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June 16, 2009

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Wow. And if you squint *just so*, Berlusconi prestidigitates (not to be outdone by "funambulesque")into B-U-S-H.

As someone with relatives in Italy, who's discussed Italian politics at some length, I can assure you that Berlusconi is much worse than Bush. As vehemently as I disliked GWB's policies, none but the most moonbat tinfoil-hatted leftist would claim that he exerted direct control over the press to suppress coverage of his scandals and discredit his political opponents; it's fairly uncontroversial to say that Berlusconi has done so. That in addition to the fact that most of Bush's worst inclinations (on torture, civil liberties, etc.) Berlusconi shares in spades.

As bad as American politics can be at times, I'm never not glad they're not Italian politics.

Berlusconi is disgusting, but so is dehumanization. Calling people a virus, a poison... Let me think, sounds familiar somehow...

"this is the thing that the Italian people have elected twice to serve them as a role model"

I really wish people would stop insisting that we vote role models into office. This is not specific to Berlusconi (I know very little about the man or his politics, and what little I know is not flattering), but in general, voters are not children in desperate need of someone to look up to. We elect (or should elect) leaders, not role models.

Let me think, sounds familiar somehow...

Indeed, once a writer starts engaging in flamboyantly over-the-top dehumanization of Silvio Berlusconi, it's only a few steps to hunting Italians for sport.

From the link:

the following is EcoLogics’ translation of an article that appeared in El Pais (Spain), and that was penned by the Nobel prize-winning author, José Saramago. Saramago has written a series of scathingly critical articles about Berlusconi, and a Berlusconi-controlled publishing house has retaliated by stopping the publication in the Italian language of one of Saramago’s latest works.

So, you know, this is (a translation of) venting against a particular person he thinks has done him wrong. If you think that this is identical to "All [category of people] are viruses, and literally need to be wiped out," well, I just hope you never wander into a faculty meeting at budget time. You'll be hitting the speed dial for the International Criminal Court like mad.

This doesn't necessarily excuse Saramago's overheated rhetoric. But I still think there's a category difference between "Silvio Berlusconi is a cancer on the body politic" and "Liberals cheer for the deaths of our troops." Perhaps I'd feel differently, though, if it weren't Berlusconi.

"I'm never not glad they're not Italian politics."

This made me dizzy.

The biggest problem with Berlusconi is the Italian left. Much like their French counterparts, they appear incapable of offering a coherent candidate or a sensible government.

Hence Berlusconi, who is at least a single figure and identifiable. Maybe the Italian and French left should try a summer camp in Spain?

(see further re Berlusconi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPTPO_G1mfU)

Eric, sorry about the triple negative - I actually did spend a minute pondering whether to phrase my point that way, but decided to go with it as the only way to rhetorically express my preference for the ambivalent over the grotesque. I think, however, that my middle school English teacher is spinning in her grave.

Xeynon,

As a long time follower of Berlusconi's role in Italian politics (and Italian politics in general), I can only say that your phrasing was rather appropriate. Captures the spirit well.

A message from the translator of the Berlusconi Thing: A reader (’Greenrobyn’) has kindly pointed out an error in the translation (and it is an error in the translation, not in Saramago’s original document): Italian unification occurred in the 19th century, and not in the 18th. EcoLogics has updated the document accordingly. Please do the same here.

As vehemently as I disliked GWB's policies, none but the most moonbat tinfoil-hatted leftist would claim that he exerted direct control over the press to suppress coverage of his scandals and discredit his political opponents; it's fairly uncontroversial to say that Berlusconi has done so.

Maybe, but note that Berlusconi's considerable power over Italian media is largely derived from his busness interests, rather than his position as head of government. It's therefore misleading to talk about Bush exercsing no direct media control over US media comperable to Berlusconi in Italy--financial interests largely favorable to Bush exercised such control.

financial interests largely favorable to Bush exercised such control.

True, but there was at least the possibility that they would turn against Bush if he failed to do their will.

The odds of Berlusconi's media turning against him are nil, no matter how insane his policies and behavior get.

It's therefore misleading to talk about Bush exercising no direct media control over US media compaerable to Berlusconi in Italy

No it isn't. Berlusconi owns chunks of it, Bush did not, nor did anyone reliably close to him. And Bush would not in a pink fit behave as Berlusconi does, as you will appreciate if you check out this video.

Hi, Hilzoy: Interesting word, "funambulesque". I'll try to remember it.

BTW, Italian unification occurred in the 19TH, not the 18th century. When the Kingdom of Savoy conquered the other Italian states.

I know little about Berlusconi, except he does seem to be rather a clown. But I would let the Italians pick who they want as PM. From what little I know of Italian politics, the range of choices seems pretty dismal. And by that I mean many Italian pols seem to be as seedy and venal as the British pols in the "expenses scandal."

Sincerely,

If anything, I think Saramango vastly understates the case.

"I really wish people would stop insisting that we vote role models into office. This is not specific to Berlusconi (I know very little about the man or his politics, and what little I know is not flattering), but in general, voters are not children in desperate need of someone to look up to. We elect (or should elect) leaders, not role models."

Berlusconi actually does market (and market is the appropriate word here) himself as a role model for Italians. And he often slyly implies that if Italians become rich like him, they too can then enjoy (and yes, enjoy is the right word here) breaking the laws as he does. It's vastly more decadent than what we'd see in the US or UK, even in cases like Bush or Blair.

The translation, which is excellent, may tend to obscure one part of what Saramago is implying with his choice of words. The original editorial is titled "La cosa Berlusconi", which to a native speaker is a clear allusion to La Cosa Nostra/Nuestra. In addition to calling Berlusconi a virus, he's calling him a gangster.

Re Patrick @ 11:39: I don't know for sure, but I'd have to assume GWB was in more than just "a pink fit" when he did this...

Did you watch the video I linked to Xanax?

Did you know Berlusconi is (so I've heard) Italian? That is different to Bush. But actually, they were apparently both rich and were both elected to the highest political office in their respective countries, so they are kinda similar. A commentator on obsidianwings even told me that they both controlled the media, so that is similar too.

Yes, I give up.

The word "funambules" shows up in the wonderful, relatively recent film "Man on Wire," but film buffs are more likely to remember it as the theater where Jean-Louis Barrault's mime performs in the even more wonderful, not so recent "Children of Paradise."

Of course I watched your linked video, Patrick. Agreed. One chauvinist pig fake-humped a female cop from behind and the other gave actual "neck-noogies" from behind to the female Chancellor of Germany.

They're both stupid, juvenile, degrading, frat-boy gestures.

But yeah, one's Italian, the other's Texan.

So what?

Besides, what does that have to do with Emmanuelle Béart?

What Patrick said at 10:27 a.m., except for the youtube link, which is a gag. That's not Berlusconi, although this makes it understandable (link not work safe).

A group in Italy is pushing SB for the Nobel Peace Prize, btw.

Hilzoy, Saramago has a blog here that is great. It's only in Spanish and Portuguese and I don't know if you read in those languages, but if not and you see something interesting, let me know and I'll translate for you.

BTW, if anyone wants to read probably the best researched book on SB, I cannot recommend The Sack of Rome enough. It's a gripping read (I got through about half of it on a ten hour flight from Sao Paulo).

A group in Italy is pushing SB for the Nobel Peace Prize, btw.

?? What, the Northern League?

"A group in Italy is pushing SB for the Nobel Peace Prize, btw."

There have been more inappropriate awarded, and a lot more inappropriate nominated.

Hitler, for instance. Nominated. Arafat, awarded.

"There have been more inappropriate awarded, and a lot more inappropriate nominated."

Every year we have a discussion wherein I point out that "nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize" is a meaningless concept. Thousands and thousands of people can send in nominations. Big whoop.

And who is actually nominated on this vast list is kept secret for fifty years, anyway.

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