I’ve just turned on the TV and the images of PM Berlusconi interviewed on one of his TV channels are almost knocking me down the sofa.
In his monologue Berlusconi is making up statistics and pieces of historical truth; he is libelling Italian magistrates; he is openly lying about every subject the “journalist” humbly hopes his master desires to talk about. And I feel shame.
All Italians know that conflict of interest is the salt of Italian politics, the Motore Immobile behind an outrageous 16-year-old corrupt system, namely Berlusconism. All Italians know it and we all have to face it as a given fact, though a cruel one.
However, this couldn’t happen but in Italy. Ex CNN-reporter Alessio Vinci is interviewing Berlusconi on Canale 5, one of the mogul’s TV channels. And if you were sitting on the sofa next to me you’d believe to be watching a Candid-Camera show.
You don’t even need to speak Italian to understand this is an ignoble farce. Berlusconi looks completely relaxed, no signs of frustration on his face. The so-called journalist has never stopped smiling since he kicked off the so-called interview. However, his smile looks weird, not natural at all.
This scene reminds me a familiar scene. I’m sure I’ve seen it plenty of times in my life. Eventually something springs to mind: Vinci’s smile is the uncomfortable smile my schoolmates adorned their faces with during interrogations. We all used it to attract the teacher’s sympathy when we were being accused of something we knew we were guilty of.
Such is this interview: a quiet exchange of words between employer and employee, an exceptional case (not in Italy unfortunately, here it’s a commonplace) where the journalist turns into the interviewed. I would expect a very few people to be openly critical to their employer, even fewer if their employer was also their Prime Minister.
In the rest of Europe politicians fear journalists as if they were voracious animals. Indeed journalists make difficult questions and, above all, they make objections when politicians lie or are mistaken.While here in Italy Berlusconi can depict an imaginary country undisturbed.
Indeed Vinci is not a voracious animal as his foreign colleagues. However, you can see there’s a kind of journalist inside him as sometimes he tries to answer back. Sometimes he even tries to be more hazardous in his questions. But very soon it seems he rembers he’s the employee and Berlusconi is free to lie once again: Vinci eventually turns into the interviewed.
But despite the unbearable shame I feel as a Journalism student and as an Italian citizen, I’m proud of myself because I can still feel shame despite Berlusconi’s totalitarian capacity to manipulate reality.