Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Beppe Grillo's V-day

The disjuncture between what goes on and what is reported has rarely been so apparent.

On Saturday, with little-to-no advance television publicity, an initiative got under way in Piazzas throughout Italy. The initiative was to collect signatures to propose a new law with three main clauses:
1) No-one fully convicted of a crime should be allowed to take up a seat in parliament
2) Politicians should serve a maximum of two terms in office
3) Politicians should be directly elected, scrapping the current list system

In Bologna 50,000 people gathered for a number of hours in the main piazza to hear Comedian/Activist Beppe Grillo enthusiastically launch a new internet-age movement dedicated to humbling the current political system. In Napoli over 10,000 people queued up to sign the initiative, with similar scenes occuring throughout the country.

There’s plenty to discuss in Grillo’s proposals – for example, does it serve a democracy well to dismiss experienced politicians – and plenty to discuss regarding the birth of yet another anti-political movement. Italy has had plenty of recent reformers, eager to channel popular disgust with the political system – a good example being the girotondo movement, associated closely with film director Nani Moretti, which amassed massive crowds a number of years ago to protect state institutions (like the justice system) from encroaching politicians, but to little lasting effect. Indeed, from the middle ages, through to Mussolini’s fascist era, there has rarely been a shortage of firebrands ready to whip up the Piazza.

While this monkey was hugely impressed by the event, its aspirations, and – equally important – the means used to achieve these goals, this post is not directly about V-day (Vaffanculo day – or roughly translated, fuck you day). Going back to the opening, the disjunction between what is going on and what is reported has scarcely been so apparent.

The day after the event, the major newspapers – Corriere Della Sera, La Repubblica, La Stampa etc all carried Grillo’s event on the front page, given the surprisingly high turn out and collection of signatures (the organisers collected over 300,000 signatures in favour of the initiative). Regardless of whether you agree with Grillo – and many of the papers were decidely hostile to the initiative – it seems hard to deny the newsworthiness of the event.

The main state broadcaster,RAI 1, though, despite having been repeatedly informed about the event, could find no place to mention the nationwide event afterwards in its busy programme on Sunday the 9th.
The running order:
#1 The Funeral of Luciano Pavarotti
#2 The goal-less draw between Italy and France in Milan’s San Siro Stadium

The remainder of the half-hour news bulletin was taken up with a spat between Prodi and Berlusconi, the ‘Madelaine’ case developments in Portugal, developments in a grisly Italian murder case, some pronouncements from Benny XVI on tour in Austria, and finally a law in Louisiana which aims to fine anyone displaying their knickers above the belt line.

Any surprise then that the only succesful anti-political movement of the last decade has been Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, backed surprisingly enough by his Mediaset group of channels.

Grillo’s movement is betting on the mobilisation powers of the internet and thus far he’s proved the skeptics repeatedly wrong in terms of what he’s been able to achieve with no ‘traditional publicity’. Watch this (online only) space…