Saturday, March 20, 2010

Layer 268 . . . Berlusconi, Bannatyne, Bunting . . . and Catholicism

The Berlusconi Show
I'm becoming irritated with Sam Wollaston, who's one of the Guardian's TV critics and commentators. I'm getting sick of wanky journos who seem to care mainly about getting easy chuckles and taking cheap shots. I don't mind the odd chuckle or cheap shot, but I also expect more than glib summaries of some pretty important work on TV.

This week we've had a wealth of brilliant documetaries to savour and enjoy on our TV networks - the ones on Detroit, Gaza, and the encounter between Maya Angelou and Dave Chappelle, which Oxzen has already commented on - to name but three.The documentary film is an increasingly important art form.

These three documentaries were anything but straightforward reportage on their subject matter: a great deal of creative thought and energy had gone into their editing, sound, images, and so on. Work of this quality deserves to be taken seriously.

And then we had a documentary called The Berlusconi Show, made by Mark Franchetti, and shown on BBC2 in prime time on Wednesday.

So what does young Wollaston have to say about it?

This fine study of Italy's leader leaves me amazed, says Sam Wollaston. How did he ever get elected?

Mark Franchetti, who's lived away from his native country for 20 years, goes back to find out how the hell this clown came to lead a European democracy in the 21st century. Franchetti  speaks to lots of people on both sides, and looks at the historical context of Berlusconi's rise to power; this is proper, balanced reporting.

For the viewer, though, what stands out is the stuff that makes you wince. It's not as if we didn't know it all before: the media control, the alleged mafia connections and corruption, the links to the extreme right, the trials, the legislative changes, the escorts and young girls, the cosmetic surgery, the parties, the gaffes, the dissing of Angela Merkel, the referring to Barack Obama as "tanned". It's just that, when it's all presented together, you're left with your jaw on the floor. How the frigging frig did that happen? And again. And again. He's been elected three times.

This was extraordinary, fascinating and worrying, all at the same time.

So Sam - which bit of it didn't you understand - when you ask the question: "How did he get elected?"

Francitti in fact did a superb job in examining the Italian psyche and revealing how Berlusconi, ever the populist, very cleverly "triangulates" in ways that Blair and New Labour could only dream of. Slippery Silvio is smart enough to make sure that he speaks TO the working classes, and not ABOUT them or AT them. And he also makes sure that he offers them enough treats to keep them happy, unlike New Labour. He also delivers on his promises and bribes. Unlike New Labour. The programme made all of this perfectly, beautifully, clear.

Of course he also behaves like a tycoon, a megalomaniac, a monopolist, and a smug, self-satisfied would-be tyrant, which appeals to the Italian middle and upper classes, who like their leaders to be "strong", powerful", "decisive", "colourful", "maccho", "bold", wealthy, nationalistic, xenophobic, anti-socialist, anti-communist, anti-trade unionist, Machiavellian and to also have a passing resemblance to Garibaldi.

And not dissimilar to that other Italian guy - what was his name? - oh yes, Mussolini.

"His Excellency Benito Mussolini, Head of Government, Duce of Fascism, and Founder of the Empire", to give him his full title.


Duncan Bannatyne

Here comes another tycoon with aspirations to be a political big wheel. He was on Desert Island Discs this week. And he's yet another guest of DID who knows nothing (and cares nothing) about music. Or, as he put it himself - "Ah wasnae intae music all tha' much."

How very true. Not at all into it, in fact.

Rod Stewart   — Maggie May
Tom Jones   — Green, Green Grass of Home
Dawn  — Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Ole Oak Tree
Michael Ball   — Love Changes Everything
Beverley Knight   — Shoulda Woulda Coulda
Chesney Hawkes   — The One and Only

Sample lyric -

I can't wear this uniform without some compromises
Because you'll find out that we come
In different shapes and sizes
No one can be myself like I can
For this job I'm the best man
And while this may be true
You are the one and only you


But at least he didn't feel the need to throw in anything classical. Strange though how so many of our 'celebrities' either don't have time for music or are just very fond of wall to wall schmaltz. Or both. Sentimental. Florid. Maudlin.


Chopin was quoted on R4 today as having said, "The aristocracy in Britain are brought up to treat music as background noise."

Hmm. They're not the only ones.

Chopin also wrote, "Scottish people are kind - but such bores. God help me."

It seems Mr Bannatyne is a well-known supporter of charities. Which is nice.


He was on BBC1 on Friday - dancing for Sport Aid. Incredibly badly. Unsurprisingly for a man who has no taste in music, he shows an abysmal sense of rhythm. I.e. none whatsoever. As one of the judges said - appalling. Cringe-makingly bad.

Still - it's for cheridy. And Mr B would rather be bigging up his "profile" on TV - even if people are basically laughing and cringing at him - than not be on TV at all.


Madeleine Bunting is right on the ball again with a piece in the Guardian today about Catholicism and child abuse -

An inquiry is vital, but the church's moral authority is lost for ever

There is only one conceivable reaction to the fast-spreading crisis in the Catholic church: horror. Only the most virulent anti-papist could ever have quite envisaged the scale of child abuse and the doggedness of the church's desire to stifle scandal. The rest of us are astonished and appalled. Quite rightly, Angela Merkel saw fit to intervene. After decades – perhaps we should rather be referring to centuries – of obfuscation, the Catholic church has to be called to account for what has happened.

Last summer the Ryan report exposed decades of systematic abuse of thousands of children in Ireland.

Abuse allegations emerge across Europe in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy.

The current issue of the Catholic weekly, the Tablet, carries a thoughtful article by the head of Berlin's Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine which acknowledges that the church's celibacy requirement may have appealed – misleadingly appearing to offer a solution – to paedophiles' conflicted sexuality. While the debate about disproportion continues, what is increasingly clear is that the church's determination to preserve its institutional power and authority repeatedly involved suppressing the truth – even when that put children at further risk.

The crisis simply accelerates what is already happening: the drift away from a model of religious experience which younger generations find increasingly unintelligible. Despite all the talk in Ireland and elsewhere of inquiries to ascertain the truth and "rebuild confidence in the church", such initiatives are very unlikely to achieve that outcome. Inquiries prompt more lurid headlines as they expose further the scale and detail of the abuse. They are necessary and important, but they will not save the Catholic church.

There will be plenty celebrating the Catholic church's plight, and it is hard not to agree in some part with MacCulloch, that hubris has played a huge part in this institution's history and its current crisis. But it is also important to acknowledge that this is more tragedy than anything else. For the victims, their families, their congregations – many of whom see no cause for celebration despite their need for truth – and for those causes on which the church has proved a trenchant champion, stirring lazy consciences on the arms race, global inequality and capitalist excess.


I'm going to bed slightly depressed tonight, having read so many bullshit comments on CIF following Lynsey Hanley's latest column in the Guardian, which was basically a good news story about Newham Council allocating over £1m so that every child in ther borough can have music lessons on an instrument of their choice.

The really depressing thing is that our education system turns out so many people who've been to probably quite decent schools, and even universities, and still end up witless, mean-spirited and up their own arses. What's more these morons have nothing better to do than hang around the Guardian's website ready to spew out their ignorant and reactionary bile, totally incapable of any constructive or even any interesting thoughts.

Watch this video:


This is great. I just wish we'd been able to keep the one that carried us nearly all the way across Africa.

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