Very good work from Gideon Rachman in the FT (sub needed), who explains why Beppe Grillo is not the same as Benito Mussolini.
It is necessary to do this because Britain’s cretinous Tory thought-leading (ho, ho) rag, The Spectator, has run a long piece saying that Grillo is like Mussolini. Presumably this is what comes from spending your time in Italy by a pool at a villa in Tuscany,
Only against the British can one imagine having to defend an Italian, but here goes:
‘Parties, he [Grillo] is adamant, are the problem, not the solution.’ I don’t think Grillo has ever said or believed this. Indeed he is urging the proper parties to get on and announce policies that will command the support of the electorate.
‘Grillo, a former communist, was banned from national television in the late 1980s as a result of his defamatory performances.’ It is political convention in Italy that public service television stations are controlled by the major political parties. The private stations that everyone watches are controlled by Berlusconi. No one who makes good political jokes gets on television (that’s why there is no comedy on Italian television). This has nothing to do with defamation.
‘Whereas Mussolini spread the word through his own mass daily newspaper Il Popolo d’Italia, and enforced it by means of his blackshirts, Grillo does so through his website, Il Blog di Beppe Grillo, and violent verbal abuse and ostracism of opponents. Whereas Mussolini travelled by train to his rallies, Grillo travels to his by camper van.’ As above, established political parties in Italy have or control their own television stations and newspapers (and banks, and supermarkets). Grillo uses the internet because it is the only affordable entry point for a non-established party or non-billionaire. On travel, I am not clear how Mussolini on a train is the analogue of Grillo in a camper van. What is The Spectator’s approved pro-democratic vehicle? BMW 5-series? Range Rover Evoque?
‘Italian fascism, even though no one is allowed to say so, was a left-wing revolutionary movement which Mussolini founded because the first world war had made him realise that the proletariat is more loyal to its nation than its class.’ It is the nationalism, the racism and the militarism that largely makes fascism fascism and different from socialism. Hence the term national socialism. However the idea that fascism is left-wing and, by implication, right-wing extremism does not exist is so good that it is repeated a couple of pars later: ‘Like fascism, Grillo’s movement is essentially left-wing.’ This is what the 15 nuts who buy The Spectator read it for.
You guessed it:
The author of the Spectator piece interviewed Berlusconi for the rag in 2003 and had the following incisive conclusion: ‘On the whole, I think Berlusconi – a Latino Thatcherite – a very good thing for Italy.’
Back in the real world:
Gideon Rachman also points out that after the monumental Iceland crisis, voters elected a stand-up comedian mayor of Reykjavic. Now they’re on the mend. At least Goofy never recorded a theme song or patted a rock.