Berlusconi: Slime Appeal
Yesterday I gave a rally speech completely off the cuff to a crowd of several hundred. It happens alarmingly often these days, but what was completely new was a reporter chasing me back through the crowd afterwards for an interview. Was it my desire to open a cultural battle front with the BNP? No, it was my linking of the BNP to Europe’s most extreme ruler, Media Mogul and Mussolini fanboy Silvio Berlusconi.
I actually got quite a few cheers for my attack on Berlusconi, not, I think, because I said anything moving, but because so few people actually link him to the BNP, despite the similarities the two political forces share. The difference being, Berlusconi is in power, and further more, he has allowed vigilantes the freedom to tackle immigration in the way they see fit.
With regards to the BNP, this is exactly why the formation and growth of the English Defence League, who were so roundly defeated in Birmingham a week earlier than the rally I was addressing, is such a worrying development. The BNP have chosen the path of electoral victory, despite their own acknowledgement that this path will not ultimately be the one to bring them into power. And so a parallel organisation is required, and that is where the EDL comes in, and where parallels to Berlusconi’s sanctioning of vigilantism becomes relevant. Not some random other organisation but the street fighting force of Griffin himself. And thankfully, in Birmingham at least, they lost. Not that there should ever have been a battle in the first place, but that the immediate result being so very decisive, is probably a good thing over all.
But Berlusconi is man of many dangers. I could list his role in the compromising of media independence, his far-right views and celebration of Mussolini, his crack down on immigration, his attacks on Roma freedom, or indeed his sex life. But what is it that the Catholic Church has to say about him? Oh, its the sex life.
Never mind that this man breaks every hospitality and “treatment of aliens” commandment in the bible. Never mind the abuse of power he seems to be creating. Oh no, its the sex life. Its not often I want to go on a tirade about the Catholic Church, but this is one of them. One has to ask whether this is a Catholic Church that actually has turned its back on its support for Hitler. Where is the social teaching? Or doesn’t that matter when its a Prime Minister?
And as to Berlusconi himself; why have his approval ratings not dropped throughout all of this? Is there some sense in which his resolute refusal to admit he has done anything wrong, essentially legitimising his extra-marital sex, consorting with young women and some of his more Mafiosi dealings are actually just an affirmation of Italian men as being a little corrupt and regularly promiscuous? Is there an extent to which voters, especially male voters, identify with Berlusconi as a man who is promiscuous inside marriage and a little corrupt?
Of course, we’ve seen this argument before: the old “Homer Simpson Effect” that seemed to propel George Bush Jnr into people’s heats and minds as being ‘someone who thinks on their level’, rather difficult in a country with such an appalling education system where the richest sliver of population get such blatantly better education, and therefore the bulk of the population struggles to connect with them intellectually.
In some ways, Berlusconi is a man who represents the end of an era in which the politician was meant to represent all that was good in people’s aspirations, rather than appeal to people’s immorality and lack of ethical interest, a man for whom “yes, but I could have done the same thing too” is good enough. Is he just the acceptable face of a “realisation” that we will never solve the world’s problems, so lets just trash the place and have a good time? I do rather wonder how else one could explain the popularity of a man for whom there is so little that is truly beneath him, to whom ethics and morality seem such unnecessary add-ons in public life.