After success of The Missing Past and The Missing Judicial Immunity, a classic was back to Italian screens last Monday night. The Missing Facts, the thrilling adventure of an evil genius and his attempts to turn reality into a media show, would be an hilarious story if it wasn’t about last Silvio Berlusconi’s TV stunt.
Last Monday Mr Berlusconi phoned TV programme L’Infedele after host Gad Lerner covered PM’s sex scandal. Berlusconi violently attacked Lerner (he said the programme had been “disgusting” and conducted in a “repellent and abhorrent way”) and after a two-minute monologue he ended up calling the programme an “unbelievable TV brothel”.
Monday’s stunt was the last of a long series. The victim of his most famous TV stunt was journalist Michele Santoro in 2002. According to Berlusconi the programme was highly partial and politicized. Santoro was accused of covering the content of a book about the origins of Mr Berlusconi’s empire. He was then fired from Italian TV.
But are Mr Berlusconi’s stunts what you think they are? Are they just the delirious story of a bully Prime Minister? As pointed out by Italian national newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, they’re not. Rather, they are part of a carefully planned communication strategy. Verbal aggressiveness leads the spectator to focus on the act of speech rather than to its content and as a consequence any opposition is put down. Thus it doesn’t matter what is said but how it’s said: any argument becomes valuable as long as it’s based on these premises. Facts disappear and leave room for opinions. And the spectator can see no difference.
The nature of debates following Mr Berlusconi’s performance demonstrates the efficiency of his communication strategies. People seemed to have forgotten the sex scandal and started talking about the stunt. Public attention had been successfully driven from the facts (the content of the TV programme) to the opinions (Mr Berlusconi’s aggressiveness).
Almost nothing in Italy is like it looks. While in the eyes of a foreigner Silvio Berlusconi is just a funny evil genius, a deeper analysis unfolds totalitarian logics behind his terribly serious stunts. Thus a banal phone call turns out to be the obscene symbol of a shameless power.
However, when I first heard Mr Berlusconi calling the programme(the facts) “TV brothel” I admit I couldn’t help laughing. The pot calling the kettle black.