Italian Elections 2006 (5)
Giovanni Sartori is a prominent Italian political scientist. Born in Florence in 1924, as most of his fellow citizens he has a temper, which sometimes seems to cloud his political judgment. Nonetheless, one could not help but think that he is justified in passing contemptuous judgments such as the following:
The election on 9-10 April does not appeal to me in the least. Not at all and in no respect. Were I to write on the subject, I would say bad things about everyone involved. So I won’t. But this does not stop me weighing up the prospects. In the past, there used to be real leaders. A real leader believes in ideals, fights electoral battles with his brains, and refuses to go to any lengths to win. In contrast, this election is another triumph of gurus, polls, and blows below the belt. The candidates, too, are frauds in the sense that their speeches are written by other people – specialist speechwriters – and what they should be saying or not saying is dictated by spin doctors and pollsters. The moment of truth should be the head-to-head encounter on television of the leading candidates. But not even this moment of truth manages not to reveal very much. The contenders are trained by their respective advisers, who more than anything else provide them with punchlines and soundbites. During the debate, their biggest problem is remembering which prefabricated piece to recite at the right time.
America wrote the book when it comesto TV duels, and American wisdom maintains that in the last analysis, the winner is the candidate who inspires more “trust.” This means visible, telegenic trust, of course. If that is the case, we ought to be truly alarmed. Great deceivers are great because they inspire trust. If they did not, they would only be charlatans or small-time snake-oil sellers. But if trust itself is a deceitful veneer, what can we trust?
Enough said for the pars destruens. Now, what are we to do about all this? Poor, poor voter, says Sartori. How we can save ourselves from the trust-inspiring deceiver?
Let’s suppose, for the purposes of illustration, that I am a good citizen who feels a duty to vote, but is undecided. If I were to read the almost 300 page-long mega-manifesto produced by Mr Prodi’s think tank, I fear I wouldn’t want to subscribe to it. The mega-manifesto is, as was foreseen and foreseeable, an indigestible broth prepared by too many cooks (eleven, to be precise). But luckily – for Mr Prodi – I have no great faith in manifestos. Not because they are necessarily dishonest, but because they are always bloated. Today, we know for certain that whoever takes over government will inherit a huge debt (approximately 110% of our GDP) and empty – desperately empty – coffers. This brings me back – in order to induce me to vote – to the much-reviled vote of retaliation. It doesn’t mean that I am relinquishing hope. But it does mean that for the time being I am punishing and packing off home those who so adroitly despoiled us last time. That much, at least.
Ok, it’s an option, but I’m not sure I like it. Yet, perhaps it is better than to base one’s voting choise on what newspapers are reporting, whether they are called Corriere della Sera or Time, The New York Times (registration required) or The Washington Post (reg. req), The Independent or The Sidney Morning Herald. Far from helping voters to understand what is at stake, they risk to mislead people into thinking that the main problem with Italy is that “there is a state of democratic emergency,” as argued by Alex Harrowell at A Fistful of Euros.
Concerning this I should like to tell him that there is no state of emergency in Italy and that if this is what he really thinks, Berlusconi have had very limited success in managing the news, if that’s what he has been trying to do.
I would also recall what one of my political heroes once said on this subject:
“I sometimes think we are too much impressed by the clamor of daily events. The newspaper headlines and the television screens give us a short view. They so flood us with the stop-press detail of daily stories that we lose sight of…the great movements of history. Yet it is the profound tendencies of history, and not the passing excitements, that will shape our future.”
[J.F. Kennedy, Address at the University of California at Berkeley, March 23, 1962]
Categorie:somewhere in italy