Silvio Berlusconi's Titanic?

Conservatives remember how everything from flammable pajamas to sexual harassment in public housing was blamed on Ronald Reagan. On NPR's All Things Considered on Wednesday night, somehow the wreck of the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia became "reminiscent of" former conservative prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Longtime NPR reporter Sylvia Poggioli described how the ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, was chewed out by Italy's new hero, Coast Guard captain Gregorio De Falco, who said some Italian version of "Go back onboard, dammit" to the captain who abandoned ship instead of overseeing the evacuation of passengers. This reminded NPR of the incompetence and greed of Berlusconi's rule:

But several Twitter comments wondered how low have we fallen that we make a hero of a person who simply did his duty? "Go Back Onboard, Damn It" has exploded into a howl of indignation against the incompetence, greed and corruption that have pervaded Italian society over the last two decades.

By steering his ship with 4,200 people onboard too close to a rocky coastline, Captain Schettino's nautical bravura was all too reminiscent of what many commentators call Berlusconismo. They're referring to a lifestyle associated with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, known for flashiness and cutting corners.

Back in 1995, Poggioli criticized Berlusconi's domination of the media in Italy. "He sold ridiculous dreams of the most crass consumer type, a Hollywood soap image of life, and he won the election." Doesn't that also sound like a Reagan criticism?

Tim Graham's picture