Watching TV in Piazza SS Apostoli
Last night at this hour I was standing in Piazza Santissimi Apostoli, the headquarters of the center left alliance, listening to Romano Prodi's victory speech. By the time I got home, I was too tired to post much. Mainly I slept. When I woke up, I learned that the Italians abroad had given Prodi et al the majority in the Senate as well as the Camera (lower house).
I have never gone to a political victory rally before (probably wise since the last time I supported the victors was almost 10 years ago and Clinton's re-election was foregone and the Republicans kept the House so it wasn't much of a victory).
This one was interesting. The rally was in a fairly small square in Rome. The original plan was to then walk to a bigger rally in a bigger square. Since the voters and the vote counters conspired to keep the result uncertain until 2:30 AM, this did not work out. There was a truck used as a stage (as seen say in the photo in US newspapers of Prodi waving 2 flags). There was also a tent where Prodi and colleagues had some privacy. At some time about 1 AM Prodi appeared alone on stage to apologise for not respecting the schedule for giving his victory speech and to complain about the slowness of vote counting.
The crowd was tense. Also most people were young (a larger and larger proportion as it got later and later). The many components of the center left alliance all brought their own banners so the crowd represented the DS (symbol oak tree ex communist), the olive tree alliance of the oak tree and the daisy alliance (symbol a close up of an olive tree so as not to be confused with the oak tree) rifondazione communista (still communist), greens (symbol a smiling sun the rival rainbow greens no longer exist but there was a rainbow flag with the word pace on it which at the moment mainly communicates opposition to the invasion of Iraq), Italian flags, a huge red flag, two European flags (support for Prodi ex president of the European commission and general europhillia).
Aside from that we just watched TV on the megascreen above the stage. Since TV is a key issue in Berluscaland this was highly educational.
The crowd got tenser when Italian public TV (Berlusconi controlled) put up projections by NEXUS a firm which mainly consists of former Berlusconi pollsters. They predicted victory for Berlusconi. I assured various allarmed center lefties that they always predict victory for Berlusconi, and have never been right before. They weren't convinced. Also I don't think I was the only person who began to be a little paranoid given the delay in counting the votes, the fact that Italy is using a new electronic vote counting system (not Deibold I think) and the fact that the center left had clearly won the exit polls but was now projected to lose the actual election.
The center left guy with the TV remote switched to Italian Sky TV to get a less biased report !!! To me this is shows just how desperately Italy needed to vote out Berlusconi. The center left opposition tuned to Murdoch TV to get a less biased view of what was happening. Believe it. I was there.
There they had two competing projections NEXUS predicting that Berlusconi would win by half a percent and one (represented in the studio by the head of the agency a guy named Piepoli who had a very loud tie) predicting Prodi by 0.5%.
There were numerous reporters trying to find ordinary activists to interview, since politicians, aids and flaks were not commenting. It got so bad that a radio populare reporter interviewed me. She asked what I thought of the delay counting the votes. I said "what ?" She asked again. I said "I don't know about the delay counting the votes, but I don't trust NEXUS since they projected that Berlusconi was winning the regional elections (in which he was crushed) so I am hopeful (I think I might have also suggested that I was female because I have trouble with getting the gender of words right). Then the instant she had turned off the microphone, I thought of what I should have said and said "delay hah you are spoiled in 2000 WE had to wait 2 months" given my accent there was not need to explain who "we" are.
One irritating thing about one of the Italian talking head shows is that it featured Alan Friedman, who is considered an expert on everything, because he speaks Italian with a strong American accent. I complained about this injustice to the fairly patient radio journalist.
Another irritating thing is that the TV commenters were not willing to talk about the actual election. They are there to fill in time between the dribs and drabs of official results and no one who didn't have to wanted to predict the outcome. Thus they talked about whether the center left parties would merge to form the proposed "partito democratico" or "Democratic Party". Actually the maximum plausible merger would be of the two largest parties the ex communists and the ex all sorts of fragments semi fused daisy alliance of radical IMF former Christian Democrats. This gave the impression that the Italina political elite see mere elections as interruptions of the serious business of political deal making. As far as I recall, no one mentioned public policy on TV on election night.
The TV offerings also included La 7 which is a very minor network. It is a very minor network, because although they were granted the licence to broadcast on certain freequencies, Channel 4 (the most appalling servile of Berlusconi's channels) just kept broadcasting in the face of court orders until the Berlusconi controlled parliament reassigned the frequencies.
The most amusing was when they put TG5 (Berlusconi owned) up on the big screen, then TG5 showed the Piazza (so one saw a talking head on the big screen, then a little image of the talking head on the image of the big screen over his shoulder, then maybe a tiny tiny image of an image of the big screen over the image of the image of the shoulder). The announcer proudly announced that they were on the big screen. The conductor in the studio (Mentana formerly anchorman of TG5 but I thought purged for insufficient servility) smiled and said he noticed because he heard the whistles (Euro boos). This caused a huge explosion of whistling and booing. He praised dissinterested activists as the soul of democracy. Later he commented that someone was being "irrradiated" to us and was not being whistled (more boos). Finally he got irritated and said we were just whistling ourselves. This was very fun. I have never had the experience of the TV responding to me.
In the studio Mentana had the loathsome minister Scajola, who once explained why he had not provided police protection to the most recent victim of the new red brigades by saying he was just a pest who wanted his consulting contract renewed (he used the figure of speach "rompescatolle" or "breaker of boxes" for pest -- the boxes in question are a barely euphemistic euphemism for testicles -- the obsession of the Italian right). He also had the formerly neo fascist semi reformed street thug in a suit minister Alemanno and the transvestite (transexual ?) candidate for the left Vladimir Luxuria who has been mentioned more often then say education in right wing rallies. This showed total monstrous bias, since Luxoria is ten times as intelligent as the two idiot ministers one on top of the other (perish the thought).
AT 2:30 am On another channel they finally got down to 54 precints not reporting with a center left lead of 26,000 (0.07%) and the also appalling minister of justice Castelli said "hanno vinto" that is "they have won" the guest representing the still communists was invited by the host to express caution and the guy replied "with special pleasure because the event is so rare, I am delighted to say that I agree completely with Castelli." Oddly the crowd had gotten so enthusiastic about booing and whistling that they drowned out Castelli's concession but I was close to a loudspeaker and heard it.
Ah yes one last thought. during commercial breaks, the center left TVjay put out pop music with a monster thumpa thumpa beat. This made the hours of waiting seem like years. Get some decent music or I'm not coming back for the next victory celebration (the "canzone populare ..." canzone was OK and appropriately themed how about more like that). My personal suggestion is a rousing updated rendition of bandiera rossa "Avanti Piepoli alla Riscossa
bandiera Rossa, Tricolore, verde, Blu, Verde Scuro, Chartreuse,...
bandiera Rossa, Tricolore, verde, Blu, Verde Scuro, Chartreuse"
update: I'm still working on the colors. The red flag was just that, a red flag with no party symbols. The tricolore is the Italian flag, the DS has a mostly green flag, the blue flag is not for forza Italia but for the European Union, Dark green is the olive tree alliance flag. Finally the flag of the greens is chartreuse. I guess it's something that, as NEXUS declared that the left had been defeated, there were no white flags in Piazza SS Apostoli (which is an odd spot to wave the red flag).