A man with a history of mental problems launched an attack against Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at a political rally in Milan with a model of Milan’s main cathedral, sending Berlusconi to the hospital.
While the attack on Berlusconi appears to be the work of a lone, deranged individual, some in the Italian media suggest that the attack was stoked by an atmosphere of political incivility and even hate, according to the BBC. Even those parts of the Italian media that has been most critical of Berlusconi have condemned that attack and have questioned whether the campaign against him has gone too far.
In a way the political climate in Italy appears to have some parallels with what adhered in the United States during the George W. Bush administration. It may be that some Italians are afflicted with “Berlusconi Derangement Syndrome” just as some Americans were afflicted with
“Bush Derangement Syndrome.”
The left-leaning Italian newspaper La Repubblica put it bluntly:
“Friends and adversaries, supporters and opponents, need today to show solidarity with the prime minister – as we do – without any differentiation.
“And they must build a wall against the insanity of this gesture, first and foremost because it is extremely serious in itself and also because it can foster the kind of tragic period that we have already tried and tested, during the worst years of our lives.”
Italy has known political violence before in its history, most recently during the 1970s and the early 1980s during the reign of terror inflicted by the Brigardo Rose terrorist group. The Brigardo Rose murdered a former Italian Prime Minister, Aldo Moro, and kidnapped an American General, James Dozier, before being successfully broken up by Italian law enforcement authorities.
The reaction of the Italian media, of all political leanings, against the attack on Berlusconi speaks well of its willingness to question its own editorial stance and its effect on the political culture of Italy.
The same cannot be said about the American media in regards to George W. Bush. If anything, some parts of the American media recklessly fanned the flames of Bush Derangement Syndrome. While George W. Bush was never seriously assaulted, save for a thrown shoe by a disturbed Iraqi journalist, it was not for want of encouragement. A movie was even produced imagining the assassination of President Bush and its aftermath.
Encouragingly, even though President Obama has come in for his share of criticism, both by some parts of the media and a large part of the public, the opposition is not on the scale of vitriol suffered by his predecessor.
Sources: Berlusconi attack: Italian press review, BBC, December 14th, 2009
Death of a President: Assassination Porn or Political Propaganda?, Mark R. Whittington, Associated Content, September 22nd, 2009