|Oh no, they're talking about|
“”I don't need to go into office for the power. I have houses all over the world, stupendous boats... beautiful airplanes, a beautiful wife, a beautiful family... I am making a sacrifice.
|—Bunga Bunga Berlusconi. Ring any bells?|
Silvio "Bunga Bunga" Berlusconi (1936–2023), a.k.a "Il Cavaliere", was an Italian lounge singer, media mogul, and career
criminal politician, having served three terms as Prime Minister. He was the leader of Forza Italia (literally Let's Go, Italy!), a party made in the image and likeness of the founder, which is currently tied with Salvini's Northern League (Lega Nord) and Meloni's Brothers Of Italy (Fratelli D'Italia). Silvio held his country hostage for 25 years and did this because he had a distortion field and enough money to throw at any problem.
He paved the way for "outsider" rabble-rousing in Italy before being emulated on a grander scale by Trump in America. Both were unqualified for the jobs they sought or held, never shut up, had head-scratching support, and would ultimately fail miserably, What, Trump won? but they were such a trainwreck that you couln’t help but tune in. Didn't matter, it was just 4 years. Wait, Bunga Man was one of their longest-serving leaders? Damn. Strangely, he also owned Italian soccer giants AC Milan, and his particular brand of extravagance saw them win 8 Italian Championships (scudetto) and five European Cups/UEFA Champions Leagues  He would later on (in 2018) own AC Monza, which was promoted twice from Serie C to Serie A in only 2 seasons.
“”He's had so many face-lifts, his face has moved to the top of his head, you have to get on a step-ladder to watch him lie.
Umberto Eco wrote an essay on the success of Mike Bongiorno, one of Italy's most famous personalities. Berlusconi was no different: the manifestation of a proud and widespread mediocrity which made Mike the god of Italian television. (The pair in the eighties.)
What was behind Berlusconi? The failure of the Italian First Republic in the first place. Then, the implosion of the center-left who could neither put forward a coherent labor stance nor move firmly into a pseudo-Blairite pro-business orbit. Silvio began to steal parliamentarians from the League and other right-wing parties, attracting them to FI. He offered a change from the endless coalition collapses and deadlocked and short-lived governments and campaigned on a popular distaste for politicians. Of course, he had to say it after Mani Pulite.
Since B. looked into Italian politics, they have stopped having a center-right worthy of the name. This is demonstrated by the fact that FI failed to cultivate a person worthy of taking the reins from him. So much of this is the fault of Berlusconi and of his lacchè: if you create a party in which mutual benefit is the catalyst, then you can not expect anything else.
Can't shear the Cavalier?
“”Italians need someone like him because he is just like them. Everybody has a mistress. Everybody cheats on taxes. Everybody does something illegal because it’s impossible to live legally.
He re-united the Right under his banner while the Left was shattered into a thousand pieces and built a house of cards to justify his crimes and avoid prison.[note 1]
- He was at one point the richest man in Italy, though we still don't know how and by whose investments he became so successful. He still controlled one of the worst broadcast panoramas in all of Italy: Mediaset, technically owned by his son.
- The opposition had no chance against him alone because his ability to reach the electorate was vastly superior to theirs. He owned 3 of the 7 most-viewed TV channels, with 3 of those being state-owned, so in effect when he was running the government he controlled 6 out of the 7. There was a lot of subtle advertising on his channels (reality TV mostly); he perpetuated the idea that anyone can become a star, which is the subject of a documentary about his reign, Videocracy.
- In addition, he controlled two newspapers, Libero and Il Giornale, which fully supported him and printed all kinds of defamations. Il Giornale is run by his somehow-sleazier brother, Paolo.
- His membership with P2. You can't imagine how much dirt was discovered about other candidates pre-election, and yet magically he appeared like Jesus Christ Superstar, without a whisper about his past (and there was a lot to cover). He even hosted a mob hitman in his villa for years, either as a mandatory favor to someone or, according to others, for Berlusconi's own safety. Mangano "tended the stables", but he was put there as Silvio's bodyguard.
- He saved AC Milan from bankruptcy and, in his tenure as owner, won five European Cup/Champions Leagues including the only back-to-back winners for over 25 years (his appropriation of "Forza Italia" is analogous to "Go, Bears!"). In 2012, he bought Balotelli, a football superstar—implying that if their dying team could experience rebirth, Italy could too. Some polls reported that signing Balotelli got him 400,000 votes.
- According to Alexander Stille, Berlusconi crafted an image for himself as an idealized Italian everyman. Young men admired him for being a clever fox. Old people knew he was rich and was therefore resistant to bribery. A successful businessman should be a good steward of the economy. Even his age was an asset, as the median age in Italy is 50.
- The problem was that the average Italian is like Berlusconi. The average Italian will not pay taxes if they can avoid it and will vote for the party which offers them material gain in the short term. This is due mainly to historical causes (Machiavelli, Borgia, etc.), and it's a reaction to the in-your-face corruption they are confronted with every day. B. had educated Italians to exploit loopholes to survive, because “così fan tutte” (everyone does it). He actually said that.
- It was always somebody else's fault. His past governments were always raising expenditures to buy consensus, creating huge budget issues, while he would only marginally raise taxes to compensate and blame someone else in the process. The discourse was always about him and how to remove obstacles that were making it difficult for him to make their lives as good as his already was. Obstacles being: opposition parties, immigrants, "elites", free press (he complained that his enemies enjoyed a "media monopoly."), and generally anybody who didn't agree with him, didn't find his jokes funny, didn't find him handsome, etc. Moreover, he managed to convince many that the the judiciary was not impartial and that he was being persecuted for political reasons. This allowed many voters to dismiss his trials as part of the political battle. All the sex scandals against him were started either by people jealous of his success or jilted women he rejected.
- He called himself "liberal." Of course, it was never "liberal" in the context of American politics, and what he called "liberal" may have been a classic version or a form of conservatism. He played on the fear of the Communist Party (as if they still had one) who were coming for your money and to take your home away from you. He used the clever strategy of referring to his party as "us moderates" and everyone else as "communists."
- Italians didn't vote for him. Forza Italia polled at 20%, and 25% abstained, which left just 15% of the electorate. The problem was an election law—written by him, of course—which split the opposition into many different parties.
- Berlusconi made up for being a douchebag by giving out tax reductions. He promised to repeal a much-loathed property tax imposed by the Monti government. Unlikely as it may sound, this was a powerful move since most Italians are homeowners. He even went so far as to offer them reimbursement of all property tax (€5 billion) paid in 2012. All this in a country with a public debt of around €2.5 trillion. He pulled stunts like the tax reimbursement letter, promising to pay them out of his own pocket—which was just electoral spam but led lots of clueless seniors into believing they were miraculously getting their tax money back thanks to him. Crowds of people lined up at post offices to demand their "refund forms", even though no such forms existed. It was also written in such a way that implied you had to have voted for Berlusconi to be eligible.
- Berlusconi knew the tricks to get media attention. The media and public obsession with the guy kept growing uglier as time went on, and the debates for and against were so low and cheap that everyone forgot how to think critically. The culprit was not so much the media but the opposition parties themselves that failed to present people with a solid alternative—or when they did (with Prodi) it didn't last long because the debate was focused entirely around Berlusconi and his supporters until they become deaf even to reasoned arguments. In the end, Italy only got rid of Silvio because Europe helped...a lot.
- He said Mussolini did good, Then he suggested that the EU was run by Nazis. Merkel riposted with "impotent dwarf"
and added "at least I saved my country instead of screwing it", though with more decorum. In the end, she helped see to his downfall.
Apart from the fact that he was still present in the political arena after leaving office (though much weakened), the ruins he left are still there. David Lane's book highlights, among other Berlusconisms, acquiescence to organized crime, official corruption, and a willingness to use the authority of the state to soften restrictions on corporate wrongdoing. Women saw their role in society go back about 30 or 50 years.
He did make some cosmetic reforms to Italy: harsher prison terms for Mafiosos, boost in infrastructure investment, more work flexibility, ban on smoking inside public spaces, and so on. His public spending on gambling licenses were enormous and unsupported by taxes, as he lowered them. At the same time, his Keynesian approach to the economy acted as a sleep-inducing agent during the debt crisis.
He destroyed Italian academia in order to make left-wing people unemployed, fueling radicalization on both fronts. But it's O.K. because all you really need for teaching is a smock.[No, not The Onion] All that and constant youth unemployment (unless you count pimping out their daughters).
Tangerine sex machine
“”He's the sort of guy who, if you told him to go fuck himself, would give it a shot.
|—Frankie Boyle, Mock The Week|
“”It's better to like beautiful girls than to be gay.
|—Berlusconi on his sex scandals.|
What sex did go on was with mostly young women: some of them hired, some of them groupies, and some of them looking to move up in the world, i.e. servicing him and his wrinkled old cronies (see his education minister, who's still in office and is terribly unqualified).
Knight in shining Teflon
“”I am without doubt the person who's been the most persecuted in the entire history of the world and the history of man.
|—Berlusconi on his many conflicts with the Italian legal system.|
Berlusconi stood trial for mob collusion, false accounting, tax fraud, bribery of cops/witnesses/judges/senators, embezzlement, drug trafficking, wiretapping, abuse of office, and may or may not have bailed an underage hooker named "Ruby the Heart Stealer" out of prison. According to his own statements, he spent $300 million in legal fees. Now that he's dead, the legal industry in Italy might collapse.
"Bunga-bunga" started as a joke between him and Colonel Gadaffi, whom he counted as a friend. Basically, it was people sitting around drinking and snorting coke while he banged on his keyboard and sang.
But they were classy dinners!
Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of the original, is a member of his party. She rode into power on his coattails and became something of an international celebrity: hot chick on a motorcycle, etc. She once claimed that "fascists are better than faggots".
Vladimir Putin provided Berlusconi with a little of that political leverage that he lost. Silvio provided him with the best bitches, parties, and food. It's understandable why the two were friends.
A man like Berlusconi breeded even more extremist figures. Many of his disillusioned voters probably went on to vote for the League or F5: populists with no feasible plan and contempt for basic manners and basic education, coupled with a strongman attitude. Salvini's party is a leak of Le Pen's worst policies: all statism and sovereignty, and other stuff that was typical of the Roman fascists. Beppe Grillo is head of the Five Star Movement (MS5), who believe in chemtrails and mermaids.
Look who's back, back again
The Centre-Right Coalition was born when Salvini was ahead of Forza Italia in the polls. After a couple of months, the situation was already upside down. Silvio aimed to redo the maneuver of '94, with Meloni/Salvini in place of Casini/Bossi. He could conceivably have taken power again, together with his fascist allies.
Every word of his campaign was practically a buzzphrase. A vow to deport 600,000 immigrants if elected; the usual call from a man of iron to Take Back Control/Make Italy Great Again; the promise of welfare benefits (wonder what he planned to gut to make that happen); a new flat tax which did not have to finance itself thanks to the incredible Italian entrepreneurial spirit; Salvini cloaking his own fascism with fine words, and B. distancing him from racial violence, qualifying them as people who instead seek chaos.
The Democrats inherited the problem from his unconscionable administration, and now stop the boats was the ladder they used to reelect Forza Italia, who didn't do it when they were in government: When the US and France and Britain were playing Lords of War in Libya, he joined in the bombing and signed the EU refugee pact. It did not take a genius to guess that the migrants would arrive there first, rather than France or Germany.
Berlusconi demonstrates his "technique"
Ok, so that's actually from a low-budget German comedy film entitled Bye Bye Berlusconi made in 2006. The odd part wasn't that Italians were punk'd, so much as they weren't surprised at all; they just thought it was him being himself.
He's every Italian's embarrassing uncle!
“”Another reason to invest in Italy is that we have beautiful secretaries.
“”As always, I work without interruption and if occasionally I happen to look a beautiful girl in the face, it's better to like beautiful girls than to be gay.
|—To a meeting of the motorcycle industry in Milan.|
|—No, you aren't.|
“”They should see it like a weekend of camping.
|—On earthquake victims who were living in tents after their homes had been destroyed.|
“”...handsome, young and also suntanned...
|—On Barack Obama, ffs.|
“”Mussolini never killed anyone, Mussolini sent people on holiday as exile.
|—In "the context of a comparison with Saddam Hussein."|
“”...Mussolini, in so many other aspects, did good.
|—On Holocaust Memorial Day.|
“”According to a survey, when asked if they would like to have sex with me, 30 per cent said, 'Yes,' while the other 70 per cent replied, 'What, again?'.
|—The numbers don't lie.|
“”...I shall put you forward for the role of [a Kapo guard], you would be perfect... for the Germans, concentration camps never existed.
|—To Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament. Berlusconi later excused the quote as having been meant to allude to Hogan's Heroes.|
“”I had to use all my playboy tactics, even if they have not been used for some time.
|—Trying to convince Finland not to host the European Food Safety Authority.|
“”I'm the most persecuted man in history.
|—Oh really, Silvio. We thought you were just plain nuts.|
“”I am the best president in 150 years of Italian history. Nobody has achieved more than I did, thus I have every reason to make this quote.
|—Note that Italy has only had a President since 1946.|
“”I said to Sali [Berisha], we'd make exceptions for anyone bringing over beautiful girls. You know, I'm single now.
|—Silvio welcomes Albanians—but only the pretty ones.|
“”When we went to the reception room and I did not see a bidet...I said 'I want to teach these African motherfuckers that foreplay is also important.'
|—Diplomacy which even Metternich could not match.|
- Boris Johnson — Because every country needs one.
- Clive Palmer — No, really, every country needs one.
- The brothers Rob Ford and Doug Ford — Sometimes those countries even have two.
- Donald Trump — You really thought America was immune?
- Jacob Zuma — To the yin must come the yang, to the Nelson must come a Silvio.
- Vladimir Zhirinovsky — Seriously, they're frigging everywhere.
- Jair Bolsonaro — You thought we were kidding. Even Latin America couldn't pass this one up.
- The previous government made noises about breaking up his empire. They feared he had too much power.
- David Lane. 2004. Berlusconi's Shadow: Crime, Justice and the Pursuit of Power. Penguin.
- Alexender Stille. 2006, 2007. The Sack of Rome: Media + Money + Celebrity = Power = Silvio Berlusconi. Penguin. pp. 14-15, 20-23.
- In quotes: Italy's Silvio Berlusconi in his own words. BBC News.
- Levy, Andrea, "Basta Bunga Bunga", New Yorker 6.6.11.
- "Italian TV host Bongiorno, Berlusconi ally, dies", Reuters (9/8/09 at 7:59pm GMT).
- "Profile: Italy's arch seducer: Silvio Berlusconi. Italians wanted a new party; he sold them one", The Independent (1 April 1994, 11:02 PM BST).
- Dinmore, Guy, "Berlusconi accused over tax amnesty", FT 15 July 2009.
- "Italy court upholds mafia conviction against Berlusconi adviser", Reuters (9 May 2014, 4:11 PM).
- "Founder of Italy's Northern League found guilty in fraud case", Reuters (10 July 2017, 10:06 AM).
- Wolff, Michael, "All Broads Lead to Rome", Vanity Fair (8/10/09 at 12:00 am).
- Jones, Gavin, "Italy's Berlusconi returns to fray to sink PM Renzi's referendum", Reuters (10/19/16 at 9:25am EDT).
- Greenslade, Roy, "Germany Infuriated By 'Fourth Reich' Headline In Berlusconi Newspaper", Business Insider (8/712 at4:37 AM).
- Day, Michael, "Silvio Berlusconi's links with Italian organised crime confirmed", The Independent (12 May 2014, 6:08pm BST).
- Pullella, Phillip, "Will "bad boy" Balotelli's return help his boss Berlusconi?", Reuters (1/30/13 at 5:43pm GMT).
- Horowitz, Jason, "Berlusconi Is Back. Again. This Time, as Italy’s ‘Nonno’", The New York Times, 29 January 2018.
- "Italy's Berlusconi suggested amnesty for 'necessary' illegal buildings", Reuters (7 February 2018, 10:51 AM).
- Stille, Alexander, "Italians May Not Forgive Berlusconi", NYT February 10, 2011, 11:34 AM.
- Sylvers, Eric, "Vexed by Rivalries and Deficits, Italy's Economy Minister Quits", The New York Times, 23 September 2005.
- "The euro has screwed everybody - Berlusconi", The Guardian (19 July 2005, 9:19 AM EDT)/
- Moore, Malcolm, "Illegals an army of evil, says Berlusconi", The Age, 17 April 2008.
- "Italy: Berlusconi blasts media 'lies'", Adnkronos International.
- Kington, Tom, "Merkozy smirk at EU crisis summit boosts Berlusconi", The Guardian (24 October 2011, 5:57 AM EDT).
- Kate Connolly and David Hayworth, "Berlusconi apologises for Nazi gaffe", Daily Telegraph (7/4/03 at 1:02AM BST).
- Hooper, John, "Italian court rules Berlusconi's immunity law unconstitutional", The Guardian (7 October 2009, 3:26 PM EDT).
- Squires, Nick, "Silvio Berlusconi laments 'communist' judges making him pay divorce settlement", Daily Telegraph (9 January 2013, 11:11AM GMT).
- Taylor, Paul, "Third person spells trouble in politicians", Reuters (8 October 2009). And he talked about himself in the third person!
- "Unfit to Lead Europe", The Economist 4.8.03.
- "The Economist wins Berlusconi lawsuit", The Economist 9.5.08.
- Barber, Tony, "Berlusconi under fire as he pushes more election reforms", FT (12/11/05 at 7:02 pm).
- Frye, Andrew, "Berlusconi Backs EU4 Billion Tax Refund Pledge With His Fortune", Bloomberg (2/22/13 at12:36 PM PST).
- "Italy election: Berlusconi tax letter causes outrage", BBC (updated 2/20/13 at 2:36pm).
- Left Wing Opponent Files Complaint on Berlusconi IMU Letter", Gazzetta del Sud 2.20.13.
- Palazzo, Chaiara, "Silvio Berlusconi says Emmanuel Macron is 'a nice lad - with a good looking mum' ",Daily Telegraph (16 May 2017, 6:25am). Are we still paying attention to this geriatric plastic surgery victim?
- Berlusconi Praises Mussolini as Good Leader, The New York Times. January 23, 2013.
- Hooper, John, "Mussolini wasn't that bad, says Berlusconi", The Guardian (12 September 2003, 2:57am EDT).
- Nadeau, Barbie, "Italian Women: 'We Are Treated Like Prosciutto'", Newsweek (17 April 2011, 10:00 AM).
- Hepnstall, Sophia, "Italian women hope for workplace changes post-Berlusconi", Reuters (14 February 2012, 9:07am EST).
- Taylor, Adam, "AGAIN? Silvio Berlusconi Caught Checking Out Australia's Female Prime Minister", Business Insider (4 November 2011, 8:31 AM).
- Alessi, Christopher, "How Italy's Tangled Taxes Help Berlusconi", Der Spiegel (10/8/13 at 2:13 PM).
- Orsi, Roberto, "he Demise of Italy and the Rise of Chaos", London School of Economics 10.8.13.
- Nadeau, Barbie Latza, "Italy’s Billion-Dollar Gambling Epidemic", Daily Beast (28 January 2013, 4:45 AM ET).
- Hooper, John, "Shock to the system", The Guardian 10.20.08.
- "Italy youth unemployment becomes major election issue", BBC 9 February 2013.
- "http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-14960214", BBC 7 September 2011.
- McKenna, Josephine, "Silvio Berlusconi's party picks Argentinian showgirl as Italian Senate candidate", Daily Telegraph (4 Nov 2012, 2:38PM GMT).
- Berlusconi's freudian slip: "I paid a lot for judges"
- Barber, Tony, "Move to toughen Italy's law on false accounting fails", FT (3/4/05 at 2:00 am).
- Squires, Nick, "Silvio Berlusconi accused of changing laws to his advantage", Daily Telegraph (11/10/09 at 4:58PM GMT).
- Elisabetta Povoledo and Gaia Pianigiani, "Automatic Immunity for Berlusconi Revoked", NYT 1.13.11.
- Rachael Donadio and Elisabetta Povoledo, "Berlusconi Is Sentenced to Seven Years in Sex Case, but Can Still Appeal Verdict", 7.24.13. Where's the corkscrew?
- "Ex-Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi to face new trial over corruption charges", Deutsche Well 1.28.16.
- Bacchi, Umberto, "Silvio Berlusconi 'Ordered Italy's Secret Services to Kill Muammar Gaddafi'", IBT (updated 1 July 2014, 9:31 PM BST).
- *Sopranos voice* "Eyyy, it fell off the back of a truck!"
- Millar, Lisa, "Berlusconi defends 'elegant dinner parties'", ABC (20 Apr 2012, 1:47pm).
- "Mussolini’s grand daughter: 'Fascists better than faggots'", Pink News 10 March 2006.
- Nadeau, Barie Natza, "Was Putin’s Midnight Visit to Berlusconi About Bunga Bunga?", Daily Beast (10.19.14 11:22 AM ET).
- Philipson, Alice, "Berlusconi says Vladimir Putin wants him to become Russia's economy minister", Daily Telegraph (23 Jul 2015, 2:06PM BST). Feel a bit sorry for the Russians, they have corruption problems as it is.
- Ferrigo, Nadia, "Italian PM Matteo Renzi: 'If ‘No’ wins, Berlusconi will be negotiating reforms with Grillo, not me'", La Stampa (Updated 11/25/16 at 7:29pm).
- Momigliano, Anna, "Marriage Italian (right-wing) style", Politico (Updated 23 December 2017, 5:40 PM CET).
- "Berlusconi says EU's Tajani would be 'wonderful choice' for Italy PM", Reuters (25 January 2018, 2:24 AM )
- Phillips, John, "Berlusconi woos voters with tax breaks for pet owners and a basic income for all Italians", Daily Telegraph (28 December, 2017, 5:34PM).
- "Berlusconi ally proposes 23 percent flat tax to stimulate Italy", Reuters (2 February 201, 8:19 AM).
- Latza Naudeau, Barbie, "In Italian Elections, Berlusconi Takes a Cue From Trump, Bets Big on Bigotry", Daily Beast (5 February 2018, 1:16 PM ET).
- "Italy rescues more than 3,500 migrants, Renzi asks for help", Reuters (31 May 2014, 11:17 AM).
- "PM says Italy cannot handle rate of migrant arrivals", Reuters (23 October 2016, 1:25 PM).
- "Italy in 'fire on migrants' row", BBC (16 June, 2003, 5:48 GMT 18:48 UK). Wait, whose name was the current immigration law? Let us think ... ah yes, the Bossi Law.
- "Libya: Berlusconi backs Nato strikes by Italy jets", BBC 25 April 2011.
- Chikhi, Lamine, "Italy's Berlusconi exposes NATO rifts over Libya", Reuters (6 July 2011, 10:35 PM).
- Scherer, Steve, "Migrants race through Italy to dodge EU asylum rules", Reuters (10 June 2015, 2:30 AM ).
- Wonkette.com - Silvio Berlusconi Did Not Hump That Particular Traffic Cop
- "Berlusconi vaunts Italy's secretaries", BBC (24 September 2003, 10:30 GMT).
- Berlusconi's new flap: 'Better to like beautiful girls than to be gay', USA Today. November 2, 2010.
- La Dolce Donald Trump
- Berlusconi: Italy earthquake victims should view experience as camping weekend, The Guardian. April 8, 2009.
- Silvio Berlusconi hails 'handsome and suntanned' Barack Obama, The Telegraph. November 6, 2008.
- Neumann, Jeff, "Berlusconi Thinks 30% of Italian Women Want His Body", Gawker (31 March 2011, 7:02 AM).
- Berlusconi comments on WW2 death camps spark anger, BBC News. April 26, 2014.
- Berlusconi says Obama is 'tanned', BBC News. November 8, 2008.
- Berlusconi 'most persecuted man', BBC News. October 9, 2009.
- "The end of Berlusconism?", InfoNu.nl (11 November 2010).
- It Squires, Nick, "Silvio Berlusconi says immigrants not welcome but 'beautiful girls' can stay", Telegraph (13 February 2010, 7:00 AM GMT).
- Latza Nadeaa, Barbie, "Cracking Oral Sex Jokes, Power Pervert Berlusconi Mounts a Comeback", Daily Beast (15 October 2017, 9:00 PM ET.