jaromil on Sun, 27 Dec 2009 14:38:01 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> The Therapeutic State of Italy

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re all,

I'm  spending these days  in Italy  during holedays  and once  again I
can't  resist to  write up  some reflections  and  impressions, mostly
digging into the large  quantity of press, parliamentary inquiries and
discussions, media carnage, strange  memories and half words whispered
on italic streets.

Just  some days  ago the  episode of  Massimo Tartaglia,  the  man who
targeted  the face  of prime  minister  Berlusconi using  a statue  of
Milano's  Cathedral as  projectile,  had a  huge  impact on  worldwide

To  understand what is  happening, the  consequences of  this mediatic
storm is  necessary to  keep our considerations  simple, our  feets on
ground, especially  considering the large quantity  of elements found.
Let  me  first  use an  anecdote,  as  recalling  it  helps a  lot  in
establishing a track for the interpretation of what happened:

  Milano, navigli, summer  of 2008, 3AM. Hanging at a  bar table for a
  last drink with  a good old friend, congratulating  for his recently
  started  PhD in  theology, dressed  decently for  the  occasion, his
  british girlfriend looking  gorgeous.  Last exchanges, pubs closing,
  cops  on the  street  controlling  no robbery  takes  place in  this
  delicate  moment of the  night. I  turn around  talking to  the last
  client besides us, mostly to hide  my envy look at my friend and her
  girlfriend - let's blame the spirits and the late hour.

  The last client doesn't takes any orders, doesn't smells of alcohol,
  but  speaks southern  dialect which  makes us  closer.  My  hair are
  freshly cut and  I must be sympathetic to him, so  after a few jokes
  on our common southern heritage I  invite him for the last round and
  he tells  me not, since  he is an  "undercover" agent, also  here to
  watch over the pubs closing.  My comment: "dangerous job!".

  He feels important and decides to  let loose. To get the best out of
  the situation I'm  trying to look admired, as I'd  like to serve the
  police and be such a hero. So the guy tells me he once did something
  very dangerous:  he was the  bodyguard of Mr.  Berlusconi.   My eyes
  wide open.  I  act surprised.  Inside me I wonder  if he is phishing
  for some compromising comment.

  He smiles, I stay silent, He  blinks the eye, looking to me like I'd
  be the  one making  him a favour,  then whispers "...believe  me, if
  someone would  have thrown  him a  stone while I  was in  service, I
  would have dodged the blow and let it land on his face".

Back  to   December  2009,  Berlusconi's   broken  nose  has   a  huge
significance  on screens  and  prints worldwide,  betraying that  well
studied brand of a powerful  and succesful man, like Mussolini with an
added media-aware smile, the same  premier who was recently smiling at
the G20 in pictures with Barack Obama, the 73 years old daddy gossiped
to practice fisting with his young escorts, now bleeding from his nose
in Mondovision.

Like in a spectacular rite of catharsis - but not just that.

Mr.  Tartaglia (his name literally translated in "stutter") appears as
a town's fool hanging around the  Duomo of Milano: he has no political
affiliation,  no leaflets  were found  in his  pockets and  bag, which
besides the  statue of the  Cathedral contained just some  plastic and
metal scrap, a crucifix in chalk and a big piece of Quartz crystal.

Regime  commentators  react  to  the episode  quickly  and  massively:
"Tartaglia is  a fool," they say  while his father states  that he has
shown  signs of mental  insanity since  he was  20.  In  this mediatic
picture Tartaglia became a  stuttering hero for many facebook netizens
who are  now massively identified at an  unprecedented quantity, while
he is finally  depicted by the Power as transparent  as the crystal he
carried: he  is absolved by the  regime because he  is just reflecting
the "unacceptable  hatred" circulating in the  Italian society against
Mr. Berlusconi.

The episode reminds us when  USA president Ronald Reagan risked to die
in 1981,  at the beginning  of his mandate,  shot by the hand  of John
Hinckley, who was then ruled innocent for reasons of insanity[1].  But
while the outcome  of Hinckley's trial raised huge  criticism, as many
claimed it is  too easy for juries to return  "not guilty" verdicts in
insanity cases,  the dynamic unfolding  from this recent attempt  of a
spaghetti assassination is well different.

Also  in our  case, with  a huge  celebration of  Piety, the  guns are
turned away from Tartaglia; nevertheless  they stay armed and ready to
fire on  a new breed of  terrorists: the "moral  responsibles" of this
aggression,  the   so  called  "media  terrorists".    The  blows  are
redirected against two political targets: state television journalists
Santoro  and Travaglio;  at the  same time  a larger  attack  is moved
against freedom  of speech on the  Internet, a political  target for a
State  whose ties  with Mafia  are documented  at  astonishing details
right in these days[2].

Arguably  this  is  a  variation   of  the  well  known  "strategy  of
tension[3]" frequently  adopted in Italy, signed  by ambiguous[4] bomb
attacks which immediately preceded  and followed this episode.

Even from an orthodox point of  view it's reasonable to think that the
security  apparatus set  to defend  a  high state  official cannot  be
pierced  by a  town's fool  throwing a  souvenir statue  at  him. This
ridicolous situation  opens the discourse  to all kinds  of ridicolous
considerations, with the result of distorcing it.

Discussing  exoteric   references  in  the   symbolical  communication
happening between the  devices of Power and Glory[5]  can be extremely
confusing,  while a dangerous  manipulation of  the "common  sense" of
most citizens is  in act - and the target  of this manipulation should
be the ultimate focus of our analysis.

After  all, Berlusconi's  bodyguards  were employees  (or most  likely
precarious  workers...)  of  a  private society:  they weren't  public
agents, a fact that precludes us from having a neutral account of what
really happened, as well poses  a theoretical dilemma on the nature of
the Italian  State and the  strained relationship between  its current
Government and its deparment of defence - a topic far beyond the scope
of this text[6].

So, following with  our hypothesis, what would be  the target for this
mediatic  manipulation?  It  seems  to be  attacking another  standing
point in  libertarian philosophy besides freedom of  speech: the right
to avoid being diagnosed for medical ailments and to reject treatment.

The institution of a  "Therapeutic State", as defined by psychiatrists
Franco  Basaglia  and Thomas  Szasz  in  1963[7],  is something  truly
convenient for Berlusconi's government in its current stage; but while
in the past Bush jr. lead  this blow in a top-down fashion[8] and with
the alliance of drug companies,  the Italian media tycoon now uses his
amplified channels  of information to affect the  public perception on
the concept of "mental illness".

Berlusconi's controlled media, with  a massive coverage on the Italian
territory, depicts Tartaglia's mind as weak and potentially dangerous,
since it can be affected  by evil thoughts. While the de-subjectivated
body that follows evil thoughts is proclamed innocent (a pious tribute
payd to Christianity) an educated exercise of criticism is regarded as
a source of degeneration, a seed of evil.

Not only all those that are psychologically weak can be manipulated by
the  means of  "media terrorists"  as Marco  Travaglio,  the judiciary
journalist appointed of being  moral responsible of what happened, but
the open mediasphere in its entirety, with social networks as Facebook
on  the first line,  are sources  of "moral  corruption" incentivating
violence in the minds of fools.

Berlusconi's  self  declared  "freedom's  party"  political  coalition
formulated a  dangerous interpretation  on Tartaglia's case  which has
seen  no opposition in  the Italian  Parliament -  a place  where left
parties  seems   to  be  already   drugged  since  long.   It   is  an
interpretation which taints the popular perception of freedom: "mental
illness" is  an inherently incoherent  combination of a medical  and a
psychological concept,  but popular because it legitimizes  the use of
psychiatric force to control and limit deviance from societal norms.

To conclude let us raise a  warning about the target of this maneuver:
it opens  up a new  front against an  important reform of  the Italian
mental health system, the law number 180 made in 1978 that established
the  abolition  of  the   mental  health  facilities,  the  so  called

At  last,  just while  writing  this  mail,  something more  happened:
Susanna Maiolo's  aggression to  the Pope of  the Catholic  Church, an
event that we  believe of different nature if  compared to Tartaglia's
case, still presents  analogies in the way the  aggressor is presented
and treated on  the media; but while it adds  urgency to our analysis,
ingenuous conspirationists  are satisfied by  depicting all this  as a
battle between super-heroes.


[1] see  The   Trial  of  John  Hinckley  by   Douglas  Linder,  2002

[2]  The recently founded  daily newspaper  "Il Fatto  Quotidiano", to
    which also Travaglio contributes,  published the so called "hidden
    interview" made  with assassinated magistrate  Paolo Borsellino by
    Fabrizio Calvi e Jean-Pierre Moscardo in 1992

[3] see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategy_of_tension

[4] recent  fake terrorist letter  sent to Berlusconi's  newspaper was
    written by his newspaper's journalist http://ur1.ca/gjgz

[5] As described by Giorgio Agamben in "Il Regno e la Gloria"

[6] In  a dossier  titled "To  spy and to  hit" recently  published by
     newspaper Il Fatto is told how, between 2001 and 2006, Berlusconi
     used  Italian secret  services  to serve  his  own interests:  to
     control or corrupt journalists, to spy on judges and all kinds of
     activists           and           political          adversaries.

[7]  The collaboration  between government  and psychiatry  results in
     what  Szasz defines as  a system  in which  disapproved thoughts,
     emotions,   and   actions   are   repressed   ("cured")   through
     pseudomedical interventions

[8]   "Bushâs   Brave   New    World"   by   Sheldon   Richman,   2005

- -- 
jaromil, dyne.org developer, http://jaromil.dyne.org

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