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Tired of bunga-bunga
December 13, 2010 4:39 AM   Subscribe

Italy’s government teeters on the brink: tomorrow (Tuesday) a no-confidence vote should decide whether we have another three years of bunga-bunga partying, "escort" (= prostitute) scandals and international gaffes from the leader of this NATO partner and founding EU member, or whether Silvio Berlusconi will be sent home. Some think it’s a hilariously stupid (SLYT) to suggest he might step down.

Meanwhile, with the line-up more or less neck-to-neck, one leading (but vehemently anti-Berlusconi) daily states that the outcome depends on the vote of one MP (link in Italian) already repudiated by his own party and under investigation for fraud, plus (give or take) a couple of advanced pregnancy cases and an alleged “transfer market” in votes. And the Constitutional Court has just announced that the decision on whether the law Berlusconi’s government pushed through, to protect him (and three other senior figures) from prosecution while in office, is or is not contitutionally valid will now not be taken tomorrow (the hearing was scheduled before the vote of confidence was tabled) but adjourned until January. If the law is deemed unconstitutional, presumably police will be waiting with handcuffs ready.

MPs will of course find it difficult to bring down the government and provoke snap elections, when this could mean giving up a well-paid job and - if they serve a full term - a lifetime pension.

Helpfully, a professor at the American University of Rome writes an enlightening blog to explain the ins and outs in English.
posted by aqsakal (40 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great post, thank you. I've been trying to get my head around what's happening in Italy lately. I know they've had their share of bumps with the EU leadership in the past, in particular with regards to human rights, but the internal matters were always a bit foggy. Looks like things aren't at all as cut and dry as "Get rid of Berlusconi; save Italy" - seems there's quite a lot of bad behavior to go around.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:57 AM on December 13, 2010


Your "law" link is broke.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:11 AM on December 13, 2010


Yeah, sorry - I just noticed it myself. GRAR - should have previewed better.

The correct link is here.
posted by aqsakal at 5:20 AM on December 13, 2010


The Mussolini of Ass (via LongForm and this recent FPP) also summarizes Berlusconi's partying ways and suggests that it has become almost a foundational component of his mainstream appeal.
posted by bl1nk at 5:21 AM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


An Italian friend of mine visiting here in Tokyo just told me the other night that it seems that all of Italy is now like Miami. I don't know if he's ever been to Miami (I've never been myself) but I think I know what he meant by saying that.

...it (Berlusconi's partying ways) has become almost a foundational component of his mainstream appeal.

My friend said this as well, in as many words.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:28 AM on December 13, 2010


I have also recently hung out with an Italian who is far, far from being mainstream, and yet he also said that Berlusconi's partying and cavorting with young girls was "great" and that he basically expected everyone to idolize him.
posted by molecicco at 6:04 AM on December 13, 2010


Berlusconi: You have two options - remove me from office, or Bunga Bunga.

Parliament: We choose to remove you from office.

Berlusconi: Hmmmm. Very well. But first, a little Bunga Bunga.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:09 AM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I remember the joke as:

Chieftain: "You can choose death or bunga-bunga."

Captured guy: "What's bunga-bunga?"

Chieftain: "Me and my tribe gang-rape you for a whole day."

Captured guy: "OK, I choose death."

Chieftain: "Sounds good. Death by bunga-bunga!"
posted by bardic at 6:22 AM on December 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Wasn't Berlusconi's the first Italian government since WWII that completed an entire term?

Funny that, him being the only island of stability in post-WWII Italian history...
posted by Djinh at 6:30 AM on December 13, 2010


Rubbing my hands in anticipation . . . Can't wait to see the yellowcake docs.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:32 AM on December 13, 2010


Three anthropologists in the jungle are caught and tied up by an unknown tribe. Head of the tribe goes to the first anthropologist, says, would you like death or Bunga Bunga? Guy thinks, says, "Uh, I'll take Bunga Bunga." The crowd cheers, they cut the ropes, and then proceed to sexually and otherwise torture the man until his very painful death. Chief goes to second guy, says, would you like death or Bunga Bunga? Second guy thinks chief must have simply misunderstood the first guy, so he also asks for Bunga Bunga. The crowd cheers, they cut the rope, and proceed to perform sexual and violent acts on the man until he dies a painful death. Chief goes to third guy, again asks if he'd like death or Bunga Bunga. Third guy thinks about it, realizes what is in store, and asks simply for death. The crowd goes silent, the chief pauses and frowns while the disappointment registers across his face. After a few seconds, he looks up at the last anthropologist and says, "Ok. Death. But first - a little Bunga Bunga!" and the crowd goes crazy again.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:36 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


So Italian guys think it's great that a 74-year-old guy likes to party with teenaged girls? Yuck.
posted by lukemeister at 6:39 AM on December 13, 2010


likemeister: I assure you, only a very few Italian guys (hold up your hand and count the fingers).
posted by aqsakal at 6:44 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Berlusconi's corrupt Klientelpolitik and de facto media monopoly have turned the country into a sad joke. Objectification of women has been industrialized.

This juvenile behaviour is popular with enough (male) voters that it has helped keep clowns like him in office; the situation is now hopeless enough that anybody with any brains leaves.

The man was elected twice by a public fully aware of what he is. If he is forced out now it will be a miracle.
posted by rhombus at 6:44 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


lukemeister: and please forgive my typo in your name.
posted by aqsakal at 6:44 AM on December 13, 2010


Aqsakal, in my experience, a very large number of Italian guys (and gals) think Berlusconi's actions are hunky-dory. There's a spectrum, to be sure, with "good on him!" on one end and "meh, his private life shouldn't affect his politcs" on the other, but I unfortunately feel that it's more Italians than you can count on the fingers of one hand that support him, tacitly or not.

Which is idiotic, of course, but just because it's idiotic doesn't mean it's not happening.

(Also, Berlusconi and his opponents? Essentially equivalent, in terms of politics, with his opponents being moderately less embarrassing internationally. Ugh. Which is the reason why I fled Italy the moment I reached the age of political awareness.)
posted by lydhre at 6:56 AM on December 13, 2010


So Italian guys think it's great that a 74-year-old guy likes to party with teenaged girls? Yuck.

Obviously. Remember how all Americans thought the invasion of Iraq was just dandy? Same thing.
posted by deadmessenger at 7:00 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


So Italian guys think it's great that a 74-year-old guy likes to party with teenaged girls? Yuck.
posted by lukemeister at 6:39 AM on December 13 [+] [!]


likemeister: I assure you, only a very few Italian guys (hold up your hand and count the fingers).


here's a fun fact: in the U.S. the majority of teen pregnancies involve a father older than the age of 20. everyone loves teen girls.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:02 AM on December 13, 2010


here's a fun fact: in the U.S. the majority of teen pregnancies involve a father older than the age of 20. everyone loves teen girls.

See also: The guy in the Camaro who is old enough to buy beer.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:08 AM on December 13, 2010


lydhre: You're right of course about the total ineptness of the opposition, who didn't even manage to get rid of the twisted electoral law which keeps B in power despite polling only 24%, or to tackle his conflicts of interest. In a country where only 18% of people read a daily paper, and the PM owns outright around half of the TV and has political control over most of the other half, he's managed to create an atmosphere where his shenanigans don't stand out quite as starkly as decent, thoughtful people would like.
/rant
I fully understand your fleeing Italy. Unfortunately, most of our bright young people (including my son) are doing the same, and taking the country's future with them.
posted by aqsakal at 7:11 AM on December 13, 2010


I keep getting older but they stay the same age! Hey, watch the leather, man!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:30 AM on December 13, 2010


I thought those were Boong-Ga Boong-Ga parties.

"Developed by Koreans for the Japanese, Boong-Ga Boong-Ga is the first arcade game that combines of assaulting assholes and fortune-telling."
posted by FatherDagon at 7:31 AM on December 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


You can be that penis, Italy.

Thanks bl1nk, that is one entertaining article.
posted by xqwzts at 7:34 AM on December 13, 2010


Brilliant post, aqsakal, per usual. I am not holding my damn breath, though after how many effing confidence votes? I stopped counting a while ago as it was too depressing, what with not being able to vote and all...If the current Left wasn't so bloody feckless, I think Berlusca would have been sent packing a while ago.

the situation is now hopeless enough that anybody with any brains leaves.

Which creates a vicious cycle, no? Leaves the idiots in charge of the fun house. The one thing I continually loathe in the general Italian psyche is the defeatist attitude. The whole "It'll never work/change, so why bother" makes my back teeth grind to no end.

However, my Eternally Optimist side has been wondering lately if a tipping point might possibly be around the corner. People I know who previously supported Berlusca now think he's pretty much lost the plot. There's been a plethora of protests; the recent spate of student protests blocked train stations & a few airports nationwide...

...well, toccare ferro won't hurt in any case.
posted by romakimmy at 7:40 AM on December 13, 2010


I was born in Italy, I don't like Berlusconi, half my family still in Italy likes him and the other half hates him. The division is strictly along age: those born before 1945 are proB, those born after are not. Generally speaking we hardly discuss politics (or religion) when we meet or email, so I really do not know for sure how the pro faction feels about the last inanity of Berlusconi. I'm inclined to think from a few clues I picked up that he has finally crossed the line even for them: they are no longer justifying stupid or criminal behavior for "The good of Italy".
posted by francesca too at 7:43 AM on December 13, 2010


Italy sounds like one big frat-house party these days.

The hang-over will really suck, I imagine.
posted by bardic at 7:50 AM on December 13, 2010


Man, Berlusconi! I spent the last ten years or so being sort of aware of the exploits of what I vaguely assumed must be a few different EU leaders - Nice tan, Obama!! Tax fraud trials circumvented by new laws majicked up out of nowhere! Mafia links! Prostitutes! Mussolini was a great guy! Ownership of most of his country's media! Rape jokes! I'll seduce that female president...ha ha, just kidding, she's too ugly! - and then suddenly last summer I realized that they were all the same guy. Blew my mind.
posted by peachfuzz at 8:08 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


romakimmy: a tipping point might possibly be around the corner: Yeah, but what kind? What worries the heck out of me recently is the number of serious, straight people writing, blogging, talking hesitantly about the potential for armed protest. I lived in Germany through the Rote Armee Faktion years (60s) and Italy through the Years of Lead (70s), and I get a nagging feeling about the same kind of helpless, hopeless, what-else-is-there-left -to-try? kind of atmosphere developing. Only this time it isn't the kids any more.

bardic: And yes, then of course The hang-over will really suck

what with not being able to vote and all: I can, but what solution is that when there's nobody to vote for, just a big, empty void out there?
posted by aqsakal at 8:14 AM on December 13, 2010


ItalyItaly's current plutocratic gerontocracy sounds like one big frat-house party these days.

The hang-over will really suck, I imagine. is (and has been for a while) being felt by the general populace, and they're starting to realise they've been roofied.

Thanks, bardic. That's actually a pretty handy shorthand metaphor for describing things to friends & family.

On much delayed preview: Dunno, aqsakal. I would vote PD/IDV on a national level, to send the PDL & their Lega batshit-insane cronies packing, and on a local level support the liste civiche at a grassroots level, hoping that this later would bear fruit in the future.

I'll cop to also hoping that either Berlusca kicks the bucket from a Viagra OD while wearing a pair of garters & women's knickers, or Veronica Lario spills some nasty dirt once the divorce decree is final.
posted by romakimmy at 8:33 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Romakimmy: I'll cop to also hoping that either Berlusca kicks the bucket from a Viagra OD while wearing a pair of garters & women's knickers, or Veronica Lario spills some nasty dirt once the divorce decree is final.

I'd rather not, honestly. If there's any chance that the general populous will eventually realize they've been duped by a megalomaniac egotist, I don't want them to be able to rationalize Berlusconi's faults and failures as being due to him being a "homo pervert," or similar.

I say this as a queer Italian ex-pat, who doesn't feel particularly safe in Italy as it is. Just reading the Italian news online makes me cringe. Italy is, politically if not personally, governed by deeply rooted institutionalized sexism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, religious bigotry, and all other manners of *isms. I left not only because I thought it hopeless politically, but also because I found it dangerous and dehumanizing to stay.
posted by lydhre at 8:46 AM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was in Milan in February of 2008 when Berlusconi announced his latest run for office. I watched a campaign event (it may have been the very first one, IIRC) on a screen set up in a public square a few blocks from the Duomo, and although I didn't understand a lot of what was being said as my Italian is not great by any stretch, the tenor of the event and mood and demeanor of the crowd gave me a very creeped-out, unsettled feeling - as if a full blown riot was just a hair's breadth away. This crowd was damn angry, and when Berlusconi spoke, people stopped and listened to his speech as if it were coming from God himself. During the pauses in his speech, you could have heard your heart beat it was so quiet. The only time the crowd made any perceptible noise was when Berlusconi talked about immigrazione - that was when that seething, barely controlled anger just boiled over, with people shouting their approval and agreement. I got the hell out of there at that point - I wasn't interested in seeing what happened next.
posted by deadmessenger at 9:08 AM on December 13, 2010


Fair enough & my apologies, lydhre. I was looking at it from a "get caught in a hypocritical situation" ala Republican politicos, because merely kicking the bucket has too much leeway for turning him into a martyr.
posted by romakimmy at 9:13 AM on December 13, 2010


"escort" (= prostitute)

Come on now, why not say what you really want to say?
posted by stinkycheese at 9:59 AM on December 13, 2010


"prostitute" (= sex worker)
posted by telstar at 10:55 AM on December 13, 2010


I read a comment recently on one of the pro-EU blogs that suggested that the Berlusconi government was an illustration of the fundamental success of the EU, by virtue of the fact that a corrupt, egomaniacal kleptocrat has been in charge of one of the larger economies in the EU for more than a decade and yet has not managed to engender even the remotest threat of armed conflict in Europe. It's an interesting argument, as it certainly would not be difficult to imagine Berlusconi starting a war in a less stable international neighbourhood.
posted by Jakey at 1:54 PM on December 13, 2010


"get caught in a hypocritical situation"

That's Berlusconi's talent. He'll never get caught in a hypocritical situation, because he's quite candid about his choices. Tax evasion, political favours, teenage girls, rigging the laws in his own favour, even buying the odd confidence vote in Parliament: he'll own to any of that, at least as long as he doesn't risk jail for it.

Berlusconi is a helpful reminder of just how much we need hypocrisy in public life. Because politicians are never going to be saints, but we're still better off if they at least pretend.
posted by Skeptic at 3:13 PM on December 13, 2010


I don't think I'm overstating Mr.B skills in considering him as the most succesful non-nazi among Goebbels' pupils.

Mr B. so far, has been able to take advantage of those who decided to cast him as the most egregious villain after Mussolini. Imho the various attempts to demonize Mr.B have backfired as he continues to play the role of the eternal victim, attacked by (rough quote) "the left-leaning media" and by the "communists judges" who allegedly are attempting to subvert the popular vote by attempting to have him either found guilty or by destroying his fortune.

Thanks to his rather deep understanding of what the "average" italian unconcious wants - not to be really involved in politics (except if it is somehow profiteable), to have somebody else take the important and difficult decisions, to blame somebody else for his/her troubles (expecially the government) - Mr B. is taking full advantage of the fact that many italians deeply distrust any kind of government, regardless of its political "color".

This distrust is deeply rooted in the italian "collective mind": anything government or state-related has long been perceived as corrupted by definition, inefficient and wasteful. Ample and suggestive evidence was provided by years of groteseque scandals that were duly reported by the media in minute details ; for instance, most people over 30 are likely to remember Minister Poggiolini habit of hiding cash in furniture, just to mention one of the most eccentric episodes.

Nonetheless, the average italian remains morbidly opportunistic, for many wouldn't probably think twice before taking advantage of some illicit favour from a "friend in politics" (merely thinking that other italians wouldn't let go of such a rare opportunity makes many feel stupid for not giving away a good chance). In public they would, of course, declare they wouldn't do as politicians allegedly do, but in private conversation with friends they sometimes openly declare that it would be completely foolish not to take advantage of "favours from above", for this is the way the "system" really works.

Many italians still remember the eventful day in which Mr.B signed "a contract with the italian population". By skilful use of a perfectly honed sales pitch, something that was never before witnessed in the recent history of italian politics, Mr.B produced a list of the achievements he would have aimed to obtain had he been elected. It was a memorable success, never before was a list of promises so perfectly presented to an audience that was, imho, literally mesmerized.

Mr B. was "the one" , the Neo, the Saviour. He wasn't a professional politican (another much despised category) and he was filthy rich, so it only followed that he didn't have any need to steal from State coffers (it doesn't, but let not reality spoil a dream). And he spoke about freedom, the ever enchanting word.

For many italians are still, politically speaking, subjects and not citizens. Democratics rights rethoric notwithstanding, many italians felt (and possibily still feel) that they had to behave like subject, offer favours and kickbacks, in order to be able to _really_ obtain what, in theory, the State should have provide for, be it a reasonably organized system of public services or justice being served.

The few that managed to break trought the wall of what appears to be a rather skillfully orchestrated propaganda were a few skilled comedians ( the Guzzanti brothers, Cornacchione, Benigni, Luttazzi, Grillo to name a few)

Yet ,as their performances were either not nationally broadcasted (but for a few token appearances, there is no such thing as a Daily Show over there) or limited to theaters and stadiums, and sometimes vehemently aimed at the alleged shortcomings of Mr.B, they were only marginally succesful at offering a point of view that is dissonant enough to cause second toughts; clearly, the more the comedians attacked directly Mr.B , the more the dissonance was felt by his fervent supporters, but as it dissonance came from comedians, they probably failed to perceived that as something politically noteworthy.

I could go on an talk about shortcomings iin journalism, but I'd rather related my personal experience on the Mr.B subject, as I am forever grateful to those who introduced me to the english language, for it allowed me to join Metafilter many years ago and to get a completely different, considerably more rational perspective on politics and to its propaganda components. If it wasn't for some fine minds I've met on Meta, I would probably be voting Mr.B.
posted by elpapacito at 5:42 PM on December 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


"escort" (= prostitute)
Come on now, why not say what you really want to say?
posted by stinkycheese at 6:59 PM on December 13 [+] [!]


Because "escort" (sic, in English) is the word which these ladies used to euphemistically describe themselves, and has become the standard word now in Italy for this kind of service.

"prostitute" (= sex worker)
posted by telstar at 7:55 PM on December 13 [+] [!]


Sorry, you're right: not very PC on my part.

And elpapacito's post deserves re-reading and favoriting over and over - he hits several nails right on the head.
posted by aqsakal at 1:18 AM on December 14, 2010


Update: Berlusconi squeezed through with 314 to 311 in the Lower Chamber (his victory in the Upper Chamber had never been in peril).

Riots on the streets of all major cities, police and demonstrators injured.

And a disclosure: the "Escort" link above is a self-link.
posted by aqsakal at 6:39 AM on December 14, 2010


Steve Bell
posted by adamvasco at 4:32 AM on December 15, 2010


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