The New York Times came to Garbagnate Milanese to follow the second ballot and it has dedicated a long article to the Five Star MoVement. Isn't that great news? (Right now the NYT prints a million copies and has a million unique visitors to its website.)
"Caustic Comedian Alters Italy’s Political Map"
GARBAGNATE MILANESE —
A rapt crowd gathered in this drab town in the Milanese hinterland one evening this week to hear the Italian comedian Beppe Grillo serve up his characteristically caustic take on Italian politics. And he did not disappoint them.
“Take away money from politics” he barked, as the crowd tittered. “Take away the careers. If someone wants to make money or steal, well, they should choose another job.” With no financial gain, he said, “politics becomes about passion.” Mr. Grillo pointed to the row of fresh-faced Italians — candidates with his Five Star Movement competing in run-off elections here this weekend — on the makeshift stage behind him. “These kids, they may be inexperienced, they still haven’t learned how to rig a budget, or give contracts to their friends …,”
What they were, he said, was the product of the “hyper-democracy” that he has been promoting through his blog and the plethora of Internet sites that have aggregated like-minded Italians bent on proselytizing political activism in a new form. And it’s through a deft mixture of mordant humor, righteous anger and grass-roots organization that Mr. Grillo’s movement is proving that it is no joke. Although it was founded only in October 2009, the Five Star Movement has quickly become a force to be contended with in Italy’s fractious political arena. In the first round of local elections on May 6 and 7, candidates from his movement ran in 101 of the 941 cities, and they captured nearly 200,000 votes — a national average of 9 percent — becoming the second- or third-ranked political force in various municipalities across Italy. The party won one mayoral race outright, in a small, but strategic, stronghold of the Northern League, the populist party whose leader, Umberto Bossi, was formally notified this week that he is under investigation for fraud.
“We’re at the beginning of something new that will change everything. The Web is sweeping everything away, toward a world most people don’t even know exists,” said Mr. Grillo, a popular comic for more than four decades, who has more than 550,000 followers on Twitter, and nearly 850,000 on Facebook. “It’s difficult to understand. Maybe we will in five or 10 years.”
Spawned from Mr. Grillo’s popular blog, which he started in 2005, and molded through various Internet incarnations, the Five Star Movement is rapidly becoming a vessel for Italians’ impatience with traditional political parties, which are seen as having lost touch with the needs of the people. Italians commonly refer to the political elite as “the caste.” Polls show that confidence in the nation’s political parties has plunged below 5 percent, and Mr. Grillo’s anti-politics message has found fertile ground. (Politicians do little to help themselves. A debate this week in the lower house of Parliament to discuss cutting public funds to political parties mustered the interest of just 20 of 630 lawmakers, newspapers reported.) Angelo Pellegrino, a plumber who had come to hear Mr. Grillo, said: “Politicians are thieves, clowns, buffoons, they live like kings. Although we are also to blame. We did after all vote for them.”
Political commentators have been tempted to dismiss Mr. Grillo’s movement as a national protest vote against entrenched interests, not unlike dissident movements elsewhere in Europe, from Germany’s Pirates to the far-right Golden Dawn in Greece. But the movement’s members reject the characterization and enthusiastically hawk their agenda — an environmentally friendly, anti-consumerist, pro-education platform, articulated with plenty of local variations. Community chapters decide which issues to emphasize for themselves and then elect a “spokesperson” to represent the ideas in electoral races. “The novelty is the use of the Web as a constituency, the idea of new democracy, with a direct relationship between the elected and the electors,” said Federico Fornaro, a historian who has written about the Five Star Movement, “a model of party in franchising,” he added.
The focus on local issues accounts in large part for its success so far. Of the three cities where Five Star Movement candidates made it to runoff elections, the most closely watched is Parma, a wealthy city in the agricultural heartland hobbled by a decade of scandals. Mr. Grillo describes the vote in Parma as “our Stalingrad,” a reference to the 1942-43 World War II battle between Soviet and German forces that marked a turning point in the war.
Federico Pizzarotti, who is representing the Five Star Movement this week in Parma said “It’s important to have open ears and listen to what people say.”
Mr. Grillo and his followers are also setting their sights on national elections next year, which will pose new challenges to the movement’s ability to organize and mobilize its leaderless membership. “The moment there’s a hierarchy, it all falls apart,” warned Gianluca Perilli, a Five Star member in Rome. “Political parties are the cancer of politics.”
Finding a common message to deliver to the electorate will also test the glue of this hyper-democratic movement that refuses to define itself through labels and elaborates its political positions through online sites “where everyone counts as one.” “So far, they’ve only won in small cities,” said Paolo Natale, a professor of political sociology at the University of Milan. “It will be interesting to see whether the utopian vision they now propose can be incarnated for the national elections.” The reliance of the movement’s followers on the Web as a point of contact is “both their strength, and their strong weakness,” he said. “They can be a bit naïve.” Mr. Fornaro described the movement’s shift to the national level as a “triple backward somersault with no net below,” he said. He added: “It’s one thing to raise a ruckus, another to govern.” None of that bothers Mr. Grillo, who is happy to admit that the movement is a work in progress and insists that he is not first among equals, and even less the “guru” that his critics have labeled him. Yet it is undeniable that the comic’s pronouncements — he is open, for example, to Italy leaving the euro — send regular shockwaves through the movement. He advocates, moreover, forcing Italian politicians to stand trial before a popular jury. “There is no forgiveness in a popular movement,” he said.
The Internet is also unforgiving, and has an inherent system of checks and balances, said Gianroberto Casaleggio, the Web consultant responsible for developing Mr. Grillo’s online presence. “If you’re credible and popular like Grillo then your message has wide diffusion on the Web,” he said. “It’s a Calvinist movement. If you lose your credibility, then your message has no future.”
Here in Garbagnate Milanese, Mr. Grillo wound down his speech. “Who knows where we’ll end up? I don’t know, this is direct democracy,” he said, his voice growing hoarse. “We’re not a political movement; this is a cultural revolution that’s going to change society.”
> Complete article in The New York Times
Posted by Beppe Grillo at 06:54 PM in MoVement
(3) | Comments in Italian (translated)
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