Perhaps, if only he’d stop moving. Rumours of Berlusconi’s demise, in what has become a tedious pattern, have been exaggerated. On Saturday, leading an anti-government march, Berlusconi was, without doubt, the star of the show. And it was a show that drew thousands into Rome’s Piazza San Giovanni (a location not chosen by chance – it’s the traditional site of the decidedly left-wing May day concert every year).
Only a week before, there were serious concerns about Berlusconi’s health, politically and physically speaking. While speaking from the podium at a youth rally Berlusconi fainted. A week later and he’s staunchly attacking the Red menace of Prodi’s government, and more specifically it’s first finance bill. What a trooper!
In the intervening week, a number of comics had the audacity to joke about Berluska’s fainting spell. Satirical show Blob, which runs on RAI Tre (the notoriously communist channel, at least according to its critics), poked fun at the 70 year old’s collapse, provoking a furore amongst the political class – both left and right.
On the 28th, in fact, an official apology came from the board of directors of RAI, the state broadcaster, for the caricature presented, in bad taste, of Berlusconi’s fainting fit. The board of directors is, of course, appointed by the Government.
What reason could you possibly have, to laugh at human frailty? When someone of pensionable age (the concept of pensionable age for Italian politicians, like Bishops, Cardinals & Popes doesn’t seem to exist) collapses, surely there’s little to laugh about?
It brings to mind, first of all, satirist Daniele Luttazzi’s famous response to those who questioned his choice of subject matter: “Satire does what the *$%! it pleases”. When dealing with the powerful (and lets not forget, our ailing pensioner is one of the richest men in the world), good taste is often just a byword for censorship.
More to the point, if Berlusconi and his supporters really wished his fainting episode to be treated with respect, rather than cynicism, perhaps they should have avoided the unsightly scramble to make political capital from the event.
First in line, on the TV news, was Marcello Dell’Utri, Berlusconi’s right hand man, who informed us that the collapse was because Silvio becomes emotional when talking about Liberty. Before any tests had been run, viewers were told that Silvo, come what may, would be at the protest march in Rome the following week. Indeed, throughout the week the message came through loud and clear – despite his health worries, Silvio, for his people, would be at the march. Better advertising for the protest couldn’t have been bought for love or money (particularly since Berluska owns the biggest media advertising placement company and three national broadcast channels…).
The collapse itself, couldn’t have occured with more dramatic timing had it been scripted. Speaking to a youth rally, Berlusconi seconds after talking of his political ‘legacy’, told the crowd that the emotion had overcome him – and then he swooned into the arms of his personal physician. At the start of his speech, recieving a rapturous applause, he warned the audience that such enthusiasm could overwhelm an elderly man such as himself. Prophetic…
There’s a moment in Nanni Moretti’s last film, il Caimano, when a young aspiring director who wishes to make a film on Berlusconi, wonders dumbfounded as to how this man has managed to make his own personal problems the dominant political discourse of his day.
With Berlusconi the personal has always been the political, in sickness and in health…