April 8, 2009

Not even an earthquake

Up until a few hours ago I was kind of suspecting this might be the case, but now it’s a certainty: not even an earthquake can stop them. I mean, not even an earthquake can keep both Silvio Berlusconi from making embarrassing gaffes and my beloved British newspapers from reporting them to the public with great emphasis. Needless to say, it’s not a criticism, it’s an observation: we are facing something more than a mere chain of events (only incidentally connected with each other), rather there is, so to speak, something like a metaphysical connection.

What did the Cavaliere say this time? Well, he told a German TV station that the 17,000 people left homeless by the Abruzzo earthquake should consider themselves to be on a “camping weekend” …

Touring camps set up for survivors of Monday’s disaster, in which at least 250 people were killed, Mr Berlusconi told a reporter from N-TV: “They have everything they need, they have medical care, hot food... Of course, their current lodgings are a bit temporary. but they should see it like a weekend of camping.”

As I already said, I don’t want to criticize anyone or pontificate. After all, though I voted for Berlusconi, I am not what could be called a fan of il Cavaliere, whose legendary gaffes made him possibly the world’s political gaffeur par excellence—though he is undoubtedly in good company… Yet, let me just say this about that: It is not the best statement a Prime minister ever made, Ok, and he shouldn’t have said so, but I saw him on Italian TV saying these things: his voice was broken up with emotion, and while speaking his right hand was caressing a little girl’s head—well, I suppose I can understand what he was trying to do: just to boost the morale of families in very, very difficult times. What I wonder is whether the author of this article, for instance, had any idea of what was going on, and where he was when Berlusconi said that “sometimes, even during a tragedy like this you’ve got to smile because you can’t get results without optimism.”

Berlusconi also said that a staff of 1,000 technicians would begin evaluating the damage to public buildings and homes on Thursday. As for L’Aquila’s artistic heritage, it is to be said that it suffered very serious damage. Berlusconi has announced a €30 million ($40 million) aid package to rebuild historical buildings and to restore damaged artwork. In addition, U.S. President Barack Obama (thanks: John W. Clarke and Sandra Kennedy Shimmelpfennig) telephoned to offer aid to repair cultural sites and artistic works.


  1. Rob, I don't know as much about Berlusconi as you do, of course, but I think many of his gaffes are the result of his being an exuberant human being instead of a slick politician. That ain't so bad. And as far as the press is concerned, what more can be expected of them?

    This is a terrible disaster, not only for those living in the earthquake area, but for all of Italy.

  2. No, it was not exactly that
    While going around he said to children that they should consider it like camping
    Then during the press conference yesterday, a german journalist asked whether this was inappropriate
    And he answered that he did to try to cheer up the kids
    And he was correct
    Doctors say that everything needs to be done to bring them to a normal life
    As always the press reported it wrongly

  3. @Balquis: Thank you for the specifications.

  4. They are always certain newspapers that will jump on every opportunity to criticise Berlusconi, sometimes even taking what he says quite out of context.
    I have argued this point where Italians themselves, use such opportunities to score cheap political points, but there are times when one should of course show far more solidarity, also out of respect for those who have lost everything, including their lives.

    Berlusconi was there and is doing everything expected of a Prime Minister. Concerning what may be considered as 'osservazioni un po' troppo leggere', it's better to be positive and encouraging than wear a dooms day expression as catastrophic as the disaster itself.

    This morning on French tv I noticed guys dressed up as clowns amusing the kids of L'Aquila there. Why don't the self righteous, politically orientated newspapers (who seem less prone to contribute anything more positive) criticise that? For amusing the children amongst others, who must be suffered terribly from shock, is exactly what Berlusconi was doing in his own way.

  5. I quite like the man but if one was to believe our press reports he would be despised by all....ah! the wonderful British press.