Dinosaur – Why “Papa” Berlusconi makes us squirm

He’s a patrician politician of the Old School.

And by “Old School” we mean; corrupt, dictatorial, a keen fan of cronyism, chauvinistic and, yes, a little bit racist.

Berlusconi has, once again, been cracking “jokes” about US President Obama’s colour. He started this particular comedy routine last November, wittily observing that Obama was “young, handsome and… tanned”. Now he’s done it again, extending the gag to include the President’s wife Michelle, “You wouldn’t believe it but they go to the beach together to sunbathe because even his wife is suntanned.”

The section of the Italian media not owned by the Italian Prime Minister/media magnate, the left-leaning L’Unita for instance, expressed outrage…

“He makes us look ridiculous before the whole world”, an editorial cried, adding it was “a racist gaffe”.

But, outside of Italy, the British press has tended to merely roll its eyes and quote people like Berlusconi’s biographer, Alexander Stille…

“The majority of Italians think that Berlusconi enjoys great prestige abroad, when in fact he is universally considered a clown”

A clown, yes. And a pompous buffoon and an anachronistic old dinosaur… fine.

But isn’t there something just a little bit smug about the way the British press wag their fingers at Berlusconi and roll their eyes? And isn’t there a slightly uncomfortable feeling when Berlusconi brushes off criticism by saying he was “jealous” of Obama’s skin colour and was “merely paying him a compliment”?

There should be…

Because Berlusconi could almost be an embodiment of our pre-politically correct culture and it wasn’t that long ago when jokes about black people being a bit “suntanned” were standard mainstream fare.

Have a look at this clip from the Black & White Minstrel Show from 1978.

It may seem ludicrous to the modern viewer, but this show ran in prime time on British TV for thirty years. Audiences regularly exceeded 18 million viewers. And when it was finally cancelled in 1978 (petitions calling for the axe had been delivered as early as 1967), it was despite an enormous fan base and tabloid editorials calling the show “harmless” and “family entertainment”.

Perhaps this support was the first instance of that now very modern phenomenom… the shrill media cry of “…political correctness gone mad!”

Fortunately wiser/bolder heads prevailed, otherwise the newspapers would probably be chuckling along with “Papa” Berlusconi right now and we’d still have this shit on our screens every night.

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5 Responses

  1. I think probably the absolute worst offender in UK TV was Love Thy Neighbour, around the same time I think. Say what you like about the Yanks, at least they had the nous to come up with Archie Bunker. Then again it was probably over the head of many viewers.
    It’s still early days isn’t it? Segregation in the 60’s, Apartheid, licensed Aboriginal culls in the 30’s. I think we’re always living in the Dark Ages

  2. Dr Throttling, what do you make of the news that Silvio’s immunity from prosecution has just been lifted?

  3. I was very interested by it… was actually going to post an update but got distracted by the Hey Hey blackface skit (which -Gate name is going to be attached to it I wonder… Blackgate? Coongate?)
    I might get the chance to post on it tomorrow… but, given “Papa’s” political contacts, the nature of Italian legal process and the fact that he is absolutely loaded, I’m not expecting him to be tossed in jail any time soon.
    It would take an election loss and a groundswell of popular outrage to make that happen….

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