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The Sack of Rome: Media + Money + Celebrity = Power = Silvio Berlusconi Paperback – July 31, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this astute analysis of contemporary Italian political culture under Berlusconi, Stille intricately yet seamlessly traces the prime minister's rise from Milan real estate developer to international political phenomenon. "A troubling avant-garde figure, a kind of Citizen Kane on steroids," Berlusconi has and will continue to have an impact that far outreaches his political career, Stille argues. A calculating master of the Italian proverb, "Se non è vero, è ben trovato" ("If it's not true, it's well said"), Berlusconi is a global archetype rather than a particularly Italian anomaly. Stille (Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic; Benevolence and Betrayal: Five Italian Jewish Families Under Fascism) has exquisitely analyzed not only contemporary Italian political culture but the ominous rise of an international political culture in which figures such as Berlusconi can flourish (though the recent election leaves his political future in doubt). Stille writes with such wit and verve that this book will easily appeal both to close followers of contemporary Italian politics and to those simply interested in a prescient, fascinating portrait of a politician and the international cultural shifts surrounding his ascent. The last chapter in particular solidifies this book as an absorbing tour-de-force. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

Arriving after the recent ouster of Silvio Berlusconi as Italy's prime minister, this fluent account of the tycoon's media and political careers frames his ascent as both uniquely Italian and disconcertingly universal. Berlusconi used an acute sales instinct to forge political alliances and to appeal to a vast middle class of Italians. Along the way, he developed alleged ties to the Mafia, dodged charges of bribery and cronyism, and exploited his position to preserve his media dominance. Some of Stille's most colorful anecdotes are pressed into service more than once, but his exposition of the various abuses and scandals is clear and damning. Pointing to the rise of super-rich politicians in America, the trend toward a depoliticized electorate, and the increasing consolidation of media under a few corporate powerhouses, Stille also makes an impassioned, if occasionally unpersuasive, argument that Berlusconi "is a reflection of ourselves in a fun-house mirror, our features distorted and exaggerated but distinctly recognizable."
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker - click here to subscribe. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (July 31, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143112104
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143112105
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,395,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By L. Johnson on August 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I hope this is not the future of democracy becasue I find it scary to contemplate. A well written, hard-to-put down book that is not difficult to follow. I found the last chapter particularly interesting as it pertains to US politics.

Younger American readers who do not remember a less politicized media atmosphere may well wonder what the fuss is all about: Fox is the norm to them, and to many, the print media is a bastion of the left. If anything, the book reminds us that there is a difference between fact and opinion. A very timely read and, for those of us who love Italy, a very upsetting view of what politics in Italy has become.

The only fault I found with the book is some repetition from chapter to chapter with respect to examples/quotes, although this may be because the chapters could have been printed separately in various publications. Still a worthwhile read.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on July 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Silvio Berlusconi is Italy's richest man - the owner of its largest television and publishing empire, department stores, a national soccer team, and an insurance and financial services company. In the early 1990's he joined them together into a political machine to elect both a number of candidates to Parliament and himself to Prime Minister. Advertising executives contacted the companies that bought ads on his channels, his employee stockbrokers and insurance agents set to turning clients into supporters, the personnel department of his TV advertising company selected over 100 of its top salesmen to be candidates for parliament (they were also required to buy a special kit explaining his new party's program, as well as lessons on how to speak in public and on TV), and his TV media experts conducted focus groups to hone Berlusconi's message.

Another important act was starting thousands of "Go, Italy" clubs (the favorite chant of his soccer team fans) to "promote values of freedom and democracy.

Prior to initiating his political run Berlusconi had been a night-club singer in college, and then a real-estate developer. Bribes and shady deals (eg. promise that a development would only reach five stories in height, then hire the enforcement officer and immediately build out to eight; commission a biased environment report from supposedly disinterested parties; use a double-dealing attorney to take advantage of an absent young and distraught inheritor by

convincing her that low-ball amounts were appropriate and using a stock-swindle as payment; using political connections to reroute noisy airline landing paths from his holdings). In addition, his main aide was a strong and long-time Mafia connection.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Enrico Ferorelli on July 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I recived the book from Amazon just a short while ago. I started it and could hardly put it down. What an incredible job Stille has done!

To make order and organize all the material, on this endless italian tragedy, must have been an Herculean task. The story is told with clarity and riveting

prose, with richness of facts and documentation and from a perspective that is historical and not detached, caring and profoundly analytical. This book is of great relevance not only for Italian readers but for Americans as well.

I agree with the author through the whole book and admire his work.

I thank him for it.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Loves the View VINE VOICE on November 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Stille has put together a thought provoking book. Presaged by Orwell, the SB story defines the age we are living in, and those of us who care about democracy need to understand it.

To achieve his vast wealth, SB and his associates broke and skirted many laws. By selling himself through his monopolistic media empire (and the image of his new party named for his popular soccer team) in three months time, he achieved prosecutorial immunity by taking over the reins of government.

As Prime Minister, with most of Parliament on his personal payroll, SB effected the release all imprisoned for corruption. Ousted as PM, still powerful, SB got a law enabling witness to opt out of testifying. Back again as PM, a law whereby those accused can chose their prosecutors! This is no where near the tip of the iceberg!

Stille gives us a step by step of this rise and how he used the power he got to avoid prosecution for ever growing lists of crimes. He used the media to polarize the country and create crises. He cast his enemies as scum who hated him for his virtue & would destroy the country if given any power. By controlling the media he was able to discredit everyone who criticized the least thing about him. Each different media outlet (which he controlled, although he made them seem independent) echoed his point of view and made his distortions the conventional wisdom. Books, journals, and higher brow newpapers (permanance and nuance) being the province of the small group who knew about and could document his abuses of power, he discredited it as elitist. The many who spent 3-5 hours a day watching and glimpsing TV integrated the reality he fed them and believed his stories to be facts. He saw to it that the few journalists who might divulge his crimes would never work again.
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