Prison Sentence Is Unlikely
to Set the Sun on Berlusconi
An Italian court has sentenced former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to a four-year prison term. But a long appeal process has just started and, if the flamboyant billionaire can help it, he may not spend a day in jail. After all, he’s beaten the rap a couple of times before.
The 76-year old owner of a media empire and a major soccer team, who was forced out of office last November, has been known as much for his frequent sex scandals as for his failure to prevent Italy from sinking under the weight of Europe’s debt crisis that started in 2009.
Despite being in and out of the government for 20 years, Berlusconi’s center-right political coalition has done little, once in power, to limit Italy’s economic instability, which seem to pervade it at regular intervals. But it’s clear that he’s increased enormously his personal wealth through the connections his position allowed.
Of all world leaders of the early 2000s, a particularly uninspiring bunch, Berlusconi managed to be the most visible, both for his political gaffes and for his ostentatious lifestyle. Propped up by his personal fortune, though, he’s arguably one of the few who still stands a chance for a political comeback.
That is, if he overcomes the latest tax evasion charges, which originated from a far from sensational set of circumstances. Along with seven other defendants, he’s accused of purchasing rights to broadcast U.S. movies on TV networks belonging to his Mediaset company, through shady offshore deals done to avoid paying taxes.
In the past, Berlusconi’s has shown an uncanny ability to skip convictions and prison sentences, for false bookkeeping, corruption, or sex with minors, all the while keeping a high profile as an international playboy. It’s possible that this time Italians have finally had enough with his stunts.
It’s possible but, as we said, unlikely. In the meantime, we’re republishing a post we wrote two years ago, about a particularly revealing episode made of equal parts of money, crassness, culture and cult of personality. It goes a long way to illustrate the way this short-temper buffoon goes about his business. Enjoy it.
Italian billionaire Silvio Berlusconi is not the only politician, or rich person, who believes the world’s his playground. But you gotta give it to him: he’s astonishingly oblivious to the horror that usually greets his decisions, mostly guided by the pursuit of fun, candy and more power. As for us, we just happen to be camping around, mostly annoying the hell out of him. (*)
So when the 1800-year old classical Roman statue of Venus and Mars was loaned to his office, Berlusconi immediately made plans to fix it.
As it turned out, the likeness of the ruler of war had its penis chipped off circa 175 C.E., and the goddess of love was missing a hand too. Never mind that it’s been exhibited that way at the Palazzo Chigi in Rome for years.
The other day, the work was completed and delivered to his door, and Berlusconi was beside himself. After all, a man known for boasting his sexual proclivities, for infuriatingly sexual tirades and for a whole catalog of public improprieties, is used to go the extra mile to be atop the subjects he cares deeply about.
Last month, another sample of his taste for remaining salient at all times erupted, after a teenager girl said she had sex with and was paid for by him. The case is still going through Italy’s judicial system but, as with previous examples, it may rattle a few pedestals but it won’t scratch his position.
While it’s clear that, on his mind, his power equates the artistic and historical wherewithal to sponsor whatever revisionism and manipulation of ancient artifacts he sees fit, many embarrassed Italians wonder when will they get to say, “Basta!” and kick his media-empire arse out of elective office.
We, of course, will be somehow on the way, as usual, wondering whether someone at the Metropolitan will ever think along the same lines, and decide to “fix” thousands of historically chipped penises throughout the galleries of New York’s most important museum.
Would the call come from the crowd who complains about the diminutive size of such important appendage on some of the marvelous statues by Michelangelo and Leonardo? Or the side that criticizes the Met for having too many of them around and not enough detailed depictions of the female genitalia?
To be perfect, err, straight, this whole discussion over the “anatomical completeness,” as they called it in Italy, of classical sculptures is a bit, well, graphic. And ignorant too, to be blunt. Right there, you see the problem of carrying on such discussion: the cheap shots keep on coming.
But there could be two alternate ways to divert your sick mind from the subject. One, think about what happened to the Egyptian boy King Tutankhamen, Tut for latecomers to his acquaintance like us. As you may’ve learned by now, his member is missing.
Anatomical conspiracy, some call it. Apparently, he was as under endowed as the NPR is expected to be if it’s up to the GOP, and the disappearance of his penis has something to do with, well, keeping up appearances. What some would do to turn such a minor “bleep” into an orchestrated caper with roots in the 2000s B.C.E. is a point for another discussion.
But as it goes, it did happen before, in 1922. It was soon rediscovered, though, amid the gravel on which his mummy was packed. For those “disappearators” above, thus, it all fits a pattern along the belief that King Tut’s anatomy was even less proportional than some of the Met statues.
Another way to sober up about it is to picture the Khalid Nabi cemetery, in Iran. A kind of under-the-radar tourist attraction, it was established in the very days of the prophet (yes, that one) but it’s named after a well known (to them) Christian poet. Oh, and it has 600 tombstones shaped in the form of phalluses and crosses.
That’s right. Only in such an ultra-conservative religious dictatorship such as Iran, you’d find such a monumental contradiction. And it’s there for hundreds of years. Since no Iranian’s been suicidal enough to publicly try to find out why on earth it has so many erect penises, who knows? Maybe even King Tut’s missing link is in there.
But please, don’t encourage Silvio. If he gets a hold of this story, he may decide he wants a similar monument of his own, if possible erected by hired nubile girls. It’d be redundant to mention what some italiani would do with such a monstrosity, though.
The team that glued the prosthetics to Mars’s statue seems to be better prepared for a possible backlash to their work: they say the replacement parts were attached using a magnetic system and can be removed. It’s very likely they were considering the possibility the PM falls off his horse and a new order is established in the land the Borgias once ruled.
As for us, we’ll always be standing in the way, and all that.
(*) Originally published on Nov. 2010.