Silvio Berlusconi--Italy's longest-serving prime minister and a billionaire media monopolist--is known for being a public-relations nightmare. Recent imbroglios include a sex scandal involving numerous women, a second incident where he referred to President Obama as "sun-tanned," and an ongoing corruption trial.
On Sunday, Berlusconi was at the center of a media firestorm yet again--this time the target of a brutal physical assault by a protester at a political rally. The man struck Berlusconi hard in the face with a heavy statuette replica of Milan's historic Duomo cathedral, breaking two of his teeth, cutting his lip, fracturing his nose and visibly bloodying his face. He was rushed to the hospital while the suspect, who has given no motive, was detained. Bloggers were largely unsympathetic toward the embattled Italian PM, shrugging and asking what he expected for keeping such a tight grip on dissent.
- Long Time Coming Like many of his fellow bloggers, Awl co-founder Choire Sicha frames the incident as a referendum on Berlusconi, but adds his signature dose of dark frankness: "Whoever could have punched Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in the face today, and why? Answer: almost anyone, for thousands of reasons...Good stuff."
- An Evil In Which We May Delight At New York Magazine's Daily Intel blog, Adam K. Raymond seems to revel in the attack, putting it in the context of other melee assaults on political figures, and describing them as examples of a time-honored tradition of violent protest: "A 42-year-old man, who follows a long line of people who have thrown things at political figures, stands accused of hurling the object at the womanizing PM as he was signing autographs in Milan. Berlusconi was immediately ushered into his car after being hit, but quickly emerged, apparently to show that he wasn't badly hurt. And also to bless the world with some awesomely gruesome pictures."
- (Symbolically) Levels the Political Playing Field Similarly, True/Slant's Simon Shuster devotes at least 1000 words to the incident, defending the attack as an expression of populist rage against the power-hungry Italian prime minister. He also makes an interesting argument that in this case Berlusconi actually served as a convenient, surrogate target for his friend and ally, Russian leader Vladimir Putin. "Part of me though feels bad for the old lecher: he got it pretty hard. But that sympathy is tempered by the fact that Berlusconi is one of Putin's dearest friends, and this is probably the closest anyone will ever get to clocking Vladimir Vladimirovich."
- Further Evidence of Berlusconi's Battiness AMERICAblog's Parisian correspondent Chris expresses more concern about Berlusconi's mental health than his physical well-being: "It's hard to say what was more bizarre during the event where Berlusconi was praising himself, opening his shirt, showing his chest and talking about how tough he is to the cheering crowd. The crazy attack using the mini statue or him wanting to jump out of the car to show everyone his bloody face, again. The attacker was clearly wrong and should suffer the legal consequences. Maybe he's not the only person who should seek help though."
- Undeserved and Despicable Daily Mail commentator Don Surber is one of only a handful of voices to offer genuine sympathy for the embattled Italian PM and a harsh denunciation of the attacker. As he puts it "We have an increasingly violent political world. Tom Elia: "This should never happen to a political leader in a Western democracy. Period." I agree."
- Berlusconi Will Have His Revenge Ernie Smith of ShortFormBlog plays reacts to the attack with sarcasm and stereotyping, "Bring us the head of the man that punched Silvio Berlusconi! That #(&@(&)(!)& is gonna pay for this (#^&. We're gonna give him concrete shoes, if you get our drift. Wink wink, nudge nudge. source