My Person of the Year
Even in a year that many political scandals bordering surreal (parliamentary expenses in the UK, an Appalachian-hiking governor in Virginia), Silvio Berlousconi held his own as the king of that scandal-infested dunghill. The Prime Minister of Italy so far had survived a divorce, cavorting with minors, orgies unseen since La Dolce Vita, indiscretions that would make Eliot Spitzer jealous, telltale books, corruption charges and Mafia connections not to mention political gaffes and rebukes by HM the Queen and President Obama. He will perhaps even survive the next election now, with the help of that well-aimed statue to his face.
Yet, more than anyone else, he deserve to be this site’s choice for Man of the Year of 2009. Rolling Stone magazine thought the same. In November, the magazine called him “Rockstar of the Year”. Shepard Fairey, designer of the famous Barack Obama “Hope” posters designed the cover. The aging, cosmetically-enhanced, politically-incorrect playboy billionaire maybe famous for just being famous, but his continuing presence on Italian centrestage was telling about the state of politics in there.
With his business and Mafia connections, Berlusconi is the Italian political equivalent of Detroit: too big to fail. Many who have carved out their slice of power would risk losing it all in the monumental shakeout that would follow Berlusconi’s exit from politics. Berlusconi, who own Italy’s major private television networks to fall back on, will ensure that his exit would be climatic.
Ironically for a nation which changes its prime ministers faster than Madonna changes her paramours, the Italians do remember their leaders fondly–even Mussolini. Television generally go easy on Il Duce, reflecting that his government’s anti-Jewish “racial laws”, passed in 1938, were an aberration and that he was a leader misled by Hitler. Mr Berlusconi’s own opinion, given in a 2003 interview, is that Mussolini “never killed anyone”. His family pass him off as a caring family man, who tried hard to avoid war.