Category Archives: beppegrillo

italian videobloggers create open source film

res6949.gifAn article in today’s La Repubblica reports that Italian videobloggers are at work creating an “open source film” about the recent election there. A website called Nessuno.TV is putting together a project called Le mie elezioni (“My Elections”). Visitors to the site were invited to submit their own short films. Director Stefano Mordini plans to weld them together into an hour-long documentary in mid-May.

a confused small childThe raw materials are already on display: they’ve acquired an enormous number of short films which provide an interesting cross section of Italian society. Among many others, Davide Preti interviews a husband and wife about their opposing views on the election. Stiletto Paradossale‘s series “That Thing Called Democracy” interviews people on the street in the small towns of Serrapetrona and Caldarola about what’s important about democracy. In a neat twist, Donne liberta di stampa interview a reporter from the BBC about what she thinks about the elections. And Robin Good asks the children what they think.

Not all the films are interviews. Maurizio Dovigi presents a self-filmed open letter to Berlusconi. ComuniCalo eschews video in “Una notta terribile!”, a slideshow of images from the long night in Rome spent waiting for results. And Luna di Velluto offers a sped-up self-portrait of her reaction to the news on that same nights.

thumbs downIt’s immediately apparent that most of these films are for the left. This isn’t an isolated occurance: the Italian left seems to have understood that the network can be a political force. In January, I noted the popularity of comic Beppe Grillo’s blog. Since then, it’s only become more popular: recent entries have averaged around 3000 comments each (this one, from four days ago, has 4123). Nor is he limiting himself to the blog: there are weekly PDF summaries of issues, MeetUp groups, and a blook/DVD combo. Compare this hyperactivity to the staid websites of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party and the Silvio Berlusconi Fans Club.

The Italian left’s embrace of the Internet has partially been out of necessity: as Berlusconi owns most of the Italian media, views that counter his have been largely absent. There’s the perception that the mainstream media has stagnated, though there’s clearly a thirst for intelligent commentary: an astounding five million viewers tuned in to an appearance by Umberto Eco on TV two months ago. Bruno Pellegrini, who runs Nessuno.TV, suggests that the Internet can offer a corrective alternative:

We want to be a TV ‘made by those who watch it. A participatory TV, in which the spectators actively contribute to the construction of a palimpsest. We are riding the tendencies of the moment, using the technologies available with the lowest costs, and involving those young people who are convinced that an alternative to regular TV can be constructed, and we’re starting that.

They’re off to an impressive start, and I’ll be curious to see how far they get with this. One nagging thought: most of these videos would have copyright issues in the U.S. Many use background music that almost certainly hasn’t been cleared by the owners. Some use video clips and photos that are probably owned by the mainstream press. The dread hand of copyright enforcement isn’t as strong in Italy as it is in the U.S., but it still exists. It would be a shame if rights issues brought down such a worthy community project.

wikipedia as civic duty

beppe-grillo.jpgNumber 14 on Technorati’s listings of the most popular blogs is Beppe Grillo. Who’s Beppe Grillo? He’s an immensely popular Italian political satirist, roughly the Italian Jon Stewart. Grillo has been hellbent on exposing corruption in the political system there, and has emerged as a major force in the ongoing elections there. While he happily and effectively skewers just about everybody involved in the Italian political process, Dario Fo, currently running for mayor of Milan under the refreshing slogan “I am not a moderate” manages to receive Grillo’s endorsement.

Grillo’s use of new media makes sense: he has effectively been banned from Italian television. While he performs around the country, his blog – which is also offered in English just as deadpan and full of bold-faced phrases as the Italian – has become one of his major vehicles. It’s proven astonishingly popular, as his Technorati ranking reveals.

His latest post (in English or Italian) is particularly interesting. (It’s also drawn a great deal of debate: note the 1044 comments – at this writing – on the Italian version.) Grillo’s been pushing the Wikipedia for a while; here, he suggests to his public that they should, in the name of transparency, have a go at revising the Wikipedia entry on Silvio Berlusconi.

un piccolo berlusconiBerlusconi is an apt target. He is, of course, the right-wing prime minister of Italy as well as its richest citizen, and at one point or another, he’s had his fingers in a lot of pies of dubious legality. In the five years that he’s been in power, he’s been systematically rewriting Italian laws standing in his way – laws against, for example, media monopolies. Berlusconi effectively controls most Italian television: it’s a fair guess that he has something to do with Grillo’s ban from Italian television. Indirectly, he’s probably responsible for Grillo turning to new media: Berlusconi doesn’t yet own the internet.

Or the Wikipedia. Grillo brilliantly posits the editing of the Wikipedia as a civic duty. This is consonant with Grillo’s general attitude: he’s also been advocating environmental responsibility, for example. The public editing Berlusconi’s biography seems apt: famously, during the 2001 election, Berlusconi sent out a 200-page biography to every mailbox in Italy which breathlessly chronicled his rise from a singer on cruise ships to the owner of most of Italy. This vanity press biography presented itself as being neutral and objective. Grillo doesn’t buy it: history, he argues, should be written and rewritten by the masses. While Wikipedia claims to strive for a neutral point of view, its real value lies in its capacity to be rewritten by anyone.

How has Grillo’s suggestion played out? Wikipedia has evidently been swamped by “BeppeGrillati” attempting to modify Berlusconi’s biography. The Italian Wikipedia has declared “una edit war” and put a temporary lock on editing the page. From an administrative point of view, this seems understandable; for what it’s worth, there’s a similar, if less stringent, stricture on the English page for Mr. Bush. But this can’t help but feel like a betrayal of Wikipedia’s principals. Editing the Wikipedia should be a civic duty.