Italy is witnessing a surreal development – or maybe we should say another surreal development – in its political world. On May 28th, 2013, a hotelier from the city of Padova in Veneto, Mr. Simone Furlan, founded “Silvio’s Army” (l’Esercito di Silvio). “Silvio” is the first name of former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi.
The “Army” has already recruited over eight-thousand active members in the past three days who have pledged themselves to “defend President Berlusconi and to fight alongside him during the Twenty-year War“and to take part in an assortment of activities such as joining demonstrations against the judiciary and in support of Mr. Berlusconi. The application can be taken online and takes just a few minutes to compile, and it accepts all over the age of sixteen.
Silvio Berlusconi has, for the better part of two decades now, been involved in numerous civil and criminal trials for a variety of incidents – bribing lawyers, fiscal fraud, falsifying records and, most recently, his involvement in an underage sex scandal, as well as a cocktail of other charges. You can check Wikipedia for a full listing. He has been repeatedly accused of having utilized his political charge to indemnify himself of the charges brought against him, or pass tailored laws that would achieve the same result. In any other nation on the planet, including many “developing” ones, Mr. Berlusconi would be absolutely ineligible to any political charge.
The founder of this movement has stated that “we cannot remain inert spectators of this unjust Twenty-year war that has seen our leader defend himself from defamatory accusations of all sorts which are the fruits of a judicial persecution without historical precedents”.
When asked for why he thought Mr. Berlusconi has been targeted so heavily by what he calls “absurd judicial persecution“, Mr. Furlan claims that it is because “Berlusconi did not allow Communists to rise to power” which have been engaged in a war to discredit him with their allies – the magistrates.
This rhetoric has been used by Berlusconi for over twenty years, and so it is only natural that the sheer repetition of the “Communist judges and magistrates are persecuting me and my freedom” is bound to take hold amongst a small segment of the population. It is however shocking that over eight-thousand people would be so eager to sign up so quickly to such an organization in support of a convicted criminal.
Although the founder of the movement insists that his intentions are for it to be entirely pacific, the “Army” is actually organized and arranged in a true paramilitary fashion and Mr. Furlan has declared that he would use his body as a human shield, should it be necessary, and take a bullet for Mr. Berlusconi. When asked “Is this faith?” in an interview, Mr. Furlan stated “Of course it is… [I am] proud, very proud that I have always voted for Berlusconi. And I love him with my whole self. We are the evangelizers of Berlusconi and want to give testimony of his word with determination…“.
The organization of bodies such as this are reminiscient of the fascist brigades, a dark era in Italy’s history, in which the infamous “Blackshirt Brigades” roamed the nation seeking to intimidate or eliminate those that would dare oppose the fascist state. Given Mr. Berlusconi’s associations with philo-fascist political figures, and the fanatically messianic, these developments only seem to indicate the present and future deterioration of the Italian political landscape.
Ruben Rosenberg Colorni.