Investigations of Italian Journalism


The teacher of a course in “Analysis of public policy” has been discussing with his students what has been happening in the Susa Valley and asked them to analyse the information carried by the three major Italian daily papers.
The teacher told the students to find the reasons for the Yes-TAV (Fast train project).

The papers consulted on 7, 8 and 9 December were: Il Corriere della Sera, La Repubblica and La Stampa.
The result is exhilarating, and it steals my position of comedian from me.

Before reading the analysis (in Italian), that I advise you to print out and pass around, let’s see a few Yes-TAV declarations:

Sergio Romano, Corriere: “Without the TAV we will leave the Danube-Balkan Europe in the hands of our competitors, which is the region where we have achieved significant success in recent years”;

Barbara Spinelli, La Stampa: “There are rational and opportune projects - a high speed train that from Portugal goes to Kiev has these attributes”;

Emma Bonino, Corriere: “The TAV has to go ahead because what’s at play is a model of sustainable ecology”;

Mercedes Bresso, Corriere: “Up there the children cannot go to school, their fathers have been on strike so much they risk being sacked and then even Christmas is coming.”

After three days of reading Yes-TAV declarations like this, without numbers, tables, economic analysis, environmental evaluations, projections, the students threw in the sponge and gave up.

Journalists please don’t go on strike again!
Otherwise how can we find amusement?

Posted by Beppe Grillo at 10:41 AM in | Comments (8)
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I got your point. And I am not too much in the details myself too, unfortunately, living abroad.
However, what people protesting seem to be pointing at, is that they realize that the commitment has been taken, the TAV has to be done as part of the TNTN, but the Italian part has been decided without many careful thoughts and studies, namely the environmental impact, the search of alternative solutions, the cost impact, the return on the investment.
Now you say that the documentation is there, so why is it not available by surfing the net? you can get an awful lot of information on the web, why not a single one mentioning those phantomatic studies? I checked your link, it's a very nice brochure, it talks about the overall plan but didn't bring me to any place mentioning the potential impact of drilling through an asbestos-filled mountain, nowhere mentioning a sort of a business plan explaining when the project was going to pay for itself. Perhaps I am not a good surfer though.
It also looks like that the inhabitants of the susa valley were never listened to, even if they did have alternative solutions to present.
At least they are talking now.

But, saying all this, you are right. THEY have the upper hand, and if WE want to put some sense in this whole mess, we need to do the work for them.

Who starts? Grillo?

Posted by: aldo grasso | December 13, 2005 02:41 PM

Dear Aldo,

There you go again: since THEY are jerks then we are right. Is that really all there is to it? I do not expect THEM to do the hard work, I expect US to do it. And surfing the 'net does NOT qualify. There is plenty of documentation from the European Union, it has been there for YEARS, environmental impact studies and all, including criticisms. It could STILL be smoke and mirrors, but it is there and understanding it is not for the casual faint-hearted surfer. Besides, a continental NETWORK that integrates road, air, sea-lanes and rail 20 years since CANNOT be evaluated by a small segment TODAY.
For example, I'd like to see european agricultural subsidies go forever and African agricultural products and light manufacturing to reach european markets through sea-lanes to southern european ports, and then move via high-CAPACITY freight rail links northwards. The same for the eastern trade traffic through the Suez canal. Perhaps this is all wrong or irrelevant - honestly I don't know- but I am not convinced by the simple fact that pro-TAV bloggers are silly, newspapers are ludicrous, and Mr. Stefano Benni can write witty and whimsical stories.
I SUPPORT Beppe, that is why I urge him not to yield to the temptation of picking on soft and easy targets: your Government may be (at present) run by Charlots, but the TNTN is a much harder nut to crack. THEY won't crack it, granted, but that means that WE must.

Posted by: Francesca Laclaire | December 13, 2005 12:22 PM

Dear Miss Francesca
the trouble is that "patient, tenacious, deep, witty and intelligent HARD WORK" seems to have been produced by one side only, while the other side so far has only produced horsecrap.
This is the trouble.
What Beppe is questioning is that no decent argument in favour of the TAV has been brought up. Nothing. Zilch.
And if you read on the italian side the posts from people in favour of the TAV, they are so impregnated of more bullshit that I had to leave it for the stench. Not one single argument that makes any sort of sense, just crap as:
- you can't stop progress
- you have already been breathing asbestos in your valley, what's a wee bit more?
- TAV in other countries works, and it's great...
and so on.
None challenges the environmentl impact of the tunnel, none even mention the fact that the TAV is NOT planned for people but for goods only.
This is the real problem.

Posted by: aldo grasso | December 13, 2005 11:31 AM

Dear Messrs. Simone and Diego

I am not contrasting "academic learning" with "comedian's fatuity": I am contrasting patient, tenacious, deep, witty and intelligent HARD WORK with sentimental flashing and bullshitting and thinking you can get away with just about anything that pleases the crowds or yourself. It is soooo bloody easy to laugh Mr. Berlusconi or Italian (or French, for that matter) newspapers away that you unwittingly start to think that you can laugh the Trans-European Transportation Network away with the same easyness (and the TETN is an initiative that does not commit the Italian Government: it commits the Italian STATE for a much longer time that ANY elected government spends in office). The reason I address Beppe is that there are times when the only SERIOUS person left is a comedian: his art is exactly both the detector of, and the antidote to, bullshit. But that is because you are MORE, not less, thourough and honest in your analysis, that it because you take GREATER, not lesser, pains at investigation, that is because you are check the facts MORE, not less, that is because you feel there is MORE, not less, that needs to be understood, that is because you tax people's intelligence MORE, not less. It is soooo easy to feel one stands on the higher moral ground simply because your opponents are jerks, it is soooo f**ing easy to classify things into 'slow' vs. 'cool', it so darned easy to flash just ANY number on the grounds that your opponents are such phoneys that they don't show statistics. In short, it is all too easy to ridicule the medieval cleric who thinks the plague is caused by the Virgin Mary's displeasure by stating that it is caused by Halley's comet instead. All Beppe has to do is to enlist the help of some humourless economist not attracted by the public scene to check the facts in the background. I'm afraid I don't qualify for the job: I am NOT humourless:)
You may want to check the following site:
and follow some links.

Posted by: Francesca Laclaire | December 13, 2005 10:25 AM

Hi everyone!!
Sorry Francesca but I agree with Simone!!
He said 20 years but it is much more that politicians steal money from the taxpayer. The problem has always existed, even in the second half of the 19th century when Italy had just been unified. In Italy there is a big magna-magna (eat - eat) in the politic sphere. Demagogy is one of the world babies first learn in their life. We are feed up and journalists don't help at all!! I'm really sorry you cannot read (because of the language) the analysis of Mr Calafati about the articles on the Italian press. If it can help I briefly tell you what journalist have written.
TAV in Susa valley=high-speed=modernity
What does it mean? The problem is not about modernity, it is about listening!! The Italian Gov sent the black bloc and the news were saying protesters were groups of anarchists!! And when you have some one as Beppe saying things as actually are than of course we appreciate it.
There is not truth but it doesn't mean that now everyone must start to lie!

Posted by: Diego Canciani | December 13, 2005 02:14 AM

Hello, Mr. Grillo i missed you SOOOOOO much.
It is true ITALY is a FAKE democracy.
By the way i am not in my hometown(Palermo) for too many obvious reasons( Dell'Utri,Schifani and many other MUPPETS, nope not the beautifull show made by stuffed talking animals , i mean MUPPETS as in MORONS, pls excuse my french!!!).
Anyhow as far as the new scam is concerned can you give me a reason for GREENPEACE not taking up action on the matter posting the issue in the INTERNATIONAL website?
I am a subscrier and i was very annoyed at not finding anything
By the way MR. GRILLO
Keep up the great work and thanks for all the amazing work u've done thru the years to open up ITALIANS TICK MINDS
Maria (Consuelo) Spera [pls note 2 name into brackets as THE ITALIAN GOVERNMENT 22 yrs ago decided to CHOP my name without noticing me making a double identy woman out of me.Ive bn told i could resume my name but i want the OFFICER that put commas onto m three first names to f**k pay for the expenses]
63 The Headlands
Putlnd Road

Posted by: Maria (Consuelo) Spera | December 12, 2005 08:37 PM

About Francesca Laclaire Post,

(soory for my written english). You are correct when you mention some aspect about how Beppe Grillo give importance to expert and sometimes not. The question is why no one says the opposite using real studies, why the italian government does not give a proper pictures of the reason. The problem is that in Italy we are really used to corruption so government must convice us twice time instead of one. About TAV the government didn't convice even the first time. And don't forget Grillo is a comidian and he doesn't like to do the job that should be made by journalists, but in Italy newspapers doen't do them job.
It's true that the decreasing of train traffic in the last year doen's is the 100% proof that we don't need the TAV, but Why no one mentioned it, if not a comedian ... Grillo.
That is the point, I think no one can teach how to do a 20billion euro project, but after 20 years of corruption we must dubt!

Posted by: Simone Grassi | December 12, 2005 04:06 PM

Dear Beppe,
I am what my profession calls a "development economist", currently assigned to work with the Government of the Republic of South Africa and two NGOs. I can't claim any special competency on the specific European TEN initiatives, but I do know a thing or two on large infrastructure projects. Let me tell you just ONE thing: those are HARD. VERY hard. There is a wealth of information available on the European Union web sites, just to name an example, that can give you a hint as how competent people arrive at all sorts of estimates on potential traffic, on why start of construction of a single tunnel is justified many years before the end links are connected, and so on and so forth. Very VERY hard. Now, democracy of course requires that 'technocrats' statements be challenged: you have a right and a duty NOT to take anything they state at face value. And I am even willing to concede, for the sake of argument, that a project such as TAV should be decided on grounds other than technical, but the very moment that YOU yourself step squarely into technicalities and start disccusing the project on technical gounds, listing numbers and statistics, why on Earth should we trust YOU instead of the 'experts'? And what is so laughable about the pro-TAV journalists who speak off the top of their hats that is not laughable about their no-TAV collegues or even comedians who speak off the bottom of their pants? If technocrats should NOT control people's lives, why should comedians, or psychics? How do YOU know that decreasing traffic on the current infrastructure is a correct indication of future traffic on the future infrastructure? I'm not saying it is, in fact I'm not even discussing the project - as I said I don't know enough about it - I'm trying to understand how YOU arrive at the comfort of believing that you know all there is to know about it, how you can discredit 'experts' in general but quote experts when they happen to support your side. Because if it only takes one post and twenty minutes to lay low the pro-TAV experts, then these experts, hundreds of them from all European countries, must be REALLY dumb and/or corrupted, eh? Don't you EVER feel you may be presuming too much of your gut feeling? Or that some of those experts may have a point? Is it really all flashing and dancing?
May I suggest you read Prof. Frankfurter's essay "on bullshit"? I believe there should be an italian translation available. It only takes about an hour to read.

Posted by: Francesca Laclaire | December 12, 2005 03:19 PM

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