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Senator Colbert? Meet Beppe Grillo

Those of us who are not-so-secretly hoping that Stephen Colbert might actually run for Senate should take a look at Beppe Grillo‘s career in Italy.

A controversial political comedian and a leading blogger — he’s got some Al Franken and some George Carlin as well as some Colbert in him — Grillo formed the Five Star Movement, which organizes Italian citizens to back politicians who support the movement’s anti-corruption, green, Euro-skeptical, pro-Internet principles. In October, it led the voting in Sicily. Now the Five Star Movement is holding an online vote to choose which candidates to support.

There are certainly skeptics. But Grillo’s career as a comedian and blogger who has become a political force is pretty amazing.

6 Responses to “Senator Colbert? Meet Beppe Grillo”

  1. Hi,
    being italian, I feel obliged to add some perspective. I am totally unaware of Colbert’s political plans so I don’t know anything about his similarities with Grillo. But from Italy I must warn foreign observers: it’s very dangerous stuff. Grillo acts like a messiah using leverage on populism and popular beliefs. Lead by a one-way anger against every form of political institution he plays outside the rules, avoiding confrontation and calling on the “crowd” as a support. You might intereset to know that his first movement started in crowd happenings called the “V-day” where V stays for “Vaffanculo” (i.e. Fuck Off) Not much of a political vision, I daresay. In this way he is much more similar to Mussolini or Berlusconi. He is pro-internet, yes, but he is also a misoneist and luddist when he likes (he’s against ogm, nuclear power, incineration waste disposal facilities, etc.)
    After 20 years of Berlusconi disgrace, I think it’s time to claim that we are sick and tired of showmen stepping on the politics stage. I see this a sign of crisis of institutional values, and I think it’s very dangerous.
    Forgive this long rush, but after reading so many points on Obama’s way of doing politics on this blog, I needed to put some perspective from my italian point of view.
    Thanks for your patience :)
    All the best

  2. Thanks, FraEnrico. My view of Grillo over the years is certainly as an outsider, and I don’t pretend to have the depth of knowledge that his fellow citizens do.

    I admired V-Day at the time as political theater. I would have gladly attended a Fuck Off Day to “celebrate” George Bush. Given the years of Berlusconi rule, what was wrong with a day to express pent up anger? Or was the event different than I think it was?

    A question about his being a Luddite: The examples you give are pretty standard environmental positions. Is he a Luddite in other areas as well?

    Your point about Grillo’s messianic tendencies, and his avoiding confrontation and calling on the ‘crowd’ are quite disturbing. From the outside, he seems more like a funny, loud-mouthed rabble rouser. A showman, as you say. But doesn’t his support of direct democracy ease some of your concern that he is a crypto-authoritarian?

    The support he’s receiving certainly does seem (from the outside) to be “a sign of crisis in institutional values.” But, isn’t such a sign appropriate? And if so, it seems — again from the outside, so I am asking for your reaction and guidance — that a showman espousing broad reformist values (starting with his anti-corruption focus) is a healthy thing. No?

  3. Hi David
    i passed by here after a long while, busy schedule and diverted focus, to send you a hug
    and I see as usual you are up for some interesting conversation

    as an italia, even if I m not really following up close what s goin on there anymore
    I have to say franenrico is absolutely right, from my point of view

    grillo is no steven colbert I am afraid.
    he has been a great comedian, fiercely satirical and always straight talking against any abuse or corruption in the political world
    so much so that he has been banned from public television for at least the last 20 years
    he managed to create his own public with theater stand ups and with his blog, that he mastered like no other in italy

    but as of now he is dancing on that tiny line between egotism and hypocrisy that is way too familiar to the italian political process
    his criticism was powerful and even useful as an opinion maker but as a political entity he is offering no positive idea at the moment, just plain destructive populism

    regarding his “direct democracy”, his internet political machine is ran by an internet marketing firm
    primary elections for his “party” have been made in house, and he has been the only one with access to their data
    basically he could have picked any given candidate and say that he or she won, without showing any proof or having any third party check the process
    he did manage to get involved a section of the country that was usually not involved, small middle class hard working people and so on
    but they seams to be more like puppets in his hands then real actors right now
    any kind of dissent has been considered betrayal to the cause, and literally kicked out of the movement

    it does remind me more of the tea party movement then anything else
    considering also that the guy is by now an extremely wealthy “simple guy” that made his fortune by firing up the legitimate hanger and fears of a fed up population

    compared to the tea party he is better in the sense that behind him there isn t some big multinational or special interest
    but then again, mussolini was the son of a school teacher and a socialist at heart, so he said

    italy has been a lab for many form of populism for the last century
    and i am afraid this is just one technologically savvy last example…

    still big hug for you :)

    hope to see you soon again


  4. It is very easy to criticize Grillo for being “populist” (whatever that means), for “avoiding confrontation (probably means not wanting to go in TV shows), and for being a showman.

    If you take the time to read his blog a lot of the stuff he says is actually “on spot”. Sometimes there is an impressive amount of research behind what he writes.

    Some of Grillo’s ideas (such as his comment that the Mafia lets you live while the State bleeds you dead) are impossible to digest, but, unless you have decided to close eyes, nose and ears you will not find any Italian party that is fully digestable.

    There are strong signs that the Italian social and economic fabric cannot endure the present level of corruption and cronism for much longer. Grillo is very focused against corruption and cronism, certainly more so than the any Italian parties.

    Does he or his team have the competence, experience and know how to pull Italy out of its present mess? Probably not, but this is hardly a reason not to vote him.

    There is no way, given the vested interests that cement the Italian status quo, that Grillo might win the majority of votes. None of the others parties has expressed any appetite of joining up with him.

    So who cares if he cannot govern. He certainly can stage a much more effective political opposition than the one we have had in the last twenty years, that has done nothing to stop the general acceptance of corruption as a way of life and has, more often than not, take part in the feast.

  5. no comment money has replaced god a long time ago,sono solo parole l’italia e destinata al crollo meglio crollare con grillo

  6. l’italia e un paese fascista anzi nazista la democrazia non e ma esistita in nessuna parte de mondo e solo una pretesa, finquando circolera denaro non ci sara democrazia essa e avere coscenza e poca la gente che ha coscenza buona fortuna l;italia e gia nella m……da quale la differenza se ci andiamo con grillo nella m….da tanto l’italia e uno stivale per questo puzza meno male che la sicilia si sta allontanando

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