Berlusconi’s Machiavellian Moment

AP100830132500_jpg_470x420_q85 Ingrid D. Rowland in the NYRB blog:

Several remarkable things have happened here in Italy in the past week.

One: Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, that self-styled man for all seasons—tycoon, soccer team owner, politician, crooner, swain—the perennial fixer who not too long ago said, in Milanese dialect, ghe pensi mi, “I’ll take care of it”—“il premier,” il Cavaliere (that is, Sir Silvio), has apparently been driven by the present political situation to say, “I don’t know what to do.” And he doesn’t, though a few days of reading Machiavelli and Thucydides might provide him with a clue or two. (Beginning with Chapter 23 of The Prince: “How Flatterers are to be Shunned.”)

Two: The independent television channel La7 (Channel Seven) is stealing viewers from all the other channels—all but one of which are controlled directly or indirectly by Berlusconi—by providing real news, and forcing the speakers on its talk shows to observe the basics of civil behavior. (The norm on the other channels is for everyone to shout at once, except Umberto Bossi, head of the Northern League, whose speech is impaired by a stroke—but his middle finger is fat and fit). Its evening newscast is conducted by Enrico Mentana, who has worked in the past for both the RAI state TV and Berlusconi’s Channel 5.

Three: Gianfranco Fini, the President of the lower house of Parliament, used a speech on September 4 to break publicly with Berlusconi in a way that brooks no return.