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KULTURAUSTAUSCH. Journal for international perspectives

MEDIA MARKET EUROPE

In the Stranglehold of the Tycoon

It could be a false warning or a glimpse of Europeís future. Is the media populism of Silvio Berlusconi in Italy merely the prelude to a show that might soon be seen on various stages across Europe? Reflections on the fusion of media, business and political power in the era of Berlusconi.

By Umberto Eco


Every epoch has its myths. The one in which I was born had the myth of the Man of State; the one in which todayís children are born has the myth of the Man of Television. If we add up the circulation figures of the Italian press, we get a fairly paltry number compared with the number of people who watch television. The problem is controlling television, and the press can say what it wants. This is a fact, and the facts are facts precisely because they are independent of our wishes. So in our day, if there is to be a dictatorship, it has to be a media dictatorship and not a political one. For almost fifty years people have been writing that in the modern world, except for some remote Third World countries, you no longer need tanks to bring down a government, just take over the radio and TV stations. The last person to notice this was George W. Bush, a Third World leader who mistakenly ended up governing a highly developed country. Now the theorem has been demonstrated. Itís wrong to say that you canít talk about Berlusconiís regime because regime calls up the Fascist regime. A regime is simply a form of government. Fascism abolished the freedom of the press, but Berlusconiís "media regime" is not so coarse and antiquated. He knows that consensus is managed through control of the most pervasive information media. As for the least pervasive, it costs nothing to allow a few newspapers to dissent (those you canít yet buy Ė ownership, I mean, not a copy). Whatís the point of detaining an opposition journalist like Enzo Biagi and thereby risk making him a hero? Just keep him off television, and he will be forgotten.

TodayĎs media regime

The difference between the Fascist regime and todayís media regime is that, in the former, people know that the press and radio issued only government-approved news, and that you couldnít listen to Radio London on pain of a prison sentence. It was precisely for this reason that, under Fascism, people mistrusted the press and radio, listened to Radio London with the volume low, and put their trust only in news that reached them by word of mouth. In a media regime where, say, ten percent of the population read the opposition press while the rest get their news through controlled TV channels, people believe that dissent is accepted. But the reality created by TV news programs (if I hear that a plane has crashed and see the sandals of the dead floating on the water, it doesnít matter if the images shown are stock footage from a previous disaster) ensures that we know and believe only what the television says. Television under government control doesnít need to censor the news. The minions of power do make attempts at censorship. But these are only the most visible (and, were they not so serious, laughable) cases. The problem is that you can establish a media regime in a positive way, giving the impression that you are saying all there is to say. All you need to know is how to say it.

The artistic use of concession

If no television channel said what a leading opposition figure like Piero Fassino thinks about a certain law, viewers would begin to suspect that the television is concealing something, because they know that thereís an opposition out there somewhere. So television in a media regime employs a rhetorical device known as "concession." Letís give an example. With regard to the question of buying a dog, there are fifty pros and fifty cons. The pros are that the dog is manís best friend, that it will bark if burglars try to break in, that the children will love it, and so on. The cons are that you have to walk it every day so that it can see to its bodily needs, that it costs money in food and vet fees, and that itís hard to take it with you when youíre travelling Ö If you wish to speak in favour of buying a dog, the device of concession is: "Itís true that a dog is expensive to keep and you canít take it with you when travelling" Ė and the antidog people will appreciate your honesty Ė "but you should remember that a dog makes excellent company, is adored by the children, guards against burglars, and so on." This argument is in favour of dogs. Those against would concede that itís true a dog makes excellent company, is adored by the children, and guards against burglars, but Ė the counterargument follows Ė a dog is an expense and a problem when travelling. And this argument is against dogs. Television works this way. If there is a debate about a law, the issue is presented and the opposition is immediately given the chance to put forward all its arguments. This is followed by government supporters, who counter the objections. The result is predictable: he who speaks last is right. If you carefully follow all the TV news pro grams, you will see this strategy: the project is presented, the opposition speaks first, the government supporters speak last. Never the other way around. A media regime has no need to imprison its opponents. It doesnít silence them by censorship, it merely has them give their arguments first. What effective form of protest is left for that half of the Italian population that doesnít feel represented by the televisual system? Refuse to watch the TV or listen to radio? Too great a sacrifice. Also, (1) I have a right to watch a good film in the evening, and I donít worry about the views of the owner of the movie house when I go to the movies; (2) itís useful to know the opinions of the ruling party and see how it presents the news Ė even if there were a programme on the wartime resistance conducted solely by die-hard exponents of the right and crypto- Fascists, I should know what these persons think and say; (3) finally, even if that half of the Italians who make up the opposition stopped watching TV, the government and its electorate would not change their minds.

TV consumers protest

What can be done by those Italians who do not accept the monopoly of television? Use their economic power. Let all those against the monopoly punish Mediaset by refusing to buy any of the products advertised on that network. Would this be difficult? No, simply keep a sheet of paper by the remote control and note down the products advertised. Do they recommend Aldebaran fish fillets? Good, so at the supermarket you buy only Andromeda fish fillets. Do they advertise a brand medicine with acetylsalicylic acid? When you go to the pharmacy, buy only a generic product that contains the same aspirin and costs less. Since there are many products available, it involves no sacrifice, merely a little care, to purchase Marvel soap powder and pasta Radegonda (not advertised on Mediaset) instead of Wonder soap powder and pasta Cunegonda. If this course of action were followed by only a few million Italians, within the space of a few months the manufacturers would notice a drop in sales and would act accordingly. You get nothing for nothing, a little effort is necessary, and if youíre unhappy with the monopoly on information, then express your unhappiness in an active way.

The "Poor Woman" affair

On welcoming the premier of a foreign government, Berlusconi made a few statements concerning a presumed (i.e., rumoured) relationship between his wife and another gentleman, describing his wife as a "poor woman." The episode, as reported in the papers the following day, was susceptible of two interpretations. The first being that, as our prime minister was exasperated, he had given vent in public to a most private matter. The second was that the Great Communicator, on realising that an embarrassing rumour was making the rounds, decided to cut the Gordian knot and turn the whole thing into a public laughing matter, thus depriving it of any hint of shame. In the first case, "poor woman" would have been offensive with regard to his wife; in the second case, it would have been offensive with regard to the presumed third party (the lady being a poor soul, that is, if the rumour was true Ė but obviously it isnít true, since Iím making a joke about it). If the first interpretation, which I tend to discount, is correct, the case is more a matter for a psychiatrist than a political scientist. Letís accept the second one, which is food for thought not only in seminars on communication science but also in history seminars. The Great Communicator seems unaware of the principle that a denial is tantamount to giving the same news twice. For example, I heard nothing about this rumour Ė it was probably circulating among a few politicians and intellectuals, plus a few guests on board luxury yachts on the Costa Smeralda, so at most one or two thousand people. After the prime ministerís remarks in public, and considering the existence of the European Union, the matter was communicated to hundreds of millions of people. As far as moves made by great communicators go, it doesnít strike me as brilliant. Usually, politicians do their best to keep their domestic problems separate from matters of state. Clinton got caught with his underpants in his hands, but he glossed over the matter and even got his wife to rally around and say so on television that it was an insignificant affair. Mussolini was what he was, but he worked out his problems with his wife within the four walls of his home, he didnít discuss them before the crowds in Piazza Venezia. When he sent off a whole lot of men to die in Russia, it was in pursuit of his own dreams of glory, not to please his mistress Clara Petacci. Where in history do we find such a fusion of political power and personal affairs? In the Roman Empire, where the emperor was the absolute master of the state. No longer controlled by the senate, he needed only the support of his praetorians, and so he could kick his mother, make his horse a senator, and force all those courtiers who didnít appreciate his poetry to slit their wrists Ö This happens when you have not a conflict of interests but an absolute identity between your private interests and those of the state. Such an identity foreshadows a regime in the imagination of one who dreams of the late Roman Empire.

Talk shows instead of parliament

On the day when Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi appeared on a major TV talk show to announce the forthcoming withdrawal of the Italian contingent in Iraq, and over the days that followed, I was in Paris for the opening of a book fair. And so I had the chance to talk about Italian affairs with the French, who are specialists in never understanding what is going on in Italy Ė often not without reason. First question: Why did your prime minister announce such a serious decision on a TV show and not in Parliament, where he would have had to ask for opinions or a consensus? I explained that Berlusconi is establishing a regime by mass media populism. The media is used to forge a direct link between the Leader and the people, thus eroding the authority of Parliament. The Leader doesnít need to seek a consensus, because consensus is guaranteed, therefore Parliament becomes a rubber stamp for the agreements made between Berlusconi and talk show host Bruno Vespa. The questions came thick and fast over the following days, when after severe reprimands from Bush and Blair, Berlusconi stated that he had never said he would withdraw the troops from Iraq. How can he contradict himself like that? people asked me. I replied that this is the good thing about media populism. If you say something in Parliament, itís on the record and you canít say later that you didnít say it. By saying it on TV instead, Berlusconi achieved his goal, which was to gain popularity with the voters. Afterward, when he said he hadnít said it, he reassured Bush Ė yet without losing the popularity he had gained. Why? Because one of the virtues of the mass media is that the people who follow it (and donít read the papers) forget by the next day what was said the day before, or at most they retain the impression that Berlusconi did something agreeable. But, my questioners observed, donít the Italians realise that Berlusconi (and Italy with him) will lose credibility not only with Chirac and SchrŲder but also with Bush and Blair? No, I replied, the Italians who read the papers may realise this, but they are few compared with those who get their news only from television, and Italian television only gives the news that Berlusconi likes. And this is regime by mass media populism.

Steps back

In the form of a fake review of a book attributed to a certain Crabe Backwards, I observed that recent times had witnessed technological developments that represented authentic steps back. I noted that "heavy communication" had entered a crisis toward the end of the seventies. Until then, the main means of communication was the colour television, an enormous, cumbersome box that in the darkness emitted sinister flashes of light and enough sound to disturb the entire neighbourhood. The first step toward "light communication" came with the invention of the remote control, thanks to which the viewer could not only turn down but even switch off the volume. The same device also made it possible to eliminate colour and "surf" from one channel to another. Skipping through dozens of debates, sitting in front of a black-and-white screen with the volume off, the viewer entered a state of creative liberty known in Italy as the "Blob phase." Furthermore, old television, which broadcast events live, made us dependent on their linearity. Emancipation from live television came with the VCR, which not only marked the evolution of Television into Cinema but also enabled the viewer to rewind cassettes, thus completely freeing him from his passive and repressed role in the event being related. At this point it would have been possible to eliminate the sound altogether and coordinate the random sequence of images with a pianola soundtrack synthesised by computer; and Ė given that TV channels, under the pretext of helping the hearing-impaired, had taken to inserting written captions commenting on the action Ė it would not have been long before we had programmes in which a couple kissed in silence while viewers saw a word bubble with "I love you" inside it. And so light technology would have invented the silent films of the Lumiere Brothers. The next step was the elimination of movement from the images. With the Internet the user could save neural effort by receiving only low-definition stills, often in black and white, and no sound was needed, since the information appeared on the screen in alphabetical characters. A further stage in this triumphal return to the Gutenberg Galaxy would have been the radical elimination of the image. We would have invented a box that emitted only sound and didnít even require a remote: you could surf simply by turning a knob. I was under the illusion that I had invented the radio, but I was only predicting the advent of the iPod. That transmission over the airwaves, with all its attendant physical disturbances, was superseded by pay-per-view TV and the Internet, which marked the beginning of the new era of transmission via telephone cable, so we moved from wireless telegraphy to wired telephony.

The Fool of global television

The village idiot of times gone by was one who, shortchanged by Mother Nature both physically and intellectually, would frequent the local inn, where cruel fellow townsmen would buy him drinks so that he would get drunk and say unseemly or lewd things. The latter-day Fool of the global televisual village is not an average person, like the husband who appears on the screen to accuse his wife of infidelity. He is below average. He is invited to talk shows and quiz shows precisely because he is a Fool. He is not necessarily backward. He may be a bizarre soul, like a discoverer of the Lost Ark or the inventor of a new perpetual motion system who for years has been vainly knocking on the doors of newspapers and patent offices, until at last he finds someone who takes him seriously.





The artistic use of concession

If no television channel said what a leading opposition figure like Piero Fassino thinks about a certain law, viewers would begin to suspect that the television is concealing something, because they know that thereís an opposition out there somewhere. So television in a media regime employs a rhetorical device known as "concession." Letís give an example. With regard to the question of buying a dog, there are fifty pros and fifty cons. The pros are that the dog is manís best friend, that it will bark if burglars try to break in, that the children will love it, and so on. The cons are that you have to walk it every day so that it can see to its bodily needs, that it costs money in food and vet fees, and that itís hard to take it with you when youíre travelling Ö If you wish to speak in favour of buying a dog, the device of concession is: "Itís true that a dog is expensive to keep and you canít take it with you when travelling" Ė and the antidog people will appreciate your honesty Ė "but you should remember that a dog makes excellent company, is adored by the children, guards against burglars, and so on." This argument is in favour of dogs. Those against would concede that itís true a dog makes excellent company, is adored by the children, and guards against burglars, but Ė the counterargument follows Ė a dog is an expense and a problem when travelling. And this argument is against dogs. Television works this way. If there is a debate about a law, the issue is presented and the opposition is immediately given the chance to put forward all its arguments. This is followed by government supporters, who counter the objections. The result is predictable: he who speaks last is right. If you carefully follow all the TV news pro grams, you will see this strategy: the project is presented, the opposition speaks first, the government supporters speak last. Never the other way around. A media regime has no need to imprison its opponents. It doesnít silence them by censorship, it merely has them give their arguments first. What effective form of protest is left for that half of the Italian population that doesnít feel represented by the televisual system? Refuse to watch the TV or listen to radio? Too great a sacrifice. Also, (1) I have a right to watch a good film in the evening, and I donít worry about the views of the owner of the movie house when I go to the movies; (2) itís useful to know the opinions of the ruling party and see how it presents the news Ė even if there were a programme on the wartime resistance conducted solely by die-hard exponents of the right and crypto- Fascists, I should know what these persons think and say; (3) finally, even if that half of the Italians who make up the opposition stopped watching TV, the government and its electorate would not change their minds.

TV consumers protest

What can be done by those Italians who do not accept the monopoly of television? Use their economic power. Let all those against the monopoly punish Mediaset by refusing to buy any of the products advertised on that network. Would this be difficult? No, simply keep a sheet of paper by the remote control and note down the products advertised. Do they recommend Aldebaran fish fillets? Good, so at the supermarket you buy only Andromeda fish fillets. Do they advertise a brand medicine with acetylsalicylic acid? When you go to the pharmacy, buy only a generic product that contains the same aspirin and costs less. Since there are many products available, it involves no sacrifice, merely a little care, to purchase Marvel soap powder and pasta Radegonda (not advertised on Mediaset) instead of Wonder soap powder and pasta Cunegonda. If this course of action were followed by only a few million Italians, within the space of a few months the manufacturers would notice a drop in sales and would act accordingly. You get nothing for nothing, a little effort is necessary, and if youíre unhappy with the monopoly on information, then express your unhappiness in an active way.

The "Poor Woman" affair

On welcoming the premier of a foreign government, Berlusconi made a few statements concerning a presumed (i.e., rumoured) relationship between his wife and another gentleman, describing his wife as a "poor woman." The episode, as reported in the papers the following day, was susceptible of two interpretations. The first being that, as our prime minister was exasperated, he had given vent in public to a most private matter. The second was that the Great Communicator, on realising that an embarrassing rumour was making the rounds, decided to cut the Gordian knot and turn the whole thing into a public laughing matter, thus depriving it of any hint of shame. In the first case, "poor woman" would have been offensive with regard to his wife; in the second case, it would have been offensive with regard to the presumed third party (the lady being a poor soul, that is, if the rumour was true Ė but obviously it isnít true, since Iím making a joke about it). If the first interpretation, which I tend to discount, is correct, the case is more a matter for a psychiatrist than a political scientist. Letís accept the second one, which is food for thought not only in seminars on communication science but also in history seminars. The Great Communicator seems unaware of the principle that a denial is tantamount to giving the same news twice. For example, I heard nothing about this rumour Ė it was probably circulating among a few politicians and intellectuals, plus a few guests on board luxury yachts on the Costa Smeralda, so at most one or two thousand people. After the prime ministerís remarks in public, and considering the existence of the European Union, the matter was communicated to hundreds of millions of people. As far as moves made by great communicators go, it doesnít strike me as brilliant. Usually, politicians do their best to keep their domestic problems separate from matters of state. Clinton got caught with his underpants in his hands, but he glossed over the matter and even got his wife to rally around and say so on television that it was an insignificant affair. Mussolini was what he was, but he worked out his problems with his wife within the four walls of his home, he didnít discuss them before the crowds in Piazza Venezia. When he sent off a whole lot of men to die in Russia, it was in pursuit of his own dreams of glory, not to please his mistress Clara Petacci. Where in history do we find such a fusion of political power and personal affairs? In the Roman Empire, where the emperor was the absolute master of the state. No longer controlled by the senate, he needed only the support of his praetorians, and so he could kick his mother, make his horse a senator, and force all those courtiers who didnít appreciate his poetry to slit their wrists Ö This happens when you have not a conflict of interests but an absolute identity between your private interests and those of the state. Such an identity foreshadows a regime in the imagination of one who dreams of the late Roman Empire.

Talk shows instead of parliament

On the day when Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi appeared on a major TV talk show to announce the forthcoming withdrawal of the Italian contingent in Iraq, and over the days that followed, I was in Paris for the opening of a book fair. And so I had the chance to talk about Italian affairs with the French, who are specialists in never understanding what is going on in Italy Ė often not without reason. First question: Why did your prime minister announce such a serious decision on a TV show and not in Parliament, where he would have had to ask for opinions or a consensus? I explained that Berlusconi is establishing a regime by mass media populism. The media is used to forge a direct link between the Leader and the people, thus eroding the authority of Parliament. The Leader doesnít need to seek a consensus, because consensus is guaranteed, therefore Parliament becomes a rubber stamp for the agreements made between Berlusconi and talk show host Bruno Vespa. The questions came thick and fast over the following days, when after severe reprimands from Bush and Blair, Berlusconi stated that he had never said he would withdraw the troops from Iraq. How can he contradict himself like that? people asked me. I replied that this is the good thing about media populism. If you say something in Parliament, itís on the record and you canít say later that you didnít say it. By saying it on TV instead, Berlusconi achieved his goal, which was to gain popularity with the voters. Afterward, when he said he hadnít said it, he reassured Bush Ė yet without losing the popularity he had gained. Why? Because one of the virtues of the mass media is that the people who follow it (and donít read the papers) forget by the next day what was said the day before, or at most they retain the impression that Berlusconi did something agreeable. But, my questioners observed, donít the Italians realise that Berlusconi (and Italy with him) will lose credibility not only with Chirac and SchrŲder but also with Bush and Blair? No, I replied, the Italians who read the papers may realise this, but they are few compared with those who get their news only from television, and Italian television only gives the news that Berlusconi likes. And this is regime by mass media populism.

Steps back

In the form of a fake review of a book attributed to a certain Crabe Backwards, I observed that recent times had witnessed technological developments that represented authentic steps back. I noted that "heavy communication" had entered a crisis toward the end of the seventies. Until then, the main means of communication was the colour television, an enormous, cumbersome box that in the darkness emitted sinister flashes of light and enough sound to disturb the entire neighbourhood. The first step toward "light communication" came with the invention of the remote control, thanks to which the viewer could not only turn down but even switch off the volume. The same device also made it possible to eliminate colour and "surf" from one channel to another. Skipping through dozens of debates, sitting in front of a black-and-white screen with the volume off, the viewer entered a state of creative liberty known in Italy as the "Blob phase." Furthermore, old television, which broadcast events live, made us dependent on their linearity. Emancipation from live television came with the VCR, which not only marked the evolution of Television into Cinema but also enabled the viewer to rewind cassettes, thus completely freeing him from his passive and repressed role in the event being related. At this point it would have been possible to eliminate the sound altogether and coordinate the random sequence of images with a pianola soundtrack synthesised by computer; and Ė given that TV channels, under the pretext of helping the hearing-impaired, had taken to inserting written captions commenting on the action Ė it would not have been long before we had programmes in which a couple kissed in silence while viewers saw a word bubble with "I love you" inside it. And so light technology would have invented the silent films of the Lumiere Brothers. The next step was the elimination of movement from the images. With the Internet the user could save neural effort by receiving only low-definition stills, often in black and white, and no sound was needed, since the information appeared on the screen in alphabetical characters. A further stage in this triumphal return to the Gutenberg Galaxy would have been the radical elimination of the image. We would have invented a box that emitted only sound and didnít even require a remote: you could surf simply by turning a knob. I was under the illusion that I had invented the radio, but I was only predicting the advent of the iPod. That transmission over the airwaves, with all its attendant physical disturbances, was superseded by pay-per-view TV and the Internet, which marked the beginning of the new era of transmission via telephone cable, so we moved from wireless telegraphy to wired telephony.

The Fool of global television

The village idiot of times gone by was one who, shortchanged by Mother Nature both physically and intellectually, would frequent the local inn, where cruel fellow townsmen would buy him drinks so that he would get drunk and say unseemly or lewd things. The latter-day Fool of the global televisual village is not an average person, like the husband who appears on the screen to accuse his wife of infidelity. He is below average. He is invited to talk shows and quiz shows precisely because he is a Fool. He is not necessarily backward. He may be a bizarre soul, like a discoverer of the Lost Ark or the inventor of a new perpetual motion system who for years has been vainly knocking on the doors of newspapers and patent offices, until at last he finds someone who takes him seriously.




He may also be a weekend writer who has been turned down by all the publishers and has realised that, instead of doggedly trying to write a masterpiece, he can become a success by pulling his pants down on television and using swearwords in the course of a cultural debate. Or the televisual Fool may be a provincial bluestocking who finds an audience at last as she pronounces difficult words and talks about her extrasensory experiences. Once, when the company in the inn egged on the village idiot until he behaved in an intolerable manner, the mayor, the chemist or a family friend would step in, take the poor soul by the arm, and lead him home. But no one protects and takes home the Fool of the global televisual village, whose function has become similar to that of a gladiator sentenced to death for the pleasure of the crowd. Society, which tries to keep depressives from committing suicide or drug addicts from the craving that will lead to their death, does not protect the televisual Fool; it encourages him, as it used to encourage dwarfs and bearded ladies to exhibit themselves in fairground freak shows. This is clearly a crime, but it is not the protection of the Fool that concerns me (though the authorities should not permit this abuse): the problem is that, glorified by his appearance onscreen, the Fool becomes a universal model. If he has managed that, anyone can. The Foolís performance persuades the public that nothing, not even the most embarrassing misfortune, has the right to remain private, and that the display of deformity brings rewards. The dynamics of the ratings ensures that, as soon as the Fool appears on TV, he becomes a famous Fool,  and this fame is measured in advertising contracts, invitations to conferences and parties, and sometimes the offer of sexual favours (Victor Hugo does teach us that a beautiful woman can fall for the Man Who Laughs). In short, the very concept of deformity is deformed, and everything becomes beautiful, even ugliness, as long as it is elevated to the glory of the TV screen. Do you remember the Bible? Dixit insipiens in corde suo: Deus non est. The televisual Fool proudly states: Ego sum. A similar phenomenon is now under way on the Internet. Exploring home pages shows us that many sites are set up merely to exhibit the site ownerís squalid normality, if not abnormality.

A journey to secret recesses

Some time ago I found the home page of a man who made available, and maybe still does, a photograph of his colon. As we know, for many years now it has been possible to go to a clinic to have your rectum examined by a probe whose tip is equipped with a tiny TV camera. The patient himself can observe on a colour television screen the travels of the probe (and the camera) through his most secret recesses. Usually, a few days after the examination, the doctor gives the patient a highly confidential report complete with a colour photograph of his colon. The problem is that the colons of all human beings (not counting those with terminal tumours) resemble one another. Therefore, while you might be interested in a colour photograph of your colon, a photograph of another personís leaves you indifferent. The man I am referring to went to the trouble of setting up a home page to show everyone his. Evidently we are dealing with a person to whom life has given nothing, not heirs to carry on his name, not partners drawn to his looks, not friends to whom he might show slides from his vacations, so he relies on this last desperate exhibition to gain a little visibility. In this, as in other cases of voluntary renunciation of privacy, lies an abyss of desperation that ought to persuade us to take pity and look away. But the exhibitionist (and this is his tragedy) does not allow us to ignore his shame.

Translated from the Italian by Alastair McEwen




Europe in the Media Ė Media in Europe / Institut fŁr Auslandsbeziehungen, Robert Bosch Stiftung (eds.). Ė Stuttgart: ifa, 2008. Ė 176 pp. Ė (Culture Report Progress Europe; 2)

 


Umberto Eco, born in 1932, is Professor of Semiotics at the University of Bologna. His extensive body of work includes the novel "The Name of the Rose," with which he became world famous. This article is taken from his book "Turning Back the Clock. Hot Wars and Media Populism," which was recently published by Harvill Secker. It is an indispensable read, not only in relation to political developments in Italy.

 

 
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