Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Beppe Grillo - using blogs and online video to make Italian politics more accountable

Today in Italy the 61st government in 63 years collapsed and may signal not just the end of Prodi's government, but also the collapse of the much heralded 'Second Republic.'

The Italian media is (allegedly) rarely objective about politics as it is so embroiled in the political process (Berlusconi ownership etc) - many feel it is unlikely that today's events will receive balanced coverage from the mainstream Italian media. Publishers who are critical of the government / Italian political process though, have found themselves in court and many are no longer prepared to produce content that could put them in this position.

The peculiar, traditional media set-up in Italy has resulted in the general public embracing the new found political objectivity offered by citizen journalism and blogging - and an Italian comedian called Beppe Grillo is leading the way (http://www.beppegrillo.it)

According to Technorati, Beppe Grillo's blog has an authority of 13,431 and is the 8th most read blog in the World with over 200,000 people visiting each day!

Whilst Beppe Grillo has spent most of his adult life known as a satirical comedian, he has become more widely known for being the leading anti-establishment Italian voice. Grillo has attacked corruption and incompetence and has organised both online and offline protests. (read about him in the New Yorker here - http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/02/04/080204fa_fact_mueller).

'V-day' in September last year was the most significant protest he has organised and V-day saw 2 million Italians across two hundred and twenty Italian cities celebrate a new (unofficial) national holiday. The 'v' stands for a number of things, but the scale of V-day sent a powerful message against corruption in government.

Today, as rubbish piles up on the streets and the government collapses, Beppe Grillo has announced a second V-day, 'V-2 day', for 25th April 2008. Again Beppe hopes that this will see widespread participation and he is also encouraging people to upload content to Flickr and YouTube to bring this V2-day to life / amplify its reach (using 'V-2 day' as a tag on anything that is uploaded).

Beppe Grillo has turned into a torch bearer for large sections of the Italian public disenchanted with the Italian political state of affairs. Grillo's charismatic speeches and campaigns have attracted a wide following and he has proved adept at fully utilising online tools and digital media to engage the public and call the government to account. From donations to his blog he has even been able to buy full page newspaper ads demanding the resignations of ministers and I have no doubt that Beppe Grillo's blog will become even more prominent over coming weeks as a new government is put into place..........

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