Signor Grillo

Christopher Prentice, the UK ambassador in Italy, when asked at a popular television talk show by the anchor whether Berlusconi, Bersani and Monti were the same from Great Britain standpoint, very candidly noted that “Signor Grillo” name too is part of the country top political leaders. Mister Grillo 5 Stars movement won some 25 per cent of votes at the general elections on February 25, 2013 and passed both Berlusconi’s PDL and Bersani’s PD as the most voted single party now sitting in Parliament. But observers and journalists, like the anchor of Ballarò program aired on State television channel 3, still hardly accept that Grillo is now part of the political game and no more just the leader of outside the Parliament protesters. Grillo’s MPs are crucial for forming a new government that will succeed Monti: the alternative is a grand coalition between Berlusconi and Bersani. Their votes are also key to the parliamentary election of the new president of the Republic who will succeed Giorgio Napolitano by May 15th. But who really is Signor Grillo? He is mostly referred to as comedian, or comic, on the international media but the definition is rarely elaborated. Grillo became popular in Italy in 1981 – the times of the Iran hostages crisis and the arrival of Ronald Reagan at the Withe House – with a television program called “Te la do io l’America!” which can be translated into “This is America. Own it!”. The program was aimed at showing the Italian public a rather different country from that they were accustomed to by watching Dallas tv series and unveiled an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the U.S. reality of Grillo himself. He grew popular in the following years with increasingly debunking tv show always aired on State television RAI (the very years Berlusconi was building his tv empire) just to end up with being fired for having called “bunch of thieves” the Italian Socialist Party in 1986. At that time the PM in fact was Bettino Craxi, a mate of Berlusconi and the leader of Socialists, who dominated the political landscape in the Eighties of last century, but was a few years later devastated amid the Tangentopoli (Bribesville) scandal. Craxi become the icon of the corrupted Italy of the so called first republic, and Berlusconi took advantage of the public outrage sparked by Tangentopoli when he entered the political field in 1994 presenting himself as a corruption-proof self made billionaire. On the opposite camp of both Craxi and Berlusconi we always find over the last three decades the same name: Romano Prodi. But this is a different and very intriguing story which deserves a dedicated post. beppe prodi I like just to note here that Prodi is the sole big fish of Italy politics that one can find a picture of while affably shaking hands with Signor Grillo. In fact, Ambassador Prentice was not the first to realize that Grillo has to be inscribed in the politics category rather than in the comedians one. In a report to then Secretary of State Condi Rice the US ambassador in Italy Ronald Spogli in 2008 described Grillo as “reliable” as well as “well informed, competent of technology, unique in repudiating corruption of public life.”

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