Time for change in Italy

BY GUEST OPINION | MAY 11, 2011 7:20 AM

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If Americans truly care about democracy as much as we purport, shouldn't we care about the protests in Italy? We paid attention to the Egyptian people in the relatively bloodless revolution that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak, but why isn't that attention given to the protests (attendance numbering up to 1 million) against Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi?

Berlusconi is the second longest-serving prime minister of Italy after Benito Mussolini. Popular protests are happening in Italy against Berlusconi, and we should show our support for them.

Berlusconi controls Italy like a dictator, through his massive abuses of political power and companies that are intertwined all parts of the Italian economy and public life. If you're thinking of studying abroad to Italy or looking for companies to invest in, it'll be difficult to find news, banks, insurance, advertising, property, publishing companies, and sports teams not owned by him.

One documentary about Berlusconi's media monopoly avers he controls 90 percent of Italy's television content; 80 percent of Italians rely on TV as their exclusive news source.

Berlusconi faced his most recent investigation for corruption in March. In the past, he has been investigated for money laundering, bribery, complicity in murder, and association with the Mafia — but has faced no definitive convictions. Perhaps if one has the money to bribe lawyers and judges, one can get away with anything.

He has no regard for women in the workforce, promoting women to positions in his administration simply because he likes their physical beauty. He provides rent-free housing for underage girls and hosts "bunga bunga" parties if they'll strip and have sex with him. He broadcasts female inferiority through his television shows — affecting youth especially, as polls from 2009 show that one of the most popular aspirations for Italian teenage girls is to be one of these showgirls. Clips of his television shows have cameras zoom in on breasts and legs, and young men take cattle flank meat stamps to women's backsides. Many more shows depict women being forced into compromising positions, paraded about by men while groped, pinched, and slapped.

Italians are taking a stand against Berlusconi, with protests at his many trial proceedings and Italy's unification celebrations. No Berlusconi Day, started almost entirely on the Internet, gained 20,000 members in under a week and culminated in a protest in Rome on Dec. 5, 2009. On Feb. 13 of this year, Italian women organized protests in 230 Italian cities and 28 worldwide, with 1 million people in all. Every day, there are more and more people demonstrating in the streets and online. Even as Berlusconi countersues opposition groups, the protests are getting larger and more coordinated.

Let's help Italy by supporting groups that oppose Berlusconi, his many investments, companies, and his administration. The existence of his criminal government is an affront to democracies around the world, and the only justice will be his removal. He is trying to sidestep his prosecution time and get out of being tried. We need to show that we won't tolerate his outrageous disrespect of women, of Italy, and of democracy. Fight back against misogyny and the Mafia and call for Silvio Berlusconi's removal.

Sam Pottebaum is a UI sophomore.

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