Berlusconi and the Financial Times – Clueless Influence of Context-challenged Reporters

(this letter has been censored by the Financial Times)

– in reply to “Baleful influence of Burlesque cronies”, FT, May 27

Sirs

As activists in the Italian “Freedom People” (“Popolo della Liberta’”) party’s supporters group in London, we would like to express our sincere thanks for having graced Your esteemed newspaper with a brand-new Editorial about our Party’s President and Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi (“Baleful influence of Burlesque cronies”, May 27).

In fact, one doesn’t have to evoke the ghosts of powerful Cardinals in Paris at the time of the Bourbons, to understand that there is no such a thing as bad publicity. Who knows what people would do to be the object of Your attention, and there we have Mr Berlusconi getting it for free…surprisingly (or not) at a time when the UK political class has been shown to be far from perfect as a result of the MP’s expenses scandal!

Your very choice of words (“very wealthy, very powerful and increasingly ruthless man”) sounds like a deep-seated admiration of Mr Berlusconi. Surely there is nobody left nowadays thinking that “ruthless” would be a derogatory term for a politician?

And we fully agree with You in saying the Mr Berlusconi is no harbinger of fascism (yes we are pleased to see that You feel the need to repeat that same concept again and again!).

But please let us dare a little criticism of Yours. What influence, malign or otherwise, has prevented You from explaining in a little less than 500 words what exactly Mr Berlusconi’s “malign example” would be? Or is your worry about the “media sapping the serious content of politics, and replacing it with entertainment” stemming from first-hand experience with Tony Blair’s “Cool Britannia”, and with many years of journalistic manipulation in Britain by the now-forgotten Alistair Campbell?

And perchance next time You will find some time to mention some other facts that Your readers need to be told in order to be able to understand the Italian political zeitgeist. Mr Berlusconi has been under investigation almost uninterruptedly for 15 years. Such investigations curiously began exactly at the time he entered politics, yet the exact accusations against him have been constantly changing. And all along Mr Berlusconi’s opponents have been transfixed by his personality, to the point of making their hatred and personal attacks their very raison d’être…so much so that the Italian opposition is nowadays hitting evermore far below the political belt, with innuendos about Mr Berlusconi’s sex life, age, mental health, personal probity and even his ability as a father.

It seems like the only things Mr Berlusconi has not been accused of are the beating up of old ladies in the street and the torturing of house pets. Perhaps Your Rome correspondents would like to be the first ones going down that route?

Or perhaps they, and You, will decide that the time has come to begin reporting about Italian politics in a thoughtful, comprehensive, non-partisan manner that goes beyond caricatures and prejudices? We are confident you know what we mean – because it would be like going back to the be part of the best the news media has to offer, exactly as you suggest, dealing the “serious content of politics”, rather than engaging in entertainment.

Maurizio Morabito(*) and Ilaria Filippi(**)
“Freedom People” (“Popolo della Liberta’”) Party’s Supporters Group in London