Friday, February 05, 2010

Italy, drugs and rock'n'roll

There's a country where the Prime Minister can organise orgies with prostitutes and showgirls, but a rock singer is banned from TV for saying he smoked crack!

Rejoice British readers, rejoice. There may be moments you think the country's not made full progress on social liberalism and that the ghost of Mary Whitehouse is still with us, especially in the guise of a Daily Mail piece or two.

That may be annoying, but take a quick look at Italy and you'll find moralism in its densest, most primeval form.

You may already know that the place has recently managed giant leaps backward on anything that requires a grain of social acceptance: women's rights, the morning after pill, basic gay rights, immigration, you name it. But the news I read this morning is just from another planet.

Now. You know festivals like Glastonbury, Reading or T in The Park? Right. Italy's equivalent is a crass annual event called Festival di Sanremo, broadcast live on national TV. Laid on as a 3-day competition where viewers can cast a vote, the show is an astonishingly naff, cheap and nasty affair: the most stereotypical Italian telly where female legs and cleavages abound and where even someone as tame as Michael Bolton would possibly be deemed a subversive satanist.

Two days ago, one of the aspiring contestants, a 37-year-old singer/TV celeb known by the name of "Morgan", admitted in an interview that he made use of crack cocaine to take the bite out of his depression.

In most countries this would be a run-of-the-mill comment. Imagine if access to TV shows, recording studios or festivals was only granted to those who've never used "substances". Your DVD and music collections would shrink by 95% in an instant.

In Italy, however, a comment like Morgan's is enough to grant you -literally- public guillotine.

The singer was immediately banned from the Festival and MPs loyal to country's right-wing government, normally busy churning out industrial levels of anti-immigrant white papers, began a race for who could sound the most repulsed and outraged of them all.

The Director General of the State TV Channel broadcasting the Festival called the singer's words "delirious". Italy's consumer group Codacons have tabled a legal petition as the singer's words "may contain grounds for prosecution".

The most popular political talkshow on state TV dedicated an entire programme to the affair, called "A step away from precipice".

Benito Mussolini's granddaughter, right-wing MP and former topless actress Alessandra, called for "compulsory drug tests" for all singers appearing on TV, a measure that if seriously applied would only allow children's choirs to be broadcast.

Youth Minister Giorgia Meloni (rough equivalent of Britain's Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families) accused the singer of setting a bad example. "You're a bad teacher. How can you not clock the dramatic impact you're having on thousands of kids?", she told him live on the radio, as she accused him of "glorifying crack".

Another Cabinet member, ultra christian borderline Bible-belter Carlo Giovanardi, expressed "shock". "I hope Morgan doesn't turn into an idol now. What he's got to do now is get out of the drug tunnel as soon as possible".

Maurizio Gasparri, Parliamentary Leader in the Senate for Berlusconi's party said that "In no way should the Festival organisers take back someone who can send such a wrong message on drugs".

I guess that's Italy in a snapshot. A country where a "pro-family values" Prime Minister is robustly defended even when he's pictured organising adulterous orgies with 18-year-olds, showgirls and "escorts", but where a rock singer is publicly torn to pieces and banned from TV for saying that he used to smoke crack cocaine.


Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Had the pleasure of doing some more work with an Italian company recently and had a fascinating chat with them about their moral compass and how odd it is on some issues.

claude said...

And what did they say?

Around 3 years ago I had a fascinating chat with a group of unionised workers from Italy - all self-professed left wingers. Out of about ten, nine were dead against even a watered down version of civil partnerships. The reason? They thought legally recognised same-sex unions undermine traditional cathoic family.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

In a nutshell that their leader embarasses them and that the moral code of Italy has fallen since he has been in charge.