Beyond Berlusconi: The Corporate Italian Media’s Portrayal of the Antiwar Movement

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We look at the corporate Italian media outside of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s control and its portrayal of the antiwar and anti-globalization movements in Italy. We speak with independent Italian journalist Raffaele Mastrolonardo. [includes rush transcript]

We continue to focus on issues of media concentration in Italy and Prime Minister Berlusconi’s influence over Italian public opinion.

To look at the broader picture of the Italian corporate media’s coverage of Iraq and of the antiwar movement, we are joined in our Rome studio by Italian journalist, Raffaele Mastrolonardo. He is an independent journalist who writes on technology for various Italian newspapers and web sites. He also collaborates with several Italian and international magazines writing on politics and media.

  • Raffaele Mastrolonardo, independent Italian journalist.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: To look at the broader picture of the Italian corporate media’s coverage of Iraq and the anti-war movement, we’re joined in our Rome studio by Italian journalist, Raffaele Mastrolonardo. He is an independent journalist who writes on technology for various Italian newspapers and websites. He also collaborates with several Italian and international magazines, writing on politics and media. We welcome you, Raffaele, to Democracy Now!, here in Rome.


AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us. Well, we have just heard the senator talking about the media concentration, the media empire of the Prime Minister Berlusconi, who not only was the largest media mogul before he became Prime Minister, but then took over the directorship of the public media as well. So, he has got public and private. Talk further about that, and how significant that is.

RAFFAELE MASTROLONARDO: Well, this is, of course, very significant. But if you will allow me, what I would like to point out is that, of course, if we look at the Italian media system, Berlusconi is right at the center of the picture. It’s right in focus, but there is also background, and this background might be a little bit blurred, slightly out of focus, but it is equally important. So, even if we get rid of Berlusconi, if we take Berlusconi out of the picture, what you are going to have is not the media system of our dreams. This is because even those medias which are not owned by Berlusconi are still corporate media, and approach with a corporate agenda and they have their own corporate ideology. To me, what is important now is to stress the fact that there are many medias in Italia, which are not owned by Berlusconi, but sometimes they share the same ideology brought about by Berlusconi. To see things like that we just have to look at the way this media has portrayed, for instance, the anti-globalization movement and anti-war movement throughout these years. If you look at what has been doing, for instance, the three major Italian newspapers which are not owned by Berlusconi, but when you look at is a strange picture, because they have portrayed the anti-globalization movement as a violent subject, as a confused subject, meaning that it is not able to grasp reality, to look at reality in a rational way, giving solutions for the reality, but they have added a third feature, and they have portrayed the anti-globalization movement as a kind of fundamentalist movement which was opposing every wonder that the new millenium was giving us. In this case, in the case where a new political subject arose in the public sphere, all of the media, not only the Berlusconi media were reacting in a very conservative way, and so it’s interesting for instance to look at Reppublica. Reppublica is the second largest Italian newspaper, which in this year has been doing a marvelous job against Berlusconi. They have criticized Berlusconi in every possible way showing his problems with — his legal problems, and showing all of the lies that he was telling the Italians. But in some little corner, they have shared with him the same kind of ideology. For instance, a couple of years ago, Reppublica published this wonderful article criticizing Berlusconi for the way in which Berlusconi portrayed trade unions. And Berlusconi likes to portray trade unions as a conservative institution, as an anti-progress institution.

AMY GOODMAN: As an anti-progress institution?

RAFFAELE MASTROLONARDO: As an anti-progress institution, an institution that tries to defend acquired privilege and that doesn’t want — that slow down the progress of the nation. Reppublica published this article exposing all of this prejudices of Berlusconi. What is interesting is that if you look back at what Reppublica had been writing for years, well, you find the same picture. They have been representing the trade unions in the same way. You know, as that was — this representation was made by the most important and most prestigious journalist of Reppublica. So, Berlusconi is a big problem, as Tana just said, but it’s not the only problem that we have. So, we have to keep this in mind, I think.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the coverage of the war in Iraq?

RAFFAELE MASTROLONARDO: Okay. I think that — and we are always talking about newspapers, maybe, because it’s more easily — more easy to track what they have been doing because what they have been doing is written down in pages. We are talking about newspapers which were not owned by Berlusconi, okay? I think we have to make a distinction, a clear distinction between coverage, reporting and comments and commentaries, and framework in which this reporting was put. And I think that as far as reporting is concerned, I think that these newspapers have been doing a decent job, but when you go — when you go and look at commentaries, well, then the picture changes a lot. I think that what is interesting, for instance, that the Corriere della Sera, which is the most important Italian paper, I think the level of prestige is comparable to the New York Times in the U.S., the commentaries that Corriere della Sera has published about the war were characterized by two main features. The first is that we are always good. We are always moved by good intentions. So, even if we make a mistake, well, that doesn’t count because we did that out of generosity and good intentions, namely we wanted to bring democracy to Iraq. Italy is participating in the occupation of Iraq right now. It didn’t participate in the bombing, but it’s participating to the occupation. The second trick that they have been using is to play always in the field of culture, in a very abstract field, because — and leaving facts aside — because if you play in the field of facts you are soon forced to confront some bad truths. For instance that maybe we have been killing 40,000 Iraqis, according to some reports. 33,000 Iraqis, according to some other reports. 100,000 Iraqis, according to the last study published by Lancet, which is a British journal, I think, doing a very complicated study based on, I think clustering is the way this method is called. So if you look at the facts, you are soon forced to confront this reality. So they prefer to play at the level of culture. And level of culture is a level where you are going always to win, because you can point to the situation in a way such as where we are democratic, and they are not democratic. We are respectful of human rights and they are not respectful of human rights, and so on. Which I don’t think is true, which might be true, but it’s completely off the point. The point is what we are doing there, and the consequences of what we are doing there. This is never addressed by the commentaries of Corriere della Sera and other major newspapers in Italy.

AMY GOODMAN: Did the Simonas, the kidnapping of the Simonas, two women who are fiercely anti-war, and ultimately, their release and coming back to this country, did it change anything in what is being expressed about what’s happening in Iraq? Because unlike other anti-war activists, they were covered extensively by all of the media here, Berlusconi’s, of course.

RAFFAELE MASTROLONARDO: Right. Well, I don’t know how much it changed. Of course, in the beginning, when — during the whole — you know, during the whole story and when they came back, probably something changed because every media was reporting the news basically in the same way. But after that, I don’t think that it changed that much. Because many media started again to report the war in Iraq the same way, and there were also some medias which criticized actually the two Simonas for having gone there, creating troubles, namely, creating Berlusconi troubles. But again, I don’t think that, you know, Berlusconi is the only problem that we have in Italy.

AMY GOODMAN: Raffaele Mastrolonardo, I want to thank you very much for being with us.

RAFFAELE MASTROLONARDO: I thank you for inviting me. It was quite an honor.

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