Archive for April, 2010

In a dictatorship it is important to keep all opposing voices quiet. Dissent is not allowed, while cheering and clapping without thinking is always encouraged.

This past Sunday, April 25, was the 65th anniversary of the Italian liberation from nazi-fascism. It is a national holiday in Italy and is celebrated, or at least used to be celebrated, to remember the resistance that so many Italians opposed against Nazi and fascist forces in occupied northern Italy during World War II.

These forces’ success allowed Italy to become a Republic, with universal suffrage (finally) and one of the most advanced Constitutions at the time.

Article 21 of that Constitution is the right to free speech. It is an article that has always bothered Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who openly demonstrated his disgust for freedom of speech last week, when he humiliated Gianfranco Fini, his closest ally, in front of their Partito della Libertà Party. Berlusconi had not liked some words of criticism previously expressed by Fini.

Going back to April 25, this year’s celebration was pretty low-key.

Berlusconi was in Milan’s Scala theater, alongside many important Italian representatives. The President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, was also present.

In the video down here you will see what happens in a debilitated democracy. Dissent is suppressed with force, but this force will not be shown on TV, the main source of information for most Italians, because that TV is controlled by the same people who suppress freedom of speech. If the episode is shown, the news surrounding it will be distorted to accomodate one view… the government’s.

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As I was watching live footage of Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his main political ally, Gianfranco Fini, yell at each other during a meeting of their Partito della Libertà Party, I couldn’t stop thinking about Mussolini.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and President of the Chamber of Deputies Gianfranco Fini yelling at each other.

For some reason, my mind started imagining how Berlusconi would apply certain fascist techniques to punish his ally, who has been mumbling and groaning over the past few days, expressing some concerns about the direction in which the party is going. Keep in mind that Fini is the one most likely to take over Berlusconi’s position within the Party once the media-emperor leaves his throne vacant.

Then I realized I was actually witnessing a fascist technique right in front of my eyes: “Internal exile.”
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This article has been published on The Huffington Post on April 18, 2010.

Every morning, just before opening the dozens of Italian news websites I look at each day, I prepare myself mentally to some other embarrassing statement by Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

But what I read this morning wasn’t embarrassing. It was shocking and repulsive.

Silvio Berlusconi, in a famous picture take April 19, 2008, as he pointed a virtual machine-gun at a Russian journalist.

During a press conference on the Italian government’s efforts to fight the mafia, Berlusconi started criticizing the “promotional support” that certain TV series or literature, such as Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano, give to the mafia.

First of all, let me say that the statement is simply ridiculous. It’s equivalent to saying that Nazism is famous because Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel wrote about it.

I don’t know if Berlusconi ever read the book Gomorrah, but his statements tell me he hasn’t.

Gomorrah is a powerful, courageous and journalistically impeccable piece of non-fiction, which brilliantly exposes facts, events, court rulings and arrests involving members of the Camorra, the organized crime prevalent in the southern Campania region.

I find Berlusconi’s statement shocking because he implies that reading about the mafia is counter-productive. Maybe Berlusconi also implies that reading in general is counter-productive. Reading gives people knowledge. The nazis burned books because it was not tollerable to have an alternative truth to the one pronounced by the regime.

In modern-day regimes, in which a few powerful people continue to rape their country’s democratic constitution, books aren’t being burnt. It isn’t necessary. All you need is a TV channel, a lot of money and a number of dumb shows to keep the mind occupied until it becomes total mush and people stop thinking.

Berlusconi has done just that. In the 1980s he introduced Italians to all sorts of TV-trash through his three private channels (one of which has been ruled illegal and unconstitutional) and now is happily joining forces with the racist and xenophobe Lega Nord party to change Italy’s constitution and the delicate balance of powers between president, government and parliament.

I also find Berlusconi’s criticism of Gomorrah repulsive.

It is repulsive in that Berlusconi doesn’t mention that that book has cost its author his freedom because the Camorra clans surrounding Naples have set out to kill him.

Roberto Saviano, author of Gomorra

Berlusconi willingly omits that Roberto Saviano is under 24/7 police protection and in hiding ever since the book was published. By telling the truth about Campania’s organized crime, Saviano has paid a high price and should be considered a hero. Criticizing him, his book or just the idea of writing a book on mafia means the government does not like people like Saviano going around telling the truth.

I find it impossible to justify Berlusconi’s point of view. Essentially, what he’s saying is that fighting organized crime should be a job left solely to the government and police forces. Literature is not contemplated in his plans to fight mafia.

What Berlusconi doesn’t understand, or maybe he’s just pretending to not understand, is that the only way to fight mafia efficiently is to let people know about it, about how its mechanisms work, about how complicated and well organized the criminal groups are and how these groups influence the lives of so many people who might not want anything to do with mafia, but find themselves living next door to it.

Arresting hundreds or thousands of members of the Mafia, of the Camorra, of the ‘Ndrangheta, of the Sacra Corona Unita, will do no good if it is not sided by a serious and efficient educational campaign. People can always be replaced.

If I were Berlusconi, I would praise Saviano and his efforts to illuminate the situation and would make it a mandatory book to read in all of Italy, because the book involves the entire nation. It is such a tragic and true story that I’m sure only good can come out of it when younger generations grow up with the knowledge of what’s happening to their brothers and sisters in and around Naples.

By now, you’d think Francesco Di Stefano would be well known among Italians. Unfortunately, he’s not.

After 11 years of legal battles and millions of euros spent, Di Stefano can finally see his dream come true: He will be able to open a national TV channel in the Berlusconi-dominated media landscape of Italy.

Di Stefano’s story, which has never made the headlines, explains all too well why Berlusconi can still today hold such a vast media empire and be prime minister, without anyone seriously challenging his blatant conflict of interests.

In mid-1999, Di Stefano won a public contract from the Italian Ministry of Communications to establish a national TV channel that would reach at least 80 percent of Italian households. But there was a problem: The frequency his TV, Europa 7, was supposed to get was already occupied by Rete 4, one of Silvio Berlusconi’s three private TV channels. (The other two being Canale 5 and Italia 1)

Francesco Di Stefano

Although Rete 4’s occupancy had been ruled unlawful based on a 1997 anti-concentration law, the Ministry of Communications did little more than shrug its shoulders, acknowledging that it was physically impossible for Europa 7 to get a frequency.

Di Stefano, who at the time spent little over $8 million to get the frequency, wasn’t going to give up that easily.
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Poland is living one of its largest collective tragedies since the end of World War II.

Gazeta Wyborcza

Dziennik Polski


Zycie Warszawy


Gosc Niedzielny

The presidential plane crashed earlier today as it attempted to land in North Smolensk, in Western Russia, where a celebration was to be held commemorating the thousands of Polish officers killed by Soviet secret police.

On board were President Lech Kaczynski, the army chief of staff, national bank president, deputy foreign minister, army chaplain, head of the National Security Office, deputy parliament speaker, civil rights commissioner and at least two presidential aides and three lawmakers, the Polish foreign ministry said. In all, 96 people lost their lives.

The most viewed news-websites in Poland all changed their banners and headers, turning them to black and white and adding a black ribbon in sign of grievance. Some changed their entire front page to black and white.

For over ten years an Italian freelance journalist has been making up interviews. Is he a nutcase or has he been out on a propaganda mission? I’m convinced of the latter, and I’ll explain why.

Tommaso Debenedetti is (was) an Italian freelance journalist who has been caught making up interviews with Nobel laureates, former presidents, international literary superstars and other important names.

Judith Thurman, for the New Yorker magazine, dug deeper into a lead that had been picked up earlier by the Italian blogosphere: Interviewed by daily newspaper La Repubblica, novelist Philip Roth said he never heard of Debenedetti, even though Debenedetti’s signature is on at least five “interviews” with Roth.

So Thurman made a few phone calls and soon found out Debenedetti, who comes from a family of famous and respected literary critics, had made up a whole bunch of interviews.

Here’s a short list of people allegedly interviewed by Debenedetti: Philip Roth, Elie Wiesel, Gore Vidal, Ken Follett, Paul Grisham, Noam Chomsky, Joseph Ratzinger (just before becoming Pope), Mikhail Gorbachev, Günter Grass, Herta Müller, Wilbur Smith, Nadine Gordimer… just to name a few.

What is incredible is that Debenedetti, on the phone with Thurman, denied fabricating any interview, adding he had either lost or thrown away documental evidence of his interviews.

At this point, it seems clear that Debenedetti is a liar.
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Every day I grow more convinced that what we are fed by the media is what we end up being interested in…

Tiger Woods.

We want to read, see, hear about Tiger Woods because everyone is talking about him. That’s all TV is spitting out at us.

The media feeds unimportant news to us and we gobble it all up. And we’re happy. We’re happy because we get to fall asleep in front of the TV screen. Our brains aren’t forced to think constantly. There is no need to worry. Look, Woods has it much worse. Or does he?
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When it comes to leading a lavish lifestyle and spending heaps of money on extravagant expenses, such as fancy hotels or bondage-themed clubs, some members of the Republican National Committee have lots to learn from one famous Italian politician

Starting today, their new model should be Silvio Berlusconi, the ultimate partier.

He celebrates the 18th birthday party of an unknown girl who he’s been inviting to various events for some time; he spends the night of Nov. 4, when the world was celebrating Barack Obama’s election, in his bed with a professional escort; and he has built a castle-like mansion in Sardinia where men and women can roam around naked.

And what happens to him? Nothing.
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I’m sure President Obama doesn’t want to go through the pain of seeing another major reform take a year or more to pass, and risking not to see anything else pass if Republicans gain more ground after this year’s mid-term elections in November.

But his decision to go ahead and – to use a Republican tune – “drill, baby, drill” off U.S. shores is probably the most disappointing decision of his presidency so far.

It’s a true 180 degree flip from what he said during the 2008 presidential campaign and in several other occasions, as is clearly shown in this video. He has justified opening wide stretches of U.S. coastlines to offshore exploration and drilling as “part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy.”

What’s the difference between foreign fossil fuels and homegrown fuels? How long is it going to take to switch to clean energy? Why are we wasting time and money to go drill in areas that might not have that much oil after all, instead of investing time, energy and money to study, develop and build renewable sources of energy now?
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