Courtesy of alessio85 (Flickr) marketing

If we think about the political scenario from the pre-Berlusconi era up to now, it is clear how the way of doing politics has deeply changed. It is the transition from the debate on contents, based on the much-criticized right and left- wing ideologies (to such an extent that nowadays the adjective “ideological” carries a derogatory connotation), to a political debate built on strategic communication, on the choice of the message to convey and how to convey it in order to persuade voters that signals the watershed between the period of political propaganda and the period of political marketing.

What is this transformation really based on? It is possible to make some comments on the issue, starting from the images or phenomena that, over the time, have excluded the previous forms of political debate.


Gut vs heart

It is not new that information plays a major role, having great influence on public opinion. However, since Berlusconi’s rise to power, it was proved how this fact could be exploited by political parties in a purely instrumental and strategic form.

Since the 90s newspapers highlighted the way through which Berlusconi was appealing to the “gut instincts” of Italians. Such an expression was used excessively and obsessively by newspapers to define the winsome and demagogic way (that today is labelled as “populist”) through which the leading figure of that time was able to persuade Italian voters. What is not so clear is that while the right-wing leader “was appealing to the gut instincts”, the left-wing – which was the opposing party when politics was still polarized – “was appealing to the heart” of voters, focusing their propaganda on morality and on the demonization of the opponent.

However, both the parties were happily stuck in populist forms of communication. The former was selling dreams, the latter was focusing the debate on bringing down the Pied Piper, its political and ideological enemy. Anyway, they both moved the debate from contents to communication aimed at persuading crowds.


Courtesy of danacreilly (Flickr)

The “technocratic” parenthesis and the return of contents

From this moment on, politics will never change course, apart from changes in different situations and programmes. The issue of equal publicity is even more significant than in the past. It is clear to everyone, thanks to a whole new awareness, that public appearance is the main road to win general and generalized approval. The fight for having more minutes and seconds the guests of talk shows embarks on in order to take the floor become the field of debate in a clumsy and grotesque political discussion and also the yardstick of the level of democracy. They want to taint the so-called “vox populi”: the only subjects that exist are those proposed to the general public.

Ironically, since then, real issues regained importance as the right subjects, only under the Monti government, but unfortunately not for the sake of people’s happiness. It is no coincidence that contents came back and took their place in information when not only politicians, but also experts conducted debates.


The “quasi-subjects” of Italian tripolarity

In brief, the various political parties have focused their attention on the creation of false subjects, pseudo-problems, general problems, or problems of social importance, but unable to reveal the structural connections for a change in the paradigm. In particular, right-wing parties aimed at exaggerating the problem of migration processes, while the M5S party (the Five Star Movement) has made honesty – a general value and prerequisite for good governance – its hallmark; last but not least, left-wing parties focused on protection of minorities and on anti-discrimination policies, at the expenses of employment contracts, wages and other issues concerning rights.

Taking part to the political pseudo-debate, all this three big parties deal with “quasi-subjects”. A quasi-subject is not only the result of political marketing, neither the latest product of strategic communication, but concerns the presence of another figure which has become of key importance in today’s political scenario: Network connectivity. The Network, bastion of the M5S, has overwhelmingly become part of the political consciousness, fooling people into the possibility of a happy and effortless user-friendly democracy.

It has also another important aspect: it is the place where the dominance of virtual reality and of quasi-objects is realized and, in this framework, quasi-subjects stand in the middle between reality and unreality. If it is evident that on the web and social networks what can be said or unsaid (also what is true and false) is easily and explicitly confused – just think about fake news, conspiracism, or simply to what the philosopher H. G. Frankfurt calls “bullshit” -, then it is even more evident that the same thing has been happening with contents in political discourse. Like an avatar, the quasi-subject is visible, but indistinct.


From reality to virtual reality: the “quasi-problems”

It is not my aim to prove that the issues today’s politicians insist on are not important. However, we should consider that the ways of dealing with these problems and their isolation from being part of a broader view (maybe ideological?) stand in front of us and fill up our field of vision as if they were images or “almost real” problems. But concentrating on them does not allow us to interact with the data that produce them. Some years ago it would have been said that the “state of affairs” is no longer questioned.

If this are the premises of doing politics today, it is not surprising that the results of the elections led to the drafting of a mere contract, so that alliances could be formed without breaking the virtual spell of images and quasi-problems that political marketing has passed off to its voters.


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