Videocracy, Berlusconi and Italy’s Three Hard Years Ahead

The next three years – that is, up to the 2013 elections – will be the toughest for Italy’s democracy, its Constitution and Italians in general.

In the meantime, the recent regional elections have given a strong boost to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s populist model of governing.

Berlusconi believes that by winning elections he is mandated to do whatever he wants, including changing Italy’s Constitution and radically modifying the balance of powers that has kept Italian democracy in check for the past six decades.

The minority, the opposition, does not exist in his plans to change the country and transform it into a corporation, where he is CEO.

In the past few days he has repeated his intentions to change the role of the President of the Republic, who today is elected by the Parliament and does not have executive powers.

Berlusconi wants the president to be directly elected by the people, handing him (or her, even though Italy is still far from being an equal society) executive powers. That is a radical change for Italy’s system of balance of powers.

Whether that is a model Italy should embrace is a matter of political science, but when it is Berlusconi who aspires to change the Constitution to take advantage of the changes, then it becomes a matter of attacking democracy in order to achieve personal goals.

There is no doubt that his control over most of Italy’s TV media has a direct effect on a majority of Italians who get their news only from television, thus forming an opinion solely through the messages coming from the screen. Anyone stating the contrary is either an idiot or is shamelessly in favor of a new type of crippled democracy: Videocracy.

According to the Italy’s Agency for Communications, Berlusconi’s Freedom’s Party took up between 50 and 60 percent of TV news space between March 14 and March 20, just one week prior to the elections. The second biggest exposure was given to the opposing Democratic Party, at 25 percent. That is a huge and anti-democratic representation on the most intrusive type of media. Television, said writer Pier Paolo Pasolini, is in many ways an “anti-democratic” medium, where listeners are forced to do just that: listen, without any space for debate or intellectual confrontation. Just look at what Glenn Beck can do with the minds of so many on Fox News.

The late journalist Indro Montanelli once said that Italians deserved a bit of Berlusconi in order to be vaccined from him once and for all. He said it in 2001. Nine years later, Berlusconi is still in power, stronger than ever.

Time will tell if Italians are truly interested in democracy or if they will just idly sit and wait for change to come, just like in 1943, when it took losing a war and the Nazi occupation of the north to convince most Italians that Mussolini was not the right person to guide the country.

In the meantime, he had ruled for 20 years.


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