The Exalted One reappeared and climbed on a perch above the crowd, looking out from a virtual window infinitely reproducible on millions of devices, confirming his omnipotence. But it took only a minute and 40 seconds for him to crash down into a bleak abyss, dragging with him the chaotic and often cacophonous history of a Movement born from a slogan as crude as it was subtly deceptive: “vaffanculo” (“fuck off”). Now, Beppe Grillo, with his video in which he defended his son Ciro, who has been accused of rape, has also sent those in the M5S the same “fuck off.”
After their youthful intemperance, they had harbored the delusion that they’d always be able to balance on a knife’s edge, neither to the right nor to the left, but a little to the right and a little to the left, and a little more reasonable than others.
Taking up the mantle of patriarchs everywhere, Grillo used that minute and 40 seconds to throw insults in the face of the girl who denounced his son and his young friends, who, in the words of the family don, were “just having fun… jumping around with their dicks out like that.” With that video, the don showed he desperately wanted to impose his rule even outside the confines of the Movement that has praised and feared him.
This is stuff worthy of Berlusconi himself, the former cruise ship singer who came to rule the country, once graced with the nickname “Psiconano” (“Psycho-dwarf”) by Grillo, the comedian who himself would land in politics later on. After all, verbal violence has always been part of Grillo’s vocabulary. And he is in no way abandoning the vigilante impulse that has characterized his politics by taking up the mantle of protector of the rights of the accused.
No, on the contrary, he is presenting himself as the supreme judge who, thanks to the power conferred on him by acclamation by his people, is delivering definitive condemnations using the most retrograde language of machismo culture, puffing up his ego to the point of daring everyone to “arrest me.”
If he is indicted, Ciro will face trial in a court of law, where the young man will be considered innocent until proven guilty. But Grillo has already taken over the duties of judge and jury, attacking a girl who, according to him, could only have had a good time with three boys her age jumping around “with their dicks out like that.” And since the next day she went kitesurfing and waited a week to denounce his son, what more evidence is needed?
The gallery of horrors that fuels rape culture is well known by now. The self-anointed defender of the unjustly accused is manifesting the arrogance of the man of power and the spirit of the avenger (“hands off my kid”), armed with a media cudgel. The behavior of the co-founder of the M5S is not out of character, in the end. “What would you do if you had [Laura] Boldrini in your car?” he posted to his followers in 2014, who picked up on the insinuation. And in 2001, while he was still just a “comedian,” he called Rita Levi Montalcini an “old whore.”
The Exalted One’s latest video has torn off the veil. The digital totem raised above the head of the leader for so long is teetering. For the former “fuck off boys” of his party, this is a big problem. Some men from the second and third ranks have dared to speak out, after the attacks against Maria Elena Boschi, guilty of having condemned the events (the same Boschi whose name was put in a headline of the Fatto with the word “drilled” next to it). Di Battista has spoken out as well, saying little, but still too much for many. Di Maio hasn’t. After almost two days, Conte, the crown prince, descended among the commoners and found an embarrassing and awkwardness-inducing situation.
It is not easy to leave “Beppe” in the hole he’s chosen to dig and climb back up to higher ground with a simple reset. But there will be no way for the PD and the left to not ask some highly problematic questions regarding any alliance with the M5S that would call itself progressive.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Your weekly briefing of progressive news.