Italian elections

Bilingual blog on the vote

Berlusconi media assets give him iconic status-study

April 9, 2008

A study by two Italian psychology professors I unearthed on the Internet throws light on the effect Silvio Berlusconi’s influence over the nation’s media can have on the minds of ordinary Italians.

It appears to suggest that the former prime minister’s image is deeply engrained in the psyche of Italians and this may give him an electoral advantage.

Through his Fininvest holding company, the former prime minister controls Italy’s biggest private broadcaster as well as publishing and film assets. His brother owns the national daily Il Giornale and his wife funds the newspaper Il Foglio.

The psychological study, by University of Padua professor Sara Mondini and University of Trieste professor Carlo Semenza and published in 2004, examines the case of a 66-year-old housewife who had been suffering from a degenerative brain disease for three years.

She could barely recognise the face of her husband and two children and consistently failed to recognise relatives and friends. Shown pictures of 15 famous people, including Hitler, Mussolini and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, the woman recognised only one: Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi in recent photo
She was unable to provide any information about the 14 other famous people but in the case of Berlusconi she could say he was a very rich man, a television owner and a politician.

“It may be important to underline the fact that testing occurred at around the time of the 2001 Italian general election when media coverage of Berlusconi was at its peak,” write Mondini and Semenza.

The woman was still able to recognise him six months later, despite further significant deterioration of her cognitive skills. By then, she was unable to recognize pictures of her own daughter and son, her cousins and neighbours and had serious problems in recognizing them in person.

Mondini and Semenza conclude that repeated exposure to Berlusconi may have turned his face into a non-living, but very well recognisable, icon. This is supported by the fact that during the latter stages of the study, the woman was able to recognise pictures of Jesus Christ on the cross.

“This telling effect of Berlusconi’s pervasive propaganda constitutes an unprecedented case in the neuropsychological literature,” the authors write.


Berlusconi has consistently lied for all his political career. The most blatant evidence being his fanfared “contract with the Italian people” where he promised last time to do wonders or never present himself again. He did not even one third of what he vowed to do and yet here he is again.He represents everything that Italy does not need in this moment and yet his barefaced grin convinces millions. It’s a tragic comedy!

Posted by Colm | Report as abusive

maybe berlusconi is not so pleasant to some people.
this “research” seems so similar to phichiatric soviet hospital recovery of the oppositors in ussr..
the fact he not reach all what have promised in the “contract” is true but is also true that “new” link leader Veltroni have done a carbon copy of his program..
this is very good for Italy, for the first time since 1948 link decide to go on the road to progree and economic grown.
so we have to thanks berlusconi, cause in any case we will have a new government that want realize new infrastructure, less fiscal pressure, less public expense…less burocracy..
this is incredible to hear from an old dirctor of “l’unità” an old leader of young italian communist but is a fact as it is a fact that Walter Veltroni declare ” I never was a communist”
meditate people meditate as an italian comicians said
Leonardo Chellini

Posted by leonardo | Report as abusive

Until yesterday, none of my colleagues in Turin had ever admitted to being pro-Berlusconi, but yesterday they crawled out of the woodwork. I was (naively) shocked to discover that people I get on with believe every word this permatanned cowboy says! And when I voiced my own (albeit agnostic but strongly anti-villainous) opinions, they were shocked too – and asked”but why don’t you like Berlusconi?!” – which was of course met with a tirade from me. One of my motivations was the man’s links to the mafia and his brushes with the courts – to which this person replied: “but he was acquitted” … There’s a tragic state of affairs here in Italy today: people seem to have delegated their critical thought, their “libero arbitrio” to the media, or perhaps it’s just too much hassle to try and think of a way out. Lives here (perhaps this is true everywhere else too) are spent between work (low pay, static job market, no prospects), cars (the top status symbol, many would mortgage their grandmothers for a big flashy SUV) and home to plug in to Silvio’s channels, where they are primed to consume and to subscribe to an ethic that, given a little bit of critical thought, surely ought to be identified as fake and as mercenary as their boss. People can’t converse any more without commenting on TV news or this or that TV related gossip…The shows (game shows, talk shows, scantily clad dancer shows, etc etc) are repeated EVERY day..I can’t help thinking there’s a kind of mass endoctrination going on too..Personally, I have a DVD-only TV at home and people think I’m totally mad because of this . They ask: “what do you do, how do manage without a telly?!” …The mind boggles…

Posted by Gaea | Report as abusive

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