertained us with reports of Berlusconi's weird behavior (at least for a statesman), credible sources inform me that the Italian media apparently aren't as eager to divulge. Wikipedia has a nice collection of his blunders, including his statement that Mussolini had been a benign dictator who did not murder opponents but sent them "on holiday.", and an assurance that Russian President Medvedev should have any problems establishing good relations with Obama, because he is young, handsome, and even tanned. The newspapers do write about these incidents, but the question is whether the Italians read newspapers with as little interest as the average American (or even as little as Bush and Palin, who reads "all of them").

While such idiotic behavior (again, for a statesman*) can and did cause international relations to suffer, the real curse of Berlusconi is his policies, especially those that are enacted to save his own skin from charges of corruption, and to allow him to retain control of his three national TV channels. This same control of three of six national TV channels is also what keeps him in power. It should be a surprise to no one that a politician who owns half of the country's TV channels should have a major advantage in elections. Being rich helps too.

In addition to firm control over the popular media, Berlusconi is also rumored to have connections with both the Mafia and the Catholic Church (yes, they are separate, I trust). With these powerful allies, and a large fraction of the population intimidated by computers and the internet, it starts to be less of a wonder why Italy has a clown for president, while the rest of the World watches with pity. Not much different from the Worlds reaction to Bush's reelection in 2004, I suppose.

However, there is hope. Just as the older American generation is the more conservative one, so it is in Italy. Younger people are much more comfortable with the news media, and are therefore better suited to finding the information that is so crucial in being informed voters. Berlusconi has perhaps foreseen this development, and a "blogger-killer" law is therefore in the workings (please see the update below). Among other things, it includes this:
Every blog that does not register with ROC can be denounced for the crime of “clandestine publishing”: two years in prison and financial sanctions.
A blogger can choose to register with ROC and run the risk of one of the innumerable criminal and civil actions on the crimes via the printed word that go back to the “Codice Rocco” of fascist times, or alternatively, enter clandestinity before entering prison. Basically he can hang himself or shoot himself in the head.
Check out Beppe Grillo's "Free Blogger" initiative to thwart such fascist measures against the free flow of information.

* I keep saying "for a statesman", because I know that I could have made similar statements - except I really would be joking, and would have to be under the influence of alcohol.

Update 11/17:
Strangely, it is not Berlusconi and his coalition that wrote this new law, but the opposition, led by Veltroni. Thus Beppe Grillo writes about Veltrusconi, when the two seem to be working together. Here it would seem that it would not be in the best interest of the opposition to enact this law to diminish the free flow of information. What gives!?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Markup Key:
- <b>bold</b> = bold
- <i>italic</i> = italic
- <a href="">FoS</a> = FoS