Donald Trump Is The Silvio Berlusconi Of American Politics

While hyperbolic comparisons with Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini have become commonplace when discussing the wayward presidency of Donald Trump, a more realistic analogy can be found in the public and private life of the controversial Italian businessman-turned-politician, Silvio Berlusconi. Growing up in post-war Italy the Milan-born entrepreneur initially dabbled in show-business before turning to real estate development, making a fortune building residential apartments around his home city in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Establishing his own cable television company in 1973, he found a ready audience for tabloid-style programming, gobbling up local stations across the country. Building on these successes, in 1980 he founded the first private national network, Canale 5, buying two would-be rivals, Italia 1 and Rete 4, a few years later. From these acquisitions the era of Italian stripping-housewives was born.

With the foundation of a right-wing political party, Forza Italy, in 1994, Berlusconi launched a sustained campaign to gain the prime minister’s office. Using his media empire to reach potential voters, the tycoon lambasted left-leaning opponents and newspapers in an unprecedented advertising blitz. However an inconclusive election a few months later left him at the head of a chaotic coalition government of antagonistic national, regionalist and neo-fascist parties. Inevitably this alliance fell apart amid bitter infighting and recriminations.

Undeterred, after several years of labour Berlusconi returned to power in 2001 as the leader of a broad coalition of conservative parties, promising reduced taxes, job creation and a heavy hand against crime, to some popular acclaim. Over the next decade the entrepreneur successfully shifted in and out of alliances, grabbing power when he could by playing friends and enemies off against each other. Finally in 2011 he stepped down from the premiership, beset by scandals of almost every conceivable nature and a growing economic crisis.

Throughout his political life Berlusconi used his influence over much of the country’s private television and radio networks to boost his career while destroying those of his opponents. These included a number of journalists and newspaper editors he viewed as being insufficiently respectful or loyal. However, the Italian demagogue did not have the same pull with the international news media. In 2009, the then prime minister accused the European press of slandering him and damaging Italy’s global reputation. This led him to threaten “hard measures” against foreign journalists and news teams. Fortunately Berlusconi’s ineptitude and relative weakness in office prevented him from following through on his promises.

So it is no surprise that Donald Trump seems to be following the same successful playbook as Berlusconi, threatening the American television networks and news media more generally with as yet unspecified punishments. The MSNBC current affairs show, Morning Joe, takes a brief look at this extraordinary development in an extraordinary presidency, one that was heretofore largely unimaginable in the United States.

 

 

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7 comments

  1. The fact is that since Hilary was such a part of the mechinisations of power in Anerican politics, and had shown herself in my eyes to be nothing but a continuation of that, I found the complete lack of objectivity in the media to be visible in a way that was frankly disgusting and demoralising.

    It does not make anyone “woke” or politically aware or even insightful to be showing so anti-Trump. It does to look at the broader picture. Those pieces calling him Hitler, and the openess to such hyperbole being taken seriously do more damage than they will ever understand. The average person isnt as stupid as hegemonic forces would like to think. They see that something has gone awry in the plans which were presumably being laid for the two major parties and they see the establishment start to look a little panicked. No-one predicted Trump, but no-one can be genuinely surprised now.

    Its important to call things what they are though; when I hear “Trump is a fascist Hitler 2.0” I know I am being lied to and propogandised, probably into thinking “ah well, Macron is everything I hate but at least Im being saved from fascism!”. Therefore being led to support the status quo not even through my own willingness to accept it, but through fear.

    When I hear ” He is more like Berlusconi” I think I can see it. I say to myself “perhaps he might be”, I see faults and problems which are actually real.

    Im not for what everything Corbyn represents, but I would be happier to see him leading his country than Theresa May. Id rather Mogg than both of them.

    It goes beyond “conservatism”. May has shown a willingness to censor the internet and step up state control. Mogg at least talks to the public. Corbyn I disagree with but I know at least has principals. What Im saying is Im willing to see if policies work. I want to be free to make tgat decision without rhethoric like “may is Hitler”,” Corbyn wants gulags for any straight white male”, “me and my upper middle class friends are the #resistance to fascism” narcissism.

    I will always be open to reasoned points of view.

    Good article.

  2. The lack of criticism from the controlled media(and there is no doubt it is controlled) concerning Trumps antics concerning Korea,Iran and of course Russia would suggest that Trump has successfully placated his most powerful critics. The laloos that were encouraged to protest his inauguration etc were merely played by others. Now that Trump is mirroring pentagon policies the laloos are not required. Pathetic. You’d think the laloos would be more moved to take to the streets over threats to genocide a country rather than what toilet a man can use? Indeed it would appear the laloos who took to the streets because “trump was a racist” are indeed ignoring his disgraceful threats directed at the Korean race. Are they ignoring the threats due to racism too? ‘Tyrants,hypocrites and liars’ is most apt.

    1. Thanks. Though of course, it does carry the caveat that Berlusconi did not have the capacity to initiate military conflict, or effect the global economy, environment, etc, the way Trump currently has.

      I suppose in this, it’s a matter of scale.

      1. Right – identical to a conversation I had with somebody from an EU country last night. Thankfully, Berlusconi didnt run the world…

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