Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Grillo’s 25% demonstrates the extent Italy’s disbelief in Politics…

Tue 26 February 2013, 4:06pm

So, those of you who have just finished sniggering at Gerry’s tweets, listen up to the news from Italy. Berlusconis has not gone, and the left have not arrived. In fact the big ‘clown’ is in control of the Senate. Still not laughing I hope?

Well, Demos have some research that gives us some hints as to why a candidate that refused to talk to Italian journos, and had no presence anywhere but the internet took 25% of the vote.

The Guardian Live blog have the headline figures:

…only 8% trust the government, 3% trust political parties, 2% trust parliament, 2% trust banks and financial institutions and 6% trust big companies – lower, on every measure, than the Italian general public.

Only 11% trust the press (against 34% of Italians overall) and less than 4% trust TV (against 40% of Italians). In stark contrast to this, 76% of Grillo’s Facebook fans trust the internet, where the movement was born and which it has used to organise itself.

Okay, so its just Facebook, eh? Not real you say? But for all that he has eschewed any other means other than the Internet this guy took 25% of the Italian electorate.

That’s a big fact Feck You to the establishment, Italy and by extension the big institutions in Europe.

As I’ve said elsewhere:

…established authority – be it church, politics or banking – is under constant criticism and challenge. “Belief”, “credibility” and “credit”, all key units of trust, are in short supply.

As ordinary citizens we can access and read data more freely than before. Even if we can’t, social networking allows us to quickly find a man who can. We can even build whole communities of interest and trust on a global scale, sometimes within days or weeks.

Gerry may be no Beppe Grillo, but the idea that ordinary people can achieve big disruption in spite rather than because of big politics and big media, is something we have already had a hint at in the self organisation of the flag protests.

There, no doubt, will be more to come…

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Comments (19)

  1. David Crookes (profile) says:

    Could a Comeejins Party establish itself on the internet, and rock the boat in the next Stormont election?

    What do you think?
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  2. wild turkey (profile) says:

    Dave Crookes

    well there already are five interchangeable components of the comedians party at stormont, so why not the Comeejins?

    run candidates in every constituency. here’s the campaign poster.

    tasteful photo of the candidate squatting on the dumpster with the strapline

    ‘Tired of the same old shit?”

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  3. It seems that any election worthy of the name now requires a “none of the above” (a.k.a.”protest party”).

    Lest we mock, in 2001-2010 in the UK that was the LibDems — particularly so in constituencies which could drum up a anti-War, student vote. When the LibDems became more “serious”, they plummeted. Gorgeous George Galloway was up like a rocket in Bradford West — and is now coming down like the stick. Currently UKIP seems to be the electoral dustbin of choice at Eastleigh (though they have the better Tory as a candidate).

    Grillo is no joke: that’s Berlusconi.

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  4. David Crookes (profile) says:

    At least four of the said parties would join up to attack us, wild turkey, and here would be their theme-song (since they all like harking back to the past):

    They Might Be Giants – The Mesopotamians

    Paste and copy into Google videos.

    Will Basil and John take a leaf out of Beppe’s book? I don’t know. Any people who start up a new party on the internet need to be quick on their feet, like Sluggerites on a good day. There’s no point in putting up a wonderful website if you’re going to visit it only once a fortnight. But if you’re prepared to put in the work, and stay on the ball, you can do without TV advertisements and leaflet drops. You can even do without dressing up in a suit and taking part solemnly in studio discussions. Members of the gerontocracy take note. Youse have had your day.

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  5. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    There’s two things here I’d observe: pain and profile. People have got to be mad as hell to want to act. And the system has to be blocking them some way. Fits for Grillo and Italy. And unnecessary injustice for Flegs.

    Of course that’s subjective. Interestingly Sean Gallagher nearly made it without posters, till he tripped up over that well timed bogus tweet.

    Stuff can be done if you can find an opening in the market and articulate a need or thwarted wish/need that’s not being served by the established players in the market.

    BUt it is hard to manufacture the pain.

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  6. Mick, what a clean and incisive observation! However, I’d like to add another driver to your excellent two necessary conditions for entering the political arena: advantage. Advantage in both senses, although “profile” overlaps with the silver spoon variety.

    But the desire to be able to control patronage and offer friends some form of advantage is the one I’m most interested in, as it appears to have slipped in as a prime motivation amongst all parties after the boys actually climbed up the mile long drive. Of course such patronage attracts party funds, not that I would ever wish to suggest that such donations are ever directly connected. And money, properly handled, buys profile even for the least interesting (or appealing) of people. I know something about marketing first hand from a previous life in the media, and one of the rules is to make the growth of the client’s profile look as natural as possible, a camouflaging of the mechanics of manipulation in the way that Bunraku puppet operators wear black and work against a black backdrop. So profile interests me, as it is usually connected with money, and politicians seldom spend their own cash.

    “Stuff can be done if you can find an opening in the market and articulate a need or thwarted wish/need that’s not being served by the established players in the market.” But only if someone is paying for it, and usually they want some form of payback.

    Did I remember it correctly that Beppe is running on an anti-corruption ticket? If so, I await the day that the Fleg with the five stars flies over Stormont!

    But wait, who is bank-rolling Five Star? And why?

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  7. aquifer (profile) says:

    Under PRSTV 25% is usually a quota for election

    In the Assembly 25% is the balance of power

    Are you annoyed enough to try?

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  8. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Annoyed about what though? We still price peace above almost anything else, surely?

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  9. Greenflag (profile) says:

    I read theres a new Unionist party .Messers McCrea and McCallister about to be born . Just what NI needs I would think :)

    But before these two gentlemen give their party a name which adds another U or D or P to an already overcrowded list of unionist party political anagrams I suggest in deference to both their last names

    The McUnionist Party ?

    Why not ? It’s different and like the McDonald franchise it could take off -although to where nobody can tell .

    Good luck to them anyway . They’ll need it .

    The Italian result should be no surprise . Italy is not known for it’s legacy of stable government not since 1945 anyway .
    They may have averaged more than one new government a year during that period although in recent years there has been a little more stability . Outside the Eurozone -Italy would probably be worse than Greece inside the Eurozone .

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  10. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Not much we can teach you GF, eh? ;-)

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  11. Greenflag (profile) says:

    Plus ca change plus c’est etc .

    ‘It’s not what you know that hurts you -it’s what you know that ain’t so ‘

    Attrib to Will Rogers some of whose ancestors hailed from Ulster .

    It’s the second half of Roger’s maxim above that we all need to work on – GF included ;)

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  12. Greenflag (profile) says:

    @ Sean Ui Neill ,

    But wait, who is bank-rolling Five Star? And why?

    The Vatican ? The Mafia ? the IMF ? the GOP ?

    Beginning to sound conspiratorial ?

    Sometimes and in particular in these days of multiple spin and obfuscation and Buraku puppets masking as politicians the horrible truth when it eventually dawns is not a thought out ‘conspiracy ‘ but just human greed and stupidity taken to the nth degree and passed off as a new ‘ideology ‘ until it’s shown for what it always was i.e an overweening power grab allied to individual sociopathy :(

    Until humanity comes up with a better alternative Churchill’s quote below still retains it’s currency .

    ‘It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.’

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  13. Since Virgin Media have cut me out of the loop for the last day, I’m not going to be au fait with the mood round here.

    Still, I’d suggest the brief Economist piece on M5S was prescient:

    Just as Fawkes wanted to blow up the British parliament, so Mr Grillo seeks to sweep away Italy’s old politicians, “those who have destroyed the country”. In their place, he wants web-based direct democracy.

    The five stars cover its members’ main interests: water, transport, development, internet availability and the environment. Other than on health and energy, the movement’s policies are vague. The section on economics in its 15-page programme is strong on corporate governance and market transparency, but short on macroeconomic policy. It blithely says the M5S would shrink the budget deficit by “cutting waste and introducing new technologies to allow…the public access to information and services without the need for intermediaries”.

    A recent study by Demos, a British think-tank, found that Mr Grillo’s followers were more educated than the Italian average—and more likely to be male, unemployed and pessimistic. That volatile mixture raises the question whether the M5S might detonate a more violent response to Italy’s ills. “No,” says Mr Grillo. “It’s the anti-detonator. My movement regulates the fear.”

    That list of policy aims isn’t so far out-of-line with most mainstream left-centrist parties across Europe. I’m all for public ownership of the essentials, including mass transit, water, the health service, energy, schooling. On that basis alone, I’m not decrying M5S. If the alternative to complicity in the ongoing political shenanigans (that have been Italian politics since whenever) is a type of abstentionism, so be it.

    And if Grillo, or anyone else, has the recipe for the ‘democratic deficit’, good luck to him and all who sail with him.

    I give any stitch-up six months …

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  14. Well, sorry I spoke! Would it not be a good idea to know who was actually funding your politicians, is that not what the register of interests is for, to let us know what connections the MLA/MP/Councillor may have? Although I’d still like to know about the interests of the people they may be connected to by marriage! But no dark chocolaty conspiracy implied in my comments, simply, as you say, “human greed and stupidity taken to the nth degree and passed off as a new ‘ideology ‘ until it’s shown for what it always was i.e an overweening power grab allied to individual sociopathy,”

    Well, umh, yes!

    But is this “human greed and stupidity” not organised into parties, and not simply the actions of individuals (oh dear! am I back to “conspiracy” in the strictly legal sense?) As Alias says over on the “Why do politicians lie” thread: “Usually because they are promoting ulterior agendas that require democratic consent without seeking the required democratic consent.” By way of a political party.

    I’m on record elsewhere on “Slugger” as to what I think of Churchill. I remember that he was at great pains in his writings to excuse his ancestor’s serial betrayal of every monarch he served, in the interests of his own pocket. As for his awful wife: “From loveless youth to unrespected age/No passion satisfied except her rage.” in the words of Alec Pope, who knew her.

    And did Churchill not also think that Benito Mussolini was the outstanding politician of the early twentieth century until it served him to think otherwise?

    ‘It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.’ So great, let’s try democracy then, instead of a five year group dictatorship where the only power we (the people) have is to (perhaps) choose on a single day who will be our temporary masters milking the system through the period. In Athens every significant issue went to community plebiscite and the officers of government were chosen by lot (excepting war leaders) to avoid the sort of corruption we have today worldwide. Not that’s what I’d call democracy, even if it would never serve a contemporary highly organised plutocracy.

    You may have seen my comment over on the “What is History For Again” thread:

    “I dearly wish to see an empowered people who actually participate in governing themselves, but …… world wide we are being asked to choose between candidates sponsored by the patronage of a range of financial interests who may be supporting them for the public good, but on the other hand……”

    And as I write, just to confirm that private interests can always depend on their needs being given first place, I hear that the Runkerry Golf Course and (the more importantly) major luxury housing beano has been given the go-ahead by the high court in Belfast. Against the explicit advice of the Planning authority, and Unesco, and everyone sane!

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  15. Comment above should be @ Greenflag.

    Just before I sign off, @ Malcolm Redfellow,

    I’m wondering, too, just where the money will be borrowed to fund “water, transport, development, internet availability and the environment” when it looks as if Beppe, with all that transparency, will not have much to offer anyone who might be in a position to pay the readies for Italy’s goodies, but it’s a sweet dream, like real democracy.

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  16. SeaanUiNeill @ 6:14 pm:: I’m wondering, too, just where the money will be borrowed to fund “water, transport, development, internet availability and the environment”

    Who “funds” those essentials and others as of now? I think you will find the answer is [a] the end-user, through charges, and [b] international finance, through borrowing. The difference under public ownership is there aren’t gross profits being made by unresponsive boards of directors — and then exported.

    If you find that a difficult concept, consider one example — why Heathrow Airport Holdings (formerly BAA) is “owned” by Ferrovial, but underwritten largely by the public pensions plan of Quebec (which smells of being one spin-off away from the public sector) and the sovereign wealth fund of Singapore (which seems even more adjacent to a national exchequer).

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  17. @Malcolm Redfellow

    Well, yes, I know all that….

    The point I’m making is that 5 Star is on the horns of a dilemma. If they are truly transparent in their financial dealings they have little to offer the sort of money interests you mention. They can only offer something if they, too, play the same old game every political system has learnt over the last half century.

    I am still grieving the great fire sale of our national family silver by That Woman and her henchmen to bribe a greedy electorate. It was a bit like the Wyndham act, that “gave” the land to the Irish farmers, but I wonder just how much of that land is really outside the mortgages of the bankers today?

    Yes, public ownership of essential services in complex societies is the only sane option, it benefits all consumers, including any real business man not simply putting his hand into another’s pocket, banker style. Not a difficult concept at all.

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  18. aquifer (profile) says:

    Bepe Grillo scorns his rivals in an entertaining way.

    People don’t need to be paid to seek entertainment, and the web lets them find it for free.

    Big banks may have an interest in creating a stable environment for investment in “five star” infrastructure assets in “water, transport, development, internet availability and the environment.”, and Grillo’s A plus educated candidates may be capable of running a country, but his party has not yet shown an inclination to co-operate with others to govern.

    He may also not need the big money, if he is running the campaign on the net and by personal donations.

    The 5 star gang may just be having fun so far, which makes things much worse for the other parties.

    Another election could bankrupt them.

    Not so 5 star.

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  19. @aquifer
    If “Movimento 5 stelle” are really a popular funded party of people wanting “direct democracy” (check it out on Wikipedia anyone who thinks waht we have is democracy!) then my long wait for something to show up is over. I’ve already had my rant in support of Beppe today over on “Italy’s Five Star Movement – is this what The End of History looks like?”

    When I asked above who funds them, its just that I’ve grown so tired of watching good men discover who actually provides the money for their parties and what happens when they are elected should they wish to be re-elected………

    But if this is really a V for vendetta number……

    Now what if my old friend Armando Iannucci took a leaf out of Beppe’s book?

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