Monday, June 08, 2009

The Berlusconi Holiday Villa Scandal

You've probably read about the latest 'scandal' surrounding controversial Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
No, not the one about the 18- or 17-year-old model, where he well might have been in the wrong.
Of course, I'm talking about the so-called 'raunchy' pictures taken at his holiday villa in Sardinia and published by the Spanish newspaper El Pais.
What is the 'scandal' about?
The pictures show several topless women by a swimming pool and one naked man.
If you live in Asia or in America you might not know, but a vast number of women who go sunbathing in Europe - both in their gardens and private spaces, and at public beaches in all of Europe, including the Mediterranean - do so topless. It's completely legal and socially completely acceptable. So there is no element of 'scandal' here whatsoever, since judging from the pictures, all we see is several women sunbathing by a pool in sunny Sardinia. Completely normal.
The naked man is perhaps more surprising. His identity has since been revealed as former Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, and Berlusconi himself explains his colleague's nudity by pointing out the man just stepped out of a hot tub. "You don't take a bath with your suit and tie on, do you?" Berlusconi is quoted as saying. Again, perfectly reasonable.
So if we go by the pictures that were published, there is nothing wrong if what happened at the villa was just a bunch of friends sunbathing and enjoying a hot tub. This kind of thing happens everywhere, so unless there is evidence to the contrary, the nudity or partial nudity at Berlusconi's villa is not a scandal at all.
The scandal is really that a photographer intruded on private property by making pictures of people at home, in their home environment, doing perfectly legal things but that should stay private.
The other scandal, where Berlusconi critics might have a point, is that he allegedly used a military plane to ferry his friends over to the island. That is abuse of public funds and should be punished.
But again, with the pictures we have now, there is no scandal. Judging from the latest news from Italy, the Italian voters seemed to agree, because Berlusconi's party finished first in Sunday's European elections.
El Pais, a newspaper known as one of Europe's best, should apologize for turning to blatant sensationalism on what seems to be largely a non-issue.

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