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Nessun dorma

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After a (very long) series of adventures (see previous post), regional elections finally took place in Italy over the last two days. Reports can be found here, here and here.

Some will celebrate the charismatic leaders  who have won this exciting political contest. Others will mourn the sinking of Italy’s opposition against a coalition that makes every effort to be defeated. Others, and I am among them, will nonetehless be positively surprised by some results. That’s life.

The PM, in the meantime, remains vigilant over Italy, keen to defend its image both at home and abroad:


Written by TheItalianist

30/03/2010 at 19:34

Minzolini, The Halved Editor

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Augusto Minzolini is the editor of the news on the Italian channel RAI 1,the principal channel on Italian TV. Hence, the principal TV news programme. TG1 is what families always watch during dinner: back home after a hard day at work, they can finally relax and enjoy a good home-made meal, while being informed on what happens in the world. It is the main channel of TV information in Italy, at least in terms of audience size.

Minzolini was elected for this role on 20th May 2009, after a career in journalism and cinema. The latter reveals he is at ease when appearing on the TV screen: as we will see, that has turned out to be the key quality in his role as editor. Regarding the former, Minzolini is famous for having  introduced a new journalistic style, allegedly labelled ‘minzolinismo’

Minzolinismo relies on “collecting ‘informal’ statements from politicians without checking over their validity”. One may be slightly reluctant to define this ‘a journalistic style’: it would be a bit like introducing a style of cooking that relies on throwing random stuff in a pot, and boiling it for a certain amount of time, then serving it into leather shoes.

Anyway, one should not ask too many questions. Furthermore, this may well be a case of a genius, one who revolutionizes an entrenched tradition by violating the accepted rules. Actually, it must be so: otherwise, why would they elect him director of the main TV News programme?

This is Augusto Minzolini:

Once he became editor of TG1, he exported his minzolinistic approch also to the world of editing. As applied to TV journalism,  minzolinism is characterised by the use of direct-to-camera editorials. What happens is that at some point during the TV news, the flashy head of Minzolini appears on the screen and takes over. For about 2-3 minutes, the director expresses his thoughts about one the central issues in the Italian news. This raises a couple of questions: 1) How can his head be so flashy? What is it made of? 2) Why the editorial? Why does the director of the public news channel need to step in and tell the audience what he thinks the right answer is?

Rather, it seems appropriate for him to remain in the background, to define the editorial line –for sure- yet not acting himself as a journalist. He can certainly express his views, but he may well do that on other occasions than on the news he directs. News programmes are to report facts, not to tell people how to understand the facts. Hence, here is Mizolini’s innovative contribution: minzolinismo means that the deus ex machina can also appear and talk.

On the day he took office at the TG1, Minzolini made his first appearance on the screen to explain his manifesto. His goal -he stated- would have been ‘to deal with the real life of the people’, and ‘to make the audience not just an audience, but also a co-editor’. Rightly so. Unfortunately, he then pushed the ‘real life of the people’ line too far, by claimed that the accusations against the Italian PM, that so much spice gave to our last summer, were pathetic. This immediately posed problems to the minzolinic directing style.

In fact, as it happens to all the geniuses, the world was not ready yet to receive minzolinismo. So a few days later, the TG1 was widely criticised for not reporting anything at all regarding the aforementioned scandals: the news were all about football, sun, and holidays. Minzolini gave his explanation, in one of his direct-to-camera editorials, by confirming that what he intended to do was to talk about what really is important, not the stupid gossip of journalists that enjoy throwing mud at respectable people.

In October, a huge protest took place in Rome in defence of press freedom, after Governamental decisions against some overly-critical journalists. During TG1, an even flashier Minzolini appeared on the screen, to make it clear that he found that protest ‘incomprehensible’, and that Italy enjoyed the highest level of freedom of expression. The fact that he was expressing himself freely on TV was the sign of this.

Pure art.

Nevertheless, criticisms of his style increased. Bu so did also the frequency with which he flashily defended his mission. On 11th December, during a trial, the mafia turncoat Gaspare Spatuzza mentioned alleged connections between the Mafia and the actual Government. On the same day, Minzolini appeared on the news (again, the public news), just to clarify that Spatuzza’s claims were “bullshit which contributed to damaging the image of Italy”.

A few days later, on the 14th, Berlusconi was hit in the face by an object thrown at him by a protester. Minzolini commented, in one of his stylish editorials, that criticisms of the PM had created a ‘climate of hatred that is leading to civil war.’ It was time to stop, once and for all, to criticise the PM. Enjoy your meal.

The new year did not bring better luck to Minzolini’s attempt to innovate the art of directing the news. A big polemic followed the decision of Milan’s mayor, LetiziaMoratti, to entitle a street to Bettino Craxi, as part of a broader attempt to rehabilitate the memory of one of the most corrupted politicians of the 80-90s. Minzolini then performed again. In one of his editorials, he defined Craxi “a great statesman”. According to Minzo, Craxi had been turned into the scapegoat of a system that had resisted after the Cold War. He had been a great statesman, and it was now time to look at him “with history’s eyes”. Unfortunately, once again the world was not ready for this, and Minzolini was accused of serving the PM’s desire to rehabilitate the image of a politician with whom he had shared so much. This is Bettino Craxi in an old picture (on the right, with a friend):


The story continues. In his effort to tell the audience/co-editor about the Government’s performance, the editor of the public news directed his team to show how well things are going in L’Aquila, the city in central Italy struck by a powerful earthquake in April 2009. The PM had made it clear from the beginning that the Government would have made every effort to help the population of L’Aquila: together with the Head of the Civil Protection, Guido Bertolaso, he set out to rebuild central Italy. Thus, the TG1 regularly showed reports of happy people, new houses, politicians’ promising/accomplishing things, order returning, etc.

Sadly, that did not seem to have captured entirely what is happening in L’Aquila. When, later, a troupe of TG1 went to L’Aquila again, an angry mob attacked them and sent them away, yelling “Go away, scondinzolini!” The term ‘scodinzolini’ seems to be a mixture of the aforementioned ‘minzolini’, and of the verb ‘scodinzolare’, wagging. Look where the attempt to make his audience also co-editor took him: the angry mob had clearly misunderstood Minzo’s attempt to report on ‘what people really care about’, for him wagging the tail at the PM.

There have been many more episodes, in which Minzolini has employed his style towards a precise and efficient News service. Even more, though, has been the ostracism he’s had to face from those who are against his pioneering approach. In fact, a few days ago, phone tappings have been revealed in which, allegedly, the Italian PM calls Minzolini to tell him what he has to say in the TG1. It is alleged that in these phone calls, the PM calls Minzolini “direttorissimo” (“super-editor”).  


Faithful to his style, Minzolini reacted to this attack to his style yesterday, during the news on the public channel, claiming “they (who?) want to shut my mouth. They want a ‘halved editor. But I will not be a halved-editor”.

However, his head looked vaguely less flashy.

Written by TheItalianist

15/03/2010 at 00:56

Communists on Stiletto Heels

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The opposition Party in Italy is not doing very well. While the PM seems to be facing a never-ending series of problems, the Left endlessly fails to corner him and – God forbid- try to defeat him. So if on the one hand there is growing despair that things will ever change, on the other there is a clear sense that the Left  is not an opposition Party at all.

It is a short step for the leftist voter to feel depressed. You have a Government that you hate, and no Party that truly fights for your cause. “What’s the point?”- one may think? Apathy may just be behind the corner, and this would help preserving Italy’s stagnant political scene.

Luckily, the leaders of Rifondazione Comunista, the heirs of the old Communist Party, have come up with the right move to motivate their depressed electorate. New posters have begun to pop up around italian cities:

“I join Rifondazione Comunista because … I am a classy woman

The communist wears Prada, so to speak. Definitely, the best reply to the Right-wing Party. Put on your make-up, people: the time for revolution is coming.

Written by TheItalianist

21/02/2010 at 17:17

Two Weeks of Italian News

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I have been unable to write on the blog in the last two weeks, and Italy hasn’t stood waiting for me.. So I’m going to post a brief overview of what’s going on in the cradle of the Roman Empire, hoping to go more into details over the next days.

Legitimate Impediment

In its strenuous fight against communist judges seeking to prevent the PM from saving the country from hell, the Italian Government has proposed a new bill exempting politicians from appearing at the trial if a ‘legitimate impediment’ occurs. On a loose reading of this proposal, a Minister (especially a Prime Minister) can say no to an order to appear at a trial (especially a trial where he is the accused one) if he’s busy.

Unnatural Rights

The Pope has urged Catholics churches in England and Wales to oppose the Equality Bill. The idea of equal rights, said the Pope, is against the natural law. Some failed to see the Catholic spirit behind Ratzi’s pledge.

Silent voting

Italy is the country of the freedom of information and of expression, as it is well known. The Government is committed to preserving citizens’ right to be informed and to make free choices about which Party to support. It is in this spirit that, in view of the regional elections in late March 2010, the Government has banned all political talks on TV in the month before the elections. This is meant to guarantee that voters’ minds not be polluted with subversive messages. The bill applies only to State-owned TV channels, RAI, and not to private ones, owned by the PM.

How to lead a proper relief operation

In the aftermath of the catastrophic Haiti earthquake, the head of Italian Civic Protection Department, Guido Bertolaso, (a man who worked closely with the PM to help the population of l’Aquila, in central Italy, after the earthquake a year ago), criticised the US Government for the way it was handling the relief operation. Bertolaso, whom I have discovered today to have been the head of the Civic Protection Dept under the last 14 legislatures, is now on the news again:  phone tapping have been published concerning the way he runs the business of civic protection

In the Name of the Father

The son of  Vito Ciancimino, the first politician to be found guilty of Mafia membership, during a trial has produced a letter his father allegedly sent to Silvio Berlusconi, outlining conditions for a pact between the Mafia and the State. The papello, as the letter is called, contained a series of requests the Mafia made to the State to stop the campaign of terrorist attacks in 1992-3. This casts some shadows on the origins of Berlusconi’s political career. More on the papello can be found here.

For the Francophones

France is still coping with the defeat in the Wold Cup final, four years ago. So, they are still trying to show that they are better than Italy, and that they should have won instead…

Written by TheItalianist

17/02/2010 at 18:10

Throwing Things at Democracy

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A month has gone since the day the Italian PM Berlusconi was hit by a statuette of the Duomo in Milan, thrown at his face by a mentally ill person, Massimo Tartaglia. The world still remembers, and will for a long time, the shocking images of Berlusconi’s face covered in blood, his eyes staring blankly at the cameras.. That was really a scary episode, and it has been described as the result of the “climate of hatred” that anti-democratic individuals had fostered against the PM in the months leading to the attack.

Sadly, the Government had to (temporarily..) give up some of the most urgent and necessary measures to prevent further spreading of hatred.  Hence, the enemies of democracy have been able to come back on track, and use the internet to keep the fire of hatred going. Now, some of these emenies of democracy are even claiming that Berlusconi had not been injured at all, and that the attack was set up by the PM’s entourage. How could they say so? I am going to mention a few anti-democratic points about the accident.

Here is, once more, a video of what happened:

One main anti-democratic question has to do with the PM’s security service. In a case like that, it is expected they protect the PM’s safety, by taking him away immediately from the place of the attack. There could be other attackers ready to strike again. Instead, Berlusconi was taken into the car, which remained there. After a while, he came out again. His security guys even helping him to stand up and show himself to the public! I can see two explanations for this (apart, of course, from the anti-democratic one): a) Security did not know of the climate of hatred ; b) Berlusconi was showing Italians that a further increase in the tax load will be justified by the cost of re-making his face.

The infamous statuette of the Duomo was never found. We know that it is what Tartaglia used to hit Berlusconi. But how do we know that, since it’s never been found? Also, some point out, undemocratically, the strange trajectory the object has when it hit the PM, and his very unnatural reaction when hit by it. He covers his face with a coat, or a bag, or whatever black he has in his hands. A Youtube video highlights the strange fact that, before throwing the object at Berlusconi, Tartaglia is standing just between two journalists, one holding a TV camera, another holding a microphone. According to an anti-democratic theory, the man with the microphone says something to Tartaglia, before the latter carries out his evil act.

In an undemocratic frame, it appears quite clearly that there is no blood on Berlusconi’s face when he enters the car. That frame refers to a moment in which Tartaglia has been already identified and immobilized by the security service: which means, some 20seconds (or more) after the object hit Berlusconi’s face. No sign  of blood. Then Silvio goes into the car, and when he gets out, blood everywhere.

Not really everywhere, actually. After the promenade, Berlusconi is taken to the hospital. His personal doctor, Alberto Zagrillo, informs the journalists of the PM conditions: the impact with the little sculpture of Milan’s Duomo had caused a fractured nose, two broken teeth, a facial trauma. Berlusconi had also lost half-a litre of blood.

Yet there is no trace of this bloodshed on his face: his shirt is perfectly white. No blood running from his nose.

The anti-democrats say this was all set up to get Berlusconi out of the fire, after months of accusations for sex scandals, corruption, anti-constitutional laws and mafia links. This is all impossible, of course: Berlusconi entered politics SIXTEEN years ago, promising a “New Italian Miracle”.

He has clearly fulfilled his promise:

13th December 2009

6th January 2010

Written by TheItalianist

13/01/2010 at 09:48

A Coach and a Gentleman

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When it comes to football, human beings are meant to be inclined to lose some of their basic social skills. In a sport that tends to focus on the result over than anything else, it is quite easy to get more concerned with pushing the ball into the goal and not on showing ‘a virtuous character’. In fact, for many people ‘virtue’ probably means ‘winning’.. Italy is not exception: rather, Italy is probably one of the main examples of this kind of approach to the ethics of football. We tend to get quite extreme (some would say simply ‘passionate’), though we are surely not too extreme.

So, what happened on last sunday during the Ascoli-Reggina match came as a surprise, and initiated an ongoing debate about what is right or wrong in football. At some point during the match, one player on Reggina’s side got injured: everyone, as it usually happens in cases like these, stopped playing so to let the guy come back on the pitch. However, one of Ascoli’s player, allegedly not noticing what was going on, kept running with the ball towards Reggina’s goal. He did not encounter any opposition from his opponents (the ref had not stopped the game though), so he carried on, and once in front of the goal he passed the ball a teammate, who scored. Reggina was not very happy with that kind of behaviour: a fight between the players started immediately after. Nonetheless, the ref validated the goal (which was, in fact, a valid goal).

But here is the coupe de theatre: after this dodgy goal, Ascoli’s coach, Bepi Pillon, told his guys to let Reggina make a goal, so to equalise the score. Thus, to the dismal of Ascoli’s supporters, the Regginians moved easily through Ascoli’s defence, the keeper did not move, Reggina scored. 1-1. A video of this surreal match is here.

Unfortunately this display of honesty did not help Ascoli win, and the match ended 3-1 for Reggina. Still, we were left with a somewhat refreshing message about the value of fair-play against what Weber called “the disenchantment of the world”. This was especially significant in this case, given that Ascoli is fighting to avoid relegation in Serie C and now, after this defeat, is closer to the abyss..

In fact the media are celebrating Ascoli’s act for its display of ‘fair play’. Even the Herald Tribune today dedicated an article to Pillon, suggesting he should be awarded the FIFA Fairplay Prize 2009. The only ones who were not delighted by Ascoli’s gesture were, unsurprisingly, Ascoli’s supporters.. Actually, they seemed to have been quite upset by the choice of letting Reggina score. When asked whether he would do it again, a sad Pillon replied “I don’t know”. Then he continued: “In Italy people make too much of these things. When I went abroad, I saw a different kind of football. Here, everything is so exasperated, too many interests, and too many situations that turn playing into pain, instead of joy.”

However, in a sport where you can qualify for the World Cup by openly cheating with your hands, and then pretend to be sorry, the case of Ascoli, a small team fighting for survival in Serie B, is to be praised.

Yet, I admit being happy that I am not an Ascoli supporter.. But I’m much, much happier, that I am not French.

Written by TheItalianist

08/12/2009 at 00:22


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At the trial against Marcello Dell’Utri, the Mafia witness Gaspare Spatuzza has confirmed in front the judges what he had previously told the prosecutors:

“Graziano told me that we had got everything thanks to the reliability of the persons that carried out the deal. Two names were mentioned to me: that of Berlusconi and that of Dell’Utri. (…) Because of the reliability of these persons, the country had been basically put in our hands”.

Info in english can be found here, here and here.

Written by TheItalianist

04/12/2009 at 23:36