I happen to be living in Italy at the moment, I have been here for more than two months and will be here for another 20 days or so, which make this the longest time I’ve spent in my country in the last (at least) four years.
Every time I’m home I make a point of watching TV every day, what fascinates me, apart from the supreme trash that we are so good at (move over Jesey Shore!!!), is the news. Like in many other countries the national channels report mostly on domestic affairs (politics, gossip, football, gossip, poligossip, football) and about 40% on international affairs.
I admit I wouldn’t have paid so much attention to what the news reported if it wasn’t for something I saw on twitter: Italy has slided down the 73rd place on the freedom of press list of countries (it held the 49th place just last year), making it a country with an overall transparency, access to information and safety for journalists lower than Haiti.
Now, it is true that we had a Prime Minister who was ruling the country as well as running his own show -literally, with his very own three (out of seven) TV channels, newspapers and magazines- but that is the past! Or is it?
In a beautiful book by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, The Leopard, Tancredi, young and brave nephew of the Principe di Salina, tells his uncle, who’s unsure about waiving his benefits as a Prince and become a simple Senator in the newly formed Italian Kingdom (1961): “Zione, perche’ tutto resti com’e’, nulla deve cambiare…” (Uncle, in order to keep everything as it is, we must pretend to be changing everything).
And Tancredi was right, he was right then as he would be now… Italy is a country (a beautiful country) of misleaders, we make great artists and great poets because we are good at manipulating what we have to make it look as if it was something different. But even if you give a piece of clay the shape of a diamond ring, it does remain a piece of clay.
For the past month or so we have been bombarded with news about ISIS being south of Italy (for the record even the Sudan, Swatziland and Fiji are south of Italy). Newspapers and magazines had colourful and even interactive maps of where ISIS tropps were and how fast they would have made it to Rome. How? On the boats, of course! Mixed with the migrants that cross Africa to run from dictatorial regimes and face hunger, cold and the Mediterranean tomb just to make it to Italy.
Migrants who arrive on boats generally have nothing except for the clothes they are wearing – if any, hence, death by cold – so the jihadists would have to endure the same trip in order to make it to Italy, and from the coasts of the remote island of Lampedusa they would have to take a boat and then walk north towards Rome, dodging police squads and human traffickers who promise a meal and a bed for 14 to 16 hours of work in the fields. Because even jihadists eat.
The most right-winged entusiasts also focasted a missile attack on Rome. Everyone was terrified of muslim fundamentalists but no one took any precaution whatsoever against them. Which led to the partial destruction of one of the most beautiful fountains in Rome, not by the hand of a dark-skinned religious warrior but by the hand of a chubby dutch drunkard (the recently restored Fontana della Barcaccia was severely damaged during the Rome-Feynoor match. There’s a fundraiser to do a second restauration, if you want to donate this is the link).
So, to sum up… we were expecting ISIS to hit Rome but we have done very little to protect it (the police only came in AFTER the hooligans had destroyed shops, cars, monuments… imagine if instead of a bunch of drunkards we had really been faced with a troop of Jihadi Johns….), Italian entrepreneurs in Libya refused to leave (so clearly didn’t feel so threatened) and we have suddenly stopped talking about ISIS being south of Rome.
I am clearly no fan of ISIS, I am a happy atheist and after seeing what they did to christians and in the Mosul museum last week I can do very little to maintain my peacefulness and desire to find a compromise with these people. I wish I was more forgiving but I’m not, and it has very little to do with this or that religion, I would feel the same if there was a group of christian crusaders…
But do you ever have that feeling of having seen something that you can’t “unsee” and you keep thinking about it?
After reading that my country scores so poorly on feedom of press I keep thinking that we are constantly being told who to be afraid of, and people who rely on the evening news and their only form of information tend to be thankful to whoever tells them exactly who the boogeyman is.
PS. A District Attorney who had exposed several politicians and linked them to the mafia beyond any reasonable doubt was killed in a car crash today. As soon as the newspaper started reporting it, most of my Italian friends started expressing their doubts on facebook and twitter about how, in our beautiful country, a car crash is almost never just an accident. This time it may even be, but on the paper tomorrow we will find the version that will make history, that Federico Bisceglie died in an accident.