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Berlusconi Criticizes Gomorrah , Says it is "Promotional Support" for Mafia

Every morning, just before opening the dozens of Italian news websites I look at each day, I prepare myself mentally to some other embarrassing statement by Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

But what I read last week wasn't embarrassing. It was shocking and repulsive.

During a press conference on the Italian government's efforts to fight the mafia, Berlusconi started criticizing the "promotional support" that certain TV series or literature, such as Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano, give to the mafia.

First of all, let me say that the statement is simply ridiculous. It's equivalent to saying that Nazism is famous because Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel wrote about it.

I don't know if Berlusconi ever read the book Gomorrah, but his statements tell me he hasn't.

Gomorrah is a powerful, courageous and journalistically impeccable piece of non-fiction, which brilliantly exposes facts, events, court rulings and arrests involving members of the Camorra, the organized crime prevalent in the southern Campania region.

I find Berlusconi's statement shocking because he implies that reading about the mafia is counter-productive. Maybe Berlusconi also implies that reading in general is counter-productive. Reading gives people knowledge. The nazis burned books because it was not tolerable to have an alternative truth to the one pronounced by the regime.

In modern-day regimes, in which a few powerful people continue to rape their country's democratic constitution, books aren't being burnt. It isn't necessary. All you need is a TV channel, a lot of money and a number of dumb shows to keep the mind occupied until it becomes total mush and people stop thinking.

Berlusconi has done just that. In the 1980s he introduced Italians to all sorts of TV-trash through his three private channels (one of which has been ruled illegal and unconstitutional) and now is happily joining forces with the racist and xenophobe Lega Nord party to change Italy's constitution and the delicate balance of powers between president, government and parliament.

I also find Berlusconi's criticism of Gomorrah repulsive.

It is repulsive in that Berlusconi doesn't mention that that book has cost its author his freedom because the Camorra clans surrounding Naples have set out to kill him.

Berlusconi willingly omits that Roberto Saviano is under 24/7 police protection and in hiding ever since the book was published. By telling the truth about Campania's organized crime, Saviano has paid a high price and should be considered a hero. Criticizing him, his book or just the idea of writing a book on mafia means the government does not like people like Saviano going around telling the truth.

I find it impossible to justify Berlusconi's point of view. Essentially, what he's saying is that fighting organized crime should be a job left solely to the government and police forces. Literature is not contemplated in his plans to fight mafia.

What Berlusconi doesn't understand, or maybe he's just pretending to not understand, is that the only way to fight mafia efficiently is to let people know about it, about how its mechanisms work, about how complicated and well organized the criminal groups are and how these groups influence the lives of so many people who might not want anything to do with mafia, but find themselves living next door to it.

Arresting hundreds or thousands of members of the Mafia, of the Camorra, of the 'Ndrangheta, of the Sacra Corona Unita, will do no good if it is not sided by a serious and efficient educational campaign. People can always be replaced.

If I were Berlusconi, I would praise Saviano and his efforts to illuminate the situation and would make it a mandatory book to read in all of Italy, because the book involves the entire nation. It is such a tragic and true story that I'm sure only good can come out of it when younger generations grow up with the knowledge of what's happening to their brothers and sisters in and around Naples.

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