Vae victoribus

by Henry Farrell on April 11, 2006

“Matthew Yglesias”: and “Mark Kleiman”: both express the hope that the narrow leftwing victory in Italy’s general elections will lead to a dismantling of Berlusconi’s near-monopoly over Italian broadcast media. This is probably true in the sense that the state owned channels won’t be under Berlusconi’s direct control any more, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up too high. The last time that the left was in power they seemed more interested in internecine squabbles over how the spoils should be divided than in the root-and-branch reform of Italian broadcasting regulation that is certainly necessary. I’d like to hope that things will be different this time around, but I certainly don’t expect it. On the other hand, I’m a little more optimistic about Laura Rozen’s “suggestion”: that more might emerge about the role of Italian intelligence in the Niger forgeries scandal. One of the few things likely to unite the various parties in the Union, which range from Prodi-style former Christian Democrats to Fausto Bertinotti’s Stalinoids is dislike of the George W. Bush administration – a real inquiry might seem just the ticket for uniting the left parties and embarrassing the right.

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04.12.06 at 12:41 pm



lemuel pitkin 04.11.06 at 1:20 pm

So any opinions on Paul Ginsborg here? I rely on him pretty completely for my understanding of Italian politics…


des von bladet 04.11.06 at 1:51 pm

Ginsborg features in the Open University’s first video for the course A221: State, Economy and Nation which I’m taking (in its final year of presentation) this year.

All his segments are filmed with him sitting at a (his?) kitchen table talking about the way a Weberian bureaucracy failed to flourish in Italy but was usurped by “clientalism” and looking like he’s about to start crying.

(Or did you want sensible comments?)


abb1 04.11.06 at 1:56 pm

I get the impression that Italian government can’t really do anything the US doesn’t want them to do; not much sovereignty there. In 1998 a US pilot killed a couple dozen people at an Italian ski resort – was acquitted by a court-martial. Last year the CIA just kidnapped some guy in Milan and took him out of the country – nothing happened. Then there was that story when their security agent was killed in Iraq by the US – nothing at all. Wtf?


lemuel pitkin 04.11.06 at 1:59 pm

No no, sensible comments you can get anywhere. For this stuff you have to come to CT.

(The fact that you’re taking the course implies an opinion anyway. It’s like when you call the pizza place to see if they’re open. “Can I help you?” “You already have.”)


lemuel pitkin 04.11.06 at 2:04 pm

their security agent was killed in Iraq by the US

Not just an agent — he was a major general in the military intelligence and the head of their operations in Iraq. Clientelism and the rest of it, sure, but it says something positive about the political culture that someone of that rank would put himself at risk that way. Can’t imagine an American doing it.


David Weman 04.11.06 at 2:14 pm

“No no, sensible comments you can get anywhere.”

If only that were true.


Gar Lipow 04.11.06 at 3:44 pm

Hmm how sure are you there won’t be some reform? It seems like a no-brainer to pass some sort of anti-monoply or anti-media concentration law. Given how he used his power against the entire left, surely they can take a couple of days off to reduce the power of a mutual enemy before fighting over the spoils?


Justin 04.11.06 at 4:00 pm

Hopefully this will teach the left a lesson about government and privatization. I’m sure Europe set up their state-controlled media with the best of intentions, but it is inevitable that it will end out a tool to support entrenched government interests. Power corrupts.

The logical thing to do is privatize all media sources. I mean really: do *you* want the government providing your news? It is bad enough that the government provides our educations.


C.J.Colucci 04.11.06 at 4:43 pm

“Italian government” is an oxymoron. But I should probably be more humble. My wife and I were in Italy during the 2000 election. Before we left, I had joked that we might see two changes of government while we were there. When I saw what was happening back home (BBC covered it better than I can imagine the US media did), I was tempted to get t-shirts that said in Italian: “Yes, we’re Americans. Please don’t laugh at us.”


derrida derider 04.11.06 at 6:34 pm

If your coalition is fragile it’s a no-brainer to try and hold them together by picking on a common enemy. I’d reckon Prodi would be talking straight away about repealing the special “save Berlusconi’s ass” laws. In the meawhile though, Berlusconi can maybe use his remaining control of news coverage to peel off nervous members of the coalition.

But that’s just what it looks like from a distance – no doubt, in traditional Italian style, there are all sorts of arcane twists and turns involved.


snuh 04.11.06 at 9:34 pm

The logical thing to do is privatize all media sources.

yeah, cause then berlusconi would buy them, and all would be well.


josh 04.11.06 at 10:45 pm

‘I’m sure Europe set up their state-controlled media with the best of intentions, but it is inevitable that it will end out a tool to support entrenched government interests. Power corrupts.’

While I’m generally one to give knee-jerk agreement to Lord Acton’s dictum, I’m not sure that this is really true in this case. The BBC doesn’t seem to me to ever have been a tool for the British government (indeed, I think that Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell and company would be rather surprised to hear the state-owned media described this way).
Now, _private_ media tycoons on the other hand …


John Quiggin 04.12.06 at 1:08 am

I agree with DD and others. Any political party that wouldn’t want to go after an opponent in Berlusconi’s position deserves to lose.


Barry 04.12.06 at 6:11 am

“The logical thing to do is privatize all media sources. I mean really: do you want the government providing your news? It is bad enough that the government provides our educations.”

Posted by Justin ·

As has been said above, then he’d own those sources, also.

Now, since the obvious move is to remove as many sources from Berlusconi’s control as possible, will you support that?


guerrilla radio 04.13.06 at 3:54 pm

Letter to George Bush

Perhaps I’m getting bigheaded, but I want to write to George Bush.

“ Open letter to George Bush.

I’m just a comic and you are a great president at the head of a great and powerful nation. Furthermore, you are also a great friend of our former President of the Council with whom you have many points in common: the Atlantic vision in place of the pacific one, great riches, the exportation of democracy with or without weapons, the personalisation of politics.
Allow me, very humbly, to ask you for an account of your behaviour in relation to Italy and the Italians.
Prodi has won the elections. Heads of State of many nations and the President of the European Community have sent their congratulations to him.
You are almost the only one who hasn’t done this.
And, in this situation, our former President of the Council does not recognise the election result thanks to your support.
You continue to not recognise Prodi as the legitimate winner, elected in free elections.
They were elections managed by the Minister of the Interior as a member of the Government in power.
They were elections in which voting went on according to a liberticida (liberty killing) election law guided through Parliament by your friend and in this case, your voice as a defender of democracy has not been heard.
You are not showing yourself to be a friend of our country and you are probably not even acting in the interests of your country.
If you don’t recognise Prodi, why should Italians recognise you? I believe and hope that your behaviour is simply a temporary institutional distraction. If this is not the case, Italians should ask themselves a few questions.

Why should we allow American Military Bases to be in our country?
Why should we tolerate the presence of American atomic weapons at Ghedi Torre, Brescia and at Aviano, Pordenone?
Why should we allow CIA agents to move around our country as though they were visiting your great ranch in Texas?
Why should we provide finance to a country that at this moment is hostile to us by buying American products, eating in American chains, supporting American companies in Italy?
I’m sure the Italians will know how to find the answers.”

Vik (guerrilla radio)
italian blogger from Milan

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