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Disputations: Big Bad Berlusconi?

The Italian prime minister deserves fairer treatment.

I love The New Republic, even when I disagree with its gifted writers. This is not the case of Alexander Stille's "The Prime Minister of WTF" about Silvio Berlusconi's performance at the last G20 meeting in Europe. I loved the funny TNR headline, but the article is ridiculous, something good for The National Enquirer, not for a serious publication. Even without expensive fact-checkers, every junior editor in the business would have killed it.

I'm Italian like him, I didn't vote for Berlusconi in the last general elections, and I don't want to argue with Stille about Berlusconi's pro-Israel and pro-US foreign policy. However, Stille shows disdain and contempt for Italians and for the democratic process in this article. Let me show you what I mean.

Stille starts saying that Berlusconi embarassed the British Queen because he called Barack Obama, ahem, well, "Mister Obama". The sources of this outrageous slander to both Obama and the Queen are the notorious reliable English tabloids. Nonetheless, Stille failed to notice that Buckingham Palace have denied that any offense was taken by the Queen: "It was loud and jolly and very jovial, there were no gaffes and no offence taken". So charge one is untrue. Let's go to charge number two. According to Stille, Berlusconi embarassed also "German Chancellor Angela Merkel by emerging from his limousine for an official visit while talking on his cell phone as she waited on a red carpet to greet him". There he goes again. Stille failed for the second time in only two paragraphs to notice something his readers should have known: Berlusconi was on his phone not for fun or his infamous rudeness, but for a last-minute effort to persuade Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to accept Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as the new NATO’s chief. Angela Merkel knew it, and officials from three Nato's countries confirmed it to the Associated Press. By the way, finally Erdogan did vote for Rasmussen. Stille didn't mention it.

I've almost forgotten: Stille is professor of journalism at Columbia. WTF?

Christian Rocca is an Italian journalist and blogger. He is a frequent contributor to Il Foglio.

Click here to read Stille's response.