Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister and sitting senator in the Italian parliament, passed away at the age of 86, as reported by the Italian media on Monday. The exact cause of his death is not immediately known. Last week, he was admitted to the hospital for planned medical examinations related to his chronic leukemia.
Silvio Berlusconi, a media tycoon, served as Italy’s prime minister multiple times, starting in 1994. His extravagant lifestyle left a lasting impact on popular culture, while his provocative behavior, populist approach, constant legal issues, and disregard for political norms tarnished Italy’s reputation globally.
Silvio Berlusconi, known for his showmanship, often boasted about his career as a singer on cruise ships before venturing into construction, real estate, and ultimately building an empire. This empire included television networks, newspapers, publishing houses, a top soccer team, and much more.
The foundation of his media empire began with a game show in the 1970s, where a correct answer from a caller prompted a studio audience member to remove a piece of clothing. Erik Gandini, the director of the 2009 documentary “Videocracy,” which explores the impact of Italian television on the country’s culture and politics, reflects on this unlikely beginning. He says, “If someone had told me that this striptease program was the start of a massive media empire, where the owner of the empire would also become the prime minister, I would have laughed.”
By the 1980s, Berlusconi’s media empire, named Mediaset, had become the largest in Italy. This allowed him to expand further and acquire Italy’s biggest publishing house, the newspaper Il Giornale, as well as the AC Milan soccer club. Through his networks, which featured soap operas and scantily clad showgirls, Silvio Berlusconi molded an adoring audience into a virtual electorate.
Silvio Berlusconi seized the opportunity to enter politics in the early 1990s when bribery scandals shook the political establishment. He sold many Italians a rosy vision of prosperity and lower taxes, capitalizing on his rags-to-riches story. In the 1994 general elections, he swept to power as the prime minister. Although his government collapsed after just seven months, Berlusconi went on to demonstrate his lack of humility over the next two decades, proclaiming, “I am by far the best prime minister Italy ever had.”
Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s ex-prime minister and media mogul, dies at 86
It was widely known that Silvio Berlusconi foray into politics was motivated by the desire to protect his media empire. Throughout the 1990s, he faced numerous legal troubles, ranging from providing false testimony to investigations into his connections with the Sicilian Mafia. However, without conflict-of-interest legislation in place, Silvio Berlusconi not only retained ownership of his TV networks while serving as prime minister but also gained control of all state-run broadcasting.
Maurizio Viroli, a professor of politics and government at the University of Texas – Austin, describes the power wielded by Berlusconi as akin to tyranny. He states, “No political leader in any democratic or liberal country in history has ever concentrated such power in his own hands. That’s why I use the word ‘tyranny.'”
Silvio Berlusconii developed close personal relationships with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and the late Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi. However, his image abroad was often ridiculed due to his perpetual tan, hair transplants, and facelifts.
Despite being increasingly shunned on the international stage due to his schoolboy pranks, inappropriate jokes, and racist.
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