Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Italian Rapscallion

Via Crooked Timber I found this article first published in a German magazine about Italian politics, and specifically, about Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi. I don't know much about European politics in general and nothing about Italian politics, but I found the article shocking. Assuming even half of what it says is true, Berlusconi is quite probably the most corrupt politician in the West. He's Italy's richest man and owns 90% of the media. He's head of government. He has mafia connections. The Italian parliament passes bills whose only purpose is to benefit companies he owns. The shit he pulls on a routine basis would get him immediately booted from any other Europe government, to say nothing of America.

Italy has an election (tomorrow I think) and Berlusconi's contrived party, formed specifically for him, may be on the way out. The voters have no shortage of reasons (with Italy's zero percent economic growth the headliner) to get rid of him, but Italians are famous for their dolce vita, and Berlusconi has pulled so much crap that their anger has been sapped. In America, we've coined a term for that: "outrage fatigue". The article gives a familar account:

And the voters? "All of us are tired", writes Alberto Scarponi, especially of politics. Week in, week out, Berlusconi grabs attention and headlines with antics that would count as a scandal north of the Alps, so the well of agitation is pretty much dry. The trick of coming up with a new piece of impudence every day grinds down his opponents. A second trick, of denouncing all his critics as "communist" or "anti-Italian" keeps them permanently on the defensive.
Change a few words around, and you could be describing America. I sometimes wonder if Bush could one day just go walking into a McDonalds with an Uzi and start mowing people down, and the next day the media would just kind of shrug and then attack the Democrats for not having a better plan.

Still, it needs to be said, Bush and company are absolute saints compared to Berlusconi. See? It can get worse.