Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

The unacknowledged legislators. Oriana Fallaci, Andrea Camilleri and the soft regime.

Since the death in February of poet and senator Mario Luzi, Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi* has a post to fill in the Italian Senate.

Amongst the names in the running, which is taken from Italy’s cultural elite, are writers Oriana Fallaci and Andrea Camilleri. Both have had spectacular success with their books, topping the bestseller lists in Italy for months at a time.

Of the two, Camilleri is perhaps the lesser known on the international stage. The Sicilian author is best known for his much loved detective novels based around the character of Inspector Montalbano. The detective novel is taken particularly seriously in Italy, and Camilleri, partly from the example set by fellow Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciasia, writes more than the average airport-novel ‘whodunnit’. His books are as much an examination of his native Sicilian culture as they are mysteries to solve.

Camilleri is no stranger to controversy either, being a staunch critic of the current government and Silvio Berlusconi’s control of the Italian media. He was recently quoted as saying “in Italy there is a regime. Soft, modern and sophisticated, but a regime nonetheless. […]There is a limit on information. Berlusconi controls the television, and is seeking to influence the media as a whole.”[1] Camilleri is also proud to describe himself as a communist,and has in the past defended Soviet actions like the invasion of Hungary in 1956. His political colour, no doubt, from Berlusconi’s perspective cancels any criticism.

Oriana Fallaci needs less of an introduction. Fallaci made her name with both a number of high profile interviews with figures such as Henry Kissinger, Willy Brandt, the Ayatollah Khomeini, and the late Pakistani leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and with a number of novels. In the wake of September 11th she has come to prominence again, internationally, with a series of books/polemics lamenting the state of western Europe and criticising Islam. Discussion of Fallaci’s work merits an entry on its own, suffice to say that her books have outraged and impressed the Italian public in seemingly equal measure.

Fallaci’s incendiary and reactionary style has provoked many to suggest her work should be banned.

Taken together, these two writers pose interesting questions about freedom of speech, censorship and the diffusion of information in Italy.

Can one talk about a ‘regime’ (keep in mind the weight of that word in the context of Italian 20th century history) controlling information in Italy? Camilleri has criticised Berlusconi openly in the press, frequently, without restriction. He also, paradoxically publishes his books through Mondadori, part of the Berlusconi business empire.

Should there be a limit on freedom of speech? Fallaci’s work offends many, and yet, to agree with censorship in extreme cases necessitates the appointment of arbiters who decide. Arbiters who would presumably be appointed by the Government. A hop, skip, and jump away from the dreaded ‘regime’.

Italy may appear to be a leader in the manipulation of Government-Media relations, but, despite what the foreign media may say, Silvio Berlusconi does not control the Italian media. He controls a huge portion of it, but that’s not the same thing. In Italy today there is a diverse and healthy spread of political opinion which one can find easily. The key to this is the word ‘find’. Berlusconi, or any media magnate/Prime Minister, can make it difficult for a particular viewpoint to be easily diffused on prime time TV, but he can no longer effectively silence criticism.

Berlusconi’s Italy shows the real nature of 21st century censorship. It is not State imposed, but rather publicly accepted. Different points of view and information are all widely available, but you have to go looking for them. If there is a ‘regime’, it’s a perversely democratic one, created by and for the people.

* There are a number of posts in Italy’s Senate that are appointed by the President, for life.
[1] “In Italia il regime c’