Jasmina Tešanović: Violence in Milan

(Guest-essay by Jasmina Tešanović, video here.)

berlusconi-wd-RTXRXPWth.jpg Silvio Berlusconi, the controversial Prime Minister of Italy, suffered a severe physical attack in Milan this past week. The man who attacked him with the plaster model of the Duomo cathedral, at the site of the same Duomo cathedral, is said to have a history of mental illness. He was immediately arrested and found to have also possessed a vial of pepper-gas.

Berlusconi's face was bleeding, his teeth were broken, and his lips torn when he stood up from his car to wave with a desperate face at his confused audience. He was immediately taken to the hospital.

The day after, his first question was: why do they hate me so much? The scandal-prone prime minister has been the center of sexual, political, and mafia-linked scandals over the past year. Only a week ago, a big worldwide demonstration was held to demand that he resign from power, and set Italy free from his dubious ways of ruling, which involve corruption, underage girls, prostitutes, and attacks on freedom of press and the civil rights of both citizens and immigrants.

The president of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, declared immediately that the spiral of violence must end at once. Other Italian political officials condemned the physical attack, but some did mention the personal responsibility of the premier: whoever hits will be hit in return.

One hour after Berlusconi was hit in the face, a Facebook protest page was opened and 1,000 signatures appeared. In a couple of hours that number grew to 50,000 people who were pleased to see the head of state assaulted. Some were asking for the attacker to be declared a saint. Other websites representing opposite opinions but just as impassioned, appeared very quickly. The authorities are considering closing some violent websites.

This is a very dangerous turn of events. Milan and Italy remember the 'years of lead' in the 1970s, when extra-parliamentary terrorist left and right groups were tormenting the city, causing the death of innocent civilians and massive political confusion. The spiral of violence ended in the kidnapping and execution of the politician Aldo Moro. Until this day some dark acts of those years have not been resolved, the witnesses have been eliminated, the political pressures clashing.

What will come next? The government can use this episode for repressing public demonstrations and other political freedoms. The security issues are on top of the national agenda.

Was this episode the random case of a lunatic, or a calculated step in the escalation of hate and violence in Italy? Berlusconi denounces partisan polarization and bitterness, yet he provokes it. As prime minister, he has the first responsibility for this sorry state of affairs.

The president Napolitano claims that opposite parties should not accuse each other, but that each side should take its part of responsibility and try to bring peace.

Medical reports say that Berlusconi will need to stay in the hospital to heal his jaw, but that his blustering sense of humor is undamaged.

It is Italy that seems hurt, sorrowful and trembling, from top to bottom, and justly so. Everybody wants to go back to normality, in a normal democratic state, but that normality was not lost this week in any single wild attack.

Italian political stability and dignity have declined over the course of many years, slowly and painfully. To restore civic health and a sense of pride in their public affairs, many Italians will have to take action.

Jasmina Tešanović is an author, filmmaker, and wandering thinker who shares her thoughts with BoingBoing from time to time. Email: politicalidiot at yahoo dot com. Her blog is here.

Previous essays by Jasmina Tešanović on BoingBoing:

Report from anti-Berlusconi demonstration in Rome
On Marina Abramovic, a "grandmother of performance art"
The Murder of Natalya Estemirova.
Less Than Human
Earthquake in Italy
10 years after NATO bombings of Serbia
Made in Catalunya / Lou and Laurie
Dragan Dabic Defeats Radovan Karadzic
Who was Dragan David Dabic?
My neighbor Radovan Karadzic
The Day After / Kosovo
State of Emergency
Christmas in Serbia
Neonazism in Serbia
Korea - South, not North.
"I heard they are making a movie on her life."
Serbia and the Flames
Return to Srebenica
Sagmeister in Belgrade
What About the Russians?
Milan Martic sentenced in Hague
Mothers of Mass Graves
Hope for Serbia
Stelarc in Ritopek
Sarajevo Mon Amour
Killing Journalists
Where Did Our History Go?
Serbia Not Guilty of Genocide
Carnival of Ruritania
"Good Morning, Fascist Serbia!"
Faking Bombings
Dispatch from Amsterdam
Where are your Americans now?
Anna Politkovskaya Silenced
Slaughter in the Monastery
Mermaid's Trail
A Burial in Srebenica
Report from a concert by a Serbian war criminal
To Hague, to Hague
Preachers and Fascists, Out of My Panties
Floods and Bombs
Scorpions Trial, April 13
The Muslim Women
Belgrade: New Normality
Serbia: An Underworld Journey
Scorpions Trial, Day Three: March 15, 2006
Scorpions Trial, Day Two: March 14, 2006
Scorpions Trial, Day One: March 13, 2006
The Long Goodbye
Milosevic Arrives in Belgrade
Slobodan Milosevic Died
Milosevic Funeral


  1. -It is too bad our politicians dont get similar treatment. What a joke – Bersculoni asking “why do they hate me?” you mean besides the corruption, patronage, gilded age lifestyle, while policies result in average citizen living hand-to-mouth? Besides that, what’s not to like?

    Here we suffer from Bush, Cheney, Paulson, Lieberman, et. al. selling out the Constitution and throwing open the doors of the Treasury to carpet bagging cronies – grinning like cheshire cats on TV. While thousand die or are maimed in war, lose jobs, homes, families to health and bankrupcy, –

    I want to see our criminal governing class get their commupance and standing bloddy stunned glassy eyed, El Duce style.

  2. “corruption, underage girls, prostitutes, and attacks on freedom of press and the civil rights of both citizens and immigrants”

    And he wonders why they hate him?!

    Really, Silvio?

    Even if only HALF of those allegations were true he ought to be tarred, feathered and run out on a rail. What a malignantly corrupt dooshsack.

  3. Berlusconi is a true megalomaniac and as Kurt Vonegutt referred to people like him, a PP, a psychopathic personality.
    What is happening in Italy is infecting the rest of Europe and the world as Italy exports it corruption.
    The manipulation of Belusconi and his control of the media has convinced many Italians, especially the young, that even though they abhor his politcal ideas, no one else can give them jobs…of course he has done a sorry job in reality…but this is not about reality.
    In France, Sarkozy, who has admired Berlusconi and even had the leader of the Italian Fascist party write the intro for the Italian version of his bio, has tried to emulate his manipulative total control and pitting the elements in french society against each other…
    The results? France is becoming more polarized with a rising extreme xenophobic right as we are seeing in the rest of Europe.
    Not just for the sake of Italian society, but for the sanity of the rest of Europe, Belusconi has got to go….

  4. Repressing political liberties?

    C’mon this is not some new-to-democracy ex communist country, i didn’t vote Berlusconi, but i have to tell you that the alternatives are not that good either, and that’s the real problem on the long run.

    It happens here that we still manage to get on flights without too much harassment and, hear hear, we actually can take pictures of things around our cities without being stopped by cops!

    And to the first poster.
    I realize that you probably don’t really know what is like living with domestic terrorism, with some idiot (eventually manipulated by the real powers behind) that thinks armed fight is the way to go, like we did in the seventies, but believe me, it’s not a road you want to go down…

  5. As my friend and teacher Doug Dowd says, “Berlusconi is Mussolini with a necktie.”

    And in asking about hate, ol’ Benito Berlusconi seems to be paraphrasing a recent US POTUS in 2001, trying to dodge the real issues.

    BTW, Lotta Continua and such were not the problem in Italy. It was–and always has been–the right [and those who can be corrupted by it].

    P.S. As Sr Saviano about Berlusconi and the Mafia.

  6. The man who attacked him with the plaster model of the Duomo cathedral

    A humiliating turn of events for Il Duomo.

  7. Just for the record, Berlusconi was a paid member of P2, otherwise known as Propaganda 2: a covert lodge of the masons dedicated to, well, go figure, propaganda. They’ve been called the “state within a state”, and their mission was said to have been: consolidation of the media, suppression of trade unions, and the rewriting of the Italian Constitution. Silvio has one covered, another is all but confirmed, and the last is something his PDL is fighting for as we speak. P2 have been linked to Gladio: an operation set up after the second world war to establish a “Strategy of tension”: where “powers divide, manipulate, and control public opinion using fear, propaganda, disinformation, psychological warfare, agents provocateurs, and false flag terrorist actions.”
    So, I doubt berlusconi planned to get himself smashed in the face, but he’ll use it.

    Look on wikipedia, lots of interesting things to be discovered.

  8. bloodlust attracts the bloodthirsty, italian news media thirsty , italian public thirsty, american public also thirsty but more neurotic-needing satisfaction of ‘law and order’ – find yourself think for yourself, develop our worlds/nation’s cultural identity by pursuit of…you choose, I choose beauty and compassion over hate and but that may be airy-fairy when running a nation-which is always inherently fascist.

    1. Italy has “Law and Order” too. Go figure. Actually, I teach a comparative media class in Rome and have concluded that even though Berlusconi has a monopoly of TV media, it’s really not that different from the US media. Both are colonized by reality TV and infotainment with a lack of any real dissenting or alternative opinion. So, who are we to judge?

  9. Excuse me, but if the country (and yes I do believe Amerika was guilty of electing the same lower class ass) elects someone who flagrantly abuses the concepts of leadership, honesty, altruism, and humanity; expect this kind of retort! He has his twin in our little Rupert Murdock, who is ONLY smarter because he stay in the shadows while he manipulates the press and the populace. He is trying to control lives, government, and future; and obviously feels as responsible as a sock. If he never had a bloody nose cos he’s such a rich boy, then welcome to reality… here’s the school yard of bullies you’ve been playing in, and stop crying.

  10. @Enormo and Anonymous: They used to sell heavy paperweight style models of the Eiffel Tower at the actual Eiffel Tower. I have a vision of where this is going….

  11. “C’mon this is not some new-to-democracy ex communist country, i didn’t vote Berlusconi, but i have to tell you that the alternatives are not that good either, and that’s the real problem on the long run.”

    Zaphod, I take it you are Italian? Your comment made my pont in a very graphic way.
    Why do you feel that there is no alternative to Berlusconi?

    This is the same reason why Monsieur 30%, Sarko, will probably be re elected in 2012. Your press is controlled by Berlusconi, his opponents are discredited and the period when Prodi was in power, he was governing with a small majority over a system that was corrupt.
    In France, the main stream press is controlled by Sarko and his allies, he has eliminated and cowed the personalities who might challenge him in an interview.
    Like Berlusconi, he rarely conducts and “open” press conferece…it is very tightly controlled.

    The opposition is in dis array as in Italy and so fractured that it is rather hard to imagine a viable alternative. I have a very good friend from Perugia who emoas the state of Italian Left politics…they just put up osters and write their little pamphlets…how can you fight against armed thugs with your little pamphlets?

    The same tactical situation is in play in America. Obama is president over a sitiation so corrupt and damaged, a system frozen in denial that it is nearly paralyzed. The result? A hostile press can manipulate a confused and angry public into re electing the same idiots who destroyed the government in the first place.

    You are right, you enjoy your basic right to move around, but perhaps you fare a lot better than someone who voiced opposition.

    One thing very scary in Italy is the rise of active, extreme right racist politics allied with the Cathiolic Church. Look at the power they have in the goverent.
    Look at the Power of the Northern League and the outrageous racial “cleansing” tactics they are now empoloying in Northern Italy.

    You might defend Berlusconi by referring to your relative sense of freedom, but that my friend is a very precarious thing. It’s all relative.

    1. zaphod is right tho’, Italy is not a 3rd world banana republic and Berlusconi is not a dictator, after all he was elected not 1 but 4 times.

      the TV thing is so overstated, i mean yes he does manipulate the media but the Italians are not so stupid as to be totally brainwashed. If you want a clue to why Berlusconi REALLY gets elected check the tax promises (he did lower some taxes) the laws he passed for himself (but thousands of people got the benefits too) and last but not least the total absence of a coherent left party.

      he would never win the elections if there were someone to contrast him. he lost with Prodi which was perceived as a serious leader, but he will never loose against the puppets he has against now.

  12. As it happens with every complex political issue, the truth is never on one side only and there is no real easy solution available.

    While personally regretting that they didn’t use a 1:1 scale Duomo model to hit and squash him forever, my impression is that this is but the first act of an age of physical revolt against a ruling class (in Italy they call it “The Caste” for its impenetrability) which has bled dry the coffers, the souls and the hopes of its peones everywhere.

    To put it simply: people can’t stand the pression and repression anymore, and that’s very clear to everybody. And when civil discourse cannot impact the powers that be at all… the only alternative is – unfortunately but inevitably – violence.

  13. Let us all not forget that this act of violence was done by a person with severe mental problem. This was not an expression of peoples distaste towards Berlusconi, this was merely one insane person doing what insane people do.

  14. If I know this country well, Italians won’t do anything, life will go on as always, because a lot of people feel hopeless and unable to take action.
    First comments I heard when I got to work after this happened were: “Oh god, violence is not good.” “No they shouldn’t have done this.” and the like.
    Mind you: these comments came from people who have been talking against Mr.B (how italians call Berlusconi as a form of mockery) every time they could.
    Frankly this shocked me… you talk against him and when someone (although a psychotic) does something… you defend him? I feel compassion for the man, but not for the politician, he has been doing terrible things and deserved what happened to him, but this won’t change anything. He’ll go on and on, maybe even worsening the situation.

    For those who want to know more about what’s happening in Italy, maybe you should take a look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_Due
    This is what many italians think is going on and Licio Gelli himself said Mr.B is strictly following his plan, some years ago in an interview.
    BTW, I read his “Plan for Democratic Rebirth” and it states three main goals have to be reached before enabling it:
    1 – fake dualism in politics (one ruling party)
    2 – media/schools/information control
    3 – economy control
    I just hope we could do anything to make the plan fail.

  15. I don’t know anything about European political figures, but I read up on him on Wikipedia after seeing this. This guy is like the Michael Scott of world leaders.

  16. 1 – fake dualism in politics (one ruling party)
    2 – media/schools/information control
    3 – economy control

    Krikey, that sounds like the republican party platform!

    I really loved the comment in the thread about the possible placement of a model of the Eiffel Tower. Would that be the 24 cm chrome plated model?

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