iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Aldo Civico

Aldo Civico

Posted: October 18, 2010 09:56 AM

There is no democracy, unless there is dissent and that dissent can be overtly expressed. It obfuscates one's mind to see how heads of states, democratically elected, are trying to curb voices of opposition. Increasingly, there is a clear effort to silence those voices, which from the kernel of a crowd scream aloud "the king is naked!" According to longitude, those in power brand the otherwise minded as terrorists, communists or fascists. In Latin America, the most notorious example is Hugo Chavez's Venezuela and the most gruesome is Uribe's Colombia, where restless journalists were illegally wiretapped and tailed, and the most recent case is Alan Garcia's Peru, where journalist Jaime Bayly was forced to resign from his TV program. In other Latin America countries, such as Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, journalists are often silenced for ever. In Europe, the most sad and embarrassing case is that of Italy, where Silvio Berlusconi, the king of jokes, has censured journalists of the like of Enzo Biagi, the embodiment of independent journalism and a former partisan, and of Michele Santoro, a veteran journalist and the host of the most successful news program, with over 6 million viewers.

What is the sin committed by these unruly journalists? That of being a voice out of the choir, a dissonant voice playing a false note in the dominant discourse recited by the ruling power. The discourse of power presents itself as one that is free of contradictions, of shadows, of crisis. It is luminous, excited, simple, linear, and apparently logic. No room for complexity. Reality is produced as a fairy tale, which in turn is disseminated, empowered and reinforced by media, functioning as servants of power. Phantasmagoria, the world of illusions, becomes an overwhelming wave that envelops large majorities in numbness. And thus we come to profess that things are fine and will get better as long as we make the rich richer, and the poor poorer, by keeping the nose of government out of our business interests and by remaning disillusional - that is by living in a phantasy world of twisted dreams. When large portions of a society protest and resist, as it is happening in the United States, the right for all to have health insurance, then you know that things got from bad to worst! Reality has turned into fiction.

Then someone comes along and subverts that soporific dominant discourse using the media as a mirror not to reflect the dizzy as glittery and illusionary achievements of the powerful, but as a mirror to display the effects of power on ordinary and struggling people. And this someone, exhibiting, in a moment of unveiling, the imperfection of a democracy - that works only for the powerful few - and the increasing masses of the disenfranchised and the unemployed, cries out: THE KING IS NAKED! THE KING IS NAKED! This someone turns the gaze onto a silenced majority whose everyday experience has been porpusely evicted from the public sphere. The sin of these subverters, the reason why the powerful hates and fears them so much, is that they turn against the powerful the very same tool that empowers them; the media. This is what is so blasphemous and so unacceptable and so perverse!

This is the case of Italy today where Mauro Masi, a butler to Berlusconi and the general director of RAI, the public national broadcast, has time and again tried to put a muzzle on journalist Michele Santoro. Most recently, with the pretext of an insult Santoro uttered publicly against Masi, the RAI general director tried to suspend for two weeks the broadcasting of Santoro's program, Anno Zero. Santoro, a fighter, is turning this incident into an opportunity to mobilize Italians in favor of the freedom of press, and the office of the president of the RAI has been flocked with emails of protest.

Thus, in countries such as Italy, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru and many others, democracy and its success, cannot be measured solely by the occurrence of regular and legitimate elections. The possibility and the existence of overt dissent, free of censorship, is today a variable that cannot lack. Even more so before the often passive attitude of opposition parties, something that in itself is troublesome and revelatory of a conformism affecting today's overall political culture.

It was Michel Foucault who spoke of a fearless speech. That is, of the necessity of telling the truth to power in frankness and with courage, in spite of danger ("since the tyrant may become angry, may punish him, may exile him, may kill him"). And it is this duty of a fearless speech that today, in a world saturated and numbed by the politically correct, needs to be rediscovered and practiced.

 
 
 

Follow Aldo Civico on Twitter: www.twitter.com/acivico