There is a new podcast out, Bunga Bunga. I will not link to it. I found it irritating and shallow, especially as I was interested in the topic. I had heard of Sylvio Berlusconi and that he was a corrupt Italian businessman who had become Prime Minister, but didn't know how much of this was biased European media disliking his politics and how much was real.
It was nice, therefore to see a review at The Spectator of the podcast series and some discussion of the man himself and his context. It is short, and there is likely much more to say. It also carries the requisite swipe at Donald Trump at the end, which is tiring. Nonetheless, I know a bit more than I did, and enough for now.
Berlusconi was more of a crony capitalist than the neo-fascist of leftwing caricature. Few recall that the formative political relationship of his career was with Bettino Craxi, the socialist who led Italy in the mid-1980s. They were close, Craxi even godfather to Berlusconi’s children. Berlusconi backed the Craxi regime, characterized by unbelievable venality and, weirdly, pan-Arabism. Berlusconi inherited only one of those traits from his mentor: guess which?
Self-interest, not ideology, drove him. Becoming PM was a business decision. After acquiring Mondadori, Italy’s biggest publisher, and Publitalia, Italy’s biggest advertising firm, the next step was simply to acquire the government. Turns out that could be bought as easily as anything else in his portfolio. It allowed him to pass laws to stifle investigations into fraud, corruption, mafia links. He banned over-seventies from going to prison… then publicly celebrated his 70th birthday. You have to admire the cheek.