Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Italy begins crackdown on freedom of speech

They say that agents' individual actions don't matter against power structures, but look in succession at what the assault on Berlusconi has done.

Millions worldwide have cheered the individual action of Massimo Tartaglia, the man who last Sunday whacked Berlusconi in the teeth. A divisive, dodgy, inflammatory right-wing Prime Minister got what he deserved, many commented online.

However, two days later, it's important to make a cool-headed assessment as to what the blow landed on Berlusconi's gob really means in the short to medium terms.

Until Sunday, Berlusconi's coalition were showing their biggest cracks since their landslide election victory in April 2008. His hacking at the Italian constitution caused a series of unexpected rifts within his own coalition. By last week, one of his most senior and influential allies, Gianfranco Fini, was all but considered no longer part of Berlusconi's coalition.

Most significantly, on Friday, Mr Casini, a former centrist partner of Berlusconi's government, called for the formation of a broad 'Republican front' to finally defeat the billionaire Prime Minister.

Also, a number of recent mass demonstrations added to the voices of discontent over Berlusconi's social and economic management of the crisis. In the meantime, galvanised by all of the above, the battered Italian centre-left managed a few weeks without jumping at each other's throats on important matters such as which colour the party leader's tie should be.

And if you also take into account the spectacular sexual scandals that marred the Prime Minister throughout the summer, for the first time in years Silvio Berlusconi looked all but rock steady.

By Sunday evening, however, everything had changed.

They say that agents' individual actions don't matter when seen against power structures but look in succession at what Massimo Tartaglia's smack has done.

Practically every single reluctant ally rejoined the ranks and stood in line at the hospital to bow down before the martyr. The same with opposition MPs. Anxious to make it clear that they don't condone any violence, they're all sitting at Berlusconi's bedside mumbling their concerns.

Their hope, presumably, is to escape the fire of accusations directed at opposition politicians and journalists. "They have been remote-controlling the violence", wrote Il Giornale, a right-wing daily owned by Berlusconi's family. The same concept is now the staple at the table of every single government minister. "The opposition turned Berlusconi into an enemy to tear down at all costs", was the united voice from the government's ranks.

Which is the background against which Berlusconi's own Freedom Party announced yesterday they're beginning legal proceedings for "incitement to crime" against the Prime Minister's most outspoken critic, opposition MP Antonio Di Pietro.

Most importantly, however, Home Secretary Roberto Maroni from the far-right Northern League announced this morning that the government is about to table emergency measures to ban all Italian websites and online groups that have been openly cheering Sunday's incident.

"We're looking at the technicalities", Mr Maroni said "in order to take down all websites that are echoing what is tantamount to incitement to crime".

On similar lines, this morning Italy's biggest daily Corriere della Sera, sported an editorial called 'The dark side of the web', blasting "online hatred" and calling for the prosecution of those guilty of "incitement to hatred" and "glorifying crime".

In short, two broken teeth and a looming crackdown on freedom of speech. This is what Tartaglia's action has achieved.


Miss Suffragette said...

A very good point...a point often overlooked because it's not often thought about.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

The Italians I met in Milan hated him with a passion, they blamed him for the cultural malaise in Italy and the casual chauvinism, homophobia and bigotry.

To them he was a terrible joke.