Can someone tell me why the world puts up with Silvio Berlusconi?
Really, asking I already sort of know the answer to that – because people can accept a citation of moral-sounding reasons to promote the amoral.
It’s a bit incongruous, this being lectured about World War II by Berlusconi, a leader of a right-wing opposition coalition in the Italian parliament that actually includes Allessandra Mussolini, the leader of the neo-fascist Social Alternative party (still represented in parliament) and granddaughter of Italy’s fascist dictator by that same last name.
So how does he get away with slagging Germany, a country which has manifested a deep concern for rooting out Nazism from its public life since 1945, while a Mussolini in his own electoral coalition testifies to the fact that Italian conservatives hardly share that kind of concern with Italy’s World War II legacy?
I’ll tell you how – because irresponsible people trying to score points against “politicians” today allow him to do so. Right-wing populists (and also some left-wing ones) are not always averse to comparing the European Union, which they oppose, with Nazi Germany – they disingenuously claim they are doing as much to prevent future creeping totalitarianism in Brussels (ah yes, Brussels as the centre of a totalitarian colossus – someone alert the Belgians) as resistance movements did fighting Hitler. It is a breathtakingly inappropriate comparison, one that at once denies the importance of EU internationalism and defiles the graves of the victims of the Axis powers – Italy very pointedly included.
It has become the typical pattern for the reactionary Right throughout much of the world. The argument…pardon me, the harangue…goes like this: “Of course I resist the encroaching powers of centralised government, because you know who else had a centralised government? Hitler!” Then, when people pin back “the state” out of fear of empowering “Hitler”, we come to see, in horrific detail, exactly from what kinds of evils “the state” was protecting us. Meanwhile, the Berlusconis of the world make more money.
In any case, the fact that Berlusconi lays responsibility for whatever German denial of the Holocaust exists at the feet of…wait for it…Martin Schulz, the leader of the Socialists in the EU parliament, well, that’s your first indication of how irresponsible his criticism is. If there is one German political group that can honestly say it is not responsible for Hitler, it’s the socialists of the SPD. The SPD voted against Hitler’s Enabling Act (a noble act of courage as darkness gathered in Berlin in 1934), an SPD in exile existed during the war, and contributed energetically to establishing democracy in Germany afterwards. Martin Schulz is part of a party with a grand tradition of resistance to fascism.
Every European should make it clear that Silvio Berlusconi’s ravings cross the line. Unfortunately, people are so carried away by anti-government and anti-EU ideology that they are all the more likely to let it slide. If they do, they should be ashamed.