Eight years have passed since my booklet about the age of Silvio Berlusconi came out, which I chose then to call the “era of authoritarian democracy,” after having discarded other equally fitting formulas such as “media populism” or “illiberal democracy.” At that time, the quote from Brecht’s Diary, which speaks of a possible “democratic fascism” in reference to the American context, in tune — as Luciano Canfora recalled in his valuable essay on Demagogy — with Thomas’s speech, had not occurred to me. Mann at the Hollywood Peace Group of 1848. If I had known maybe I would have preferred it.
The booklet was called Berlusconi passato alla storia (“Berlusconi down in history”), and it was unpretentious but had a not-too-hidden ambition: to dismiss the character. The title meant so many things. It could be equivalent to “having been consigned to history” and therefore treated, if we also want to be judged, with the tools of the historian.
Or it could have meant that for better or for worse, much more in the bad than in the good, Berlusconi had by then conquered a place in history and had managed to make himself an epoch. One could rightly speak of “Berlusconi’s age” precisely as we speak of the age of Crispina or Giolitti or the Wilhelminian age: an era to which a character gives the name, even if it does not end with that protagonist.