Beppe Grillo attacks September 21, 2007Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, internet, italian blogs, news, politics.
Since everybody seems to have an opinion about Beppe Grillo these days, I cannot subtract myself from joining the crowd. So here are some thoughts, which I put together after seeing on public italian TV a talk-show, “Annozero”. Annozero is anchored by Michele Santoro (see picture below), formerly one of those journalists and comedians who Berlusconi fired from public television with his famous “bulgarian edict”, and who has now returned to his original job after winning a lawsuit against his employer. Yesterday Santoro broadcast parts of the show Grillo organized in Piazza Maggiore, in the heart of Bologna, on September 8th – the “Vaffa-day” -, and discussed the event and the ensuing reactions in the italian political arena.
If you do not have an idea of what I am talking about, let me set the stage by telling you who Beppe Grillo is. Beppe is an italian comedian who once used to base many of his comical jokes on italian politicians and their misdemeanors. He was banned from television a long time ago, after his satire bit the flesh of the Socialist party led by the late Bettino Craxi (on the right in the picture below with his longtime friend Silvio Berlusconi), then Prime Minister, in one of his television shows. The pun was something like this:
Craxi and Martelli – his protege’ – are in China for a visit. Martelli asks his master in disbelief: “So here everybody’s a socialist? But then whom can they steal money from?“.
Despite the ban by Craxi and his socialist longa manus, Grillo continued to work as a comedian, adding to the focus on corrupt politicians other themes like civil battles against pollution, exploitation of the workforce, the corrupt financiary system and its frauds, and similar issues.
Then, a few years ago Beppe opened a blog. It was at once a huge success, and the site is now visited more than a million times per month (according to www.technorati.com the site is the 12th blog worldwide).
One of the battles Grillo has been fighting most ardently is directed against politicians and the system of parties in Italy – which after 1992 and the resulting scandals dubbed “Tangentopoli” (bribery town) have not really changed for better. He spotted 25 members of the italian parliament who have been sentenced for misdemeanors or crimes, and still sit there and collect a hefty paycheck at the end of the month. Grillo proposes a law which would
- prevent any citizen found guilty by a court of law to sit in the parliament;
- prevent members of the parliament from being elected more than twice;
- enforce that candidates to the parliament are chosen directly by the citizens with their vote, as opposed to today’s practice of being determined by party leaders.
Beppe proceeded to organize a “V-day” on September 8th, when events were scheduled in gatherings throughout Italy to collect signatures (50,000 are needed to propose a law to the parliament). He held a show in Bologna, and 300,000 signatures were actually collected – not more, for lack of forms.
By the way, the meaning of “V-day” is “vaffanculo-day”, where vaffanculo is a quite common vulgar exclamation one directs to anybody who pisses one off. Literally, “vaffanculo” is an invitation to sodomy: “go f*** in the ***”, sometimes followed by a suggestion on who should be the recipient of the courtesy. Quite insulting, but Italy is a country where the widespread use of trivialities has strongly reduced their effect: as an example, you can easily hear that very word spelled out from a driver to a police agent who stops the car in the traffic, without the offender being dragged to jail in handcuffs. And recently, in fact, a court of law has determined that the word “vaffanculo” is usable without fear of being sued.
The aftermath of the V-day in these past two weeks has been a huge debate. Most politicians and party leaders were wary of directly attacking the comedian, fearing that their declarations would backfire negatively in their public image, and they responded by claiming Grillo’s attacks were mostly directed against their opponents. Instead, a large troop of journalists was sent forward to engage battle. Grillo was accused by the press of preparing a descent in the arena with a political movement, despite his repeated confirmation of his loathe for the current system and the will to stay where he is. He was also accused of insulting the memory of Marco Biagi, an economist who helped write a controversial law on job regulations, who was killed by red brigatists in 2002 – but Grillo had never actually attacked directly Biagi, although he had strongly criticized the outcome of the law. Grillo answered the accusation with several resounding “vaffanculo”, and was not deterred.
Nothing too upsetting. Lately, however, the debate has turned bad. Mauro Mazza, the director of the public TV channel “RAI 2”, went on air during lunchtime news with the following message:
“We heard him even now, he proceeds with insults, heavy accusations, bad words. It is the Beppe Grillo phenomenon, started not by accident with a colossal ‘f*** ***’ sent to several recipients. Many have talked of neo-qualunquism, maybe even to exorcise the danger. But what would happen if one day, out of the blue, a madman, a deranged person, heard those accusations against Jack or Jane and suddenly, on a bad day, pulled the trigger ? Once in Italy there were those so-called “bad masters” who pointed as an enemy to a Police inspector, a reporter, a judge, and it happened, unfortunately, that somebody, crazy or not, went and pulled the trigger, and sometimes killed. Nowadays we do not have any more, fortunately, good or bad masters. We have evidently some sorcerer’s apprentice, though. History -it is said- is once tragic, but when it repeats itself it becomes a farce. But what would happen if there was a reversed path, from farce to tragedy? What would happen if one morning, a bad morning, somebody heard these insults, these bad words against Jack or Jane, suddenly pulled the trigger ?”
“Lo abbiamo sentito anche adesso, va avanti a colpi di insulti, di accuse pesantissime, di male parole. E’ il fenomeno Beppe Grillo, non a caso nato con un colossale ‘vaffa’ indirizzato con più destinazioni, con più destinatari. Molti hanno parlato di neoqualunquismo, forse anche per provare a esorcizzare il pericolo.
Ma cosa accadrebbe se un giorno all’improvviso, un pazzo, uno squilibrato, ascoltate quelle accuse contro Tizio o Caio all’improvviso, un brutto mattino premesse il grilletto? Una volta in Italia c’erano i cosiddetti ‘cattivi maestri’ che additavano come nemico un commissario di Polizia, un giornalista, un magistrato e accadeva, purtroppo, che qualcuno pazzo o meno andasse, premesse il grilletto e qualche volta uccidesse. Oggi non abbiamo più, per fortuna, maestri cattivi né buoni.
Abbiamo qualche apprendista stregone, evidentemente. La Storia – si dice – una volta tragica quando concede repliche diventa una farsa. Ma cosa accadrebbe se ci fosse un percorso inverso, dalla farsa alla tragedia?
Cosa accadrebbe se un mattino, un brutto mattino, qualcuno, ascoltati quegli insulti, quelle male parole contro Tizio o contro Caio, premesse un grilletto all’improvviso?”
I think this is way over the top. The director of a public network using prime time on the daily news to accuse a comedian of prodding criminal acts is covering himself of ridicule, in my humble opinion. I am not denying that he might, in some universe, turn out one day to have actually been a prophet: but unless Grillo says “that person should be shot in the butt”, you cannot denounce him of instigating a terrorist act.
The funniest thing, to me, is the reaction of Grillo to the intervention of Mazza. He reacted by saying “maybe one day somebody will, in fact, shoot Mazza in the butt”. It takes some sang froid, but I guess Mazza got what he aimed for.