Above: The night we stayed in Bologna on our recent trip to Italy, my friends (some of whom I’ve known for more than 20 years), shared this Youtube video of Italian politician Francesco Rutelli butchering the English language. The video has been the subject of much ridicule and parody in Italy, a country with a rich history of biting satire that stretches back to the Renaissance and beyond. My friends said it was an example of their culturally and morally bankrupt government.
Between our re-entry into civilian life, our move into our new home, a ride-with with a rockstar winemaker in northern and eastern Texas, and the mountain of thank you cards that Tracie P and I have just begun to chip away at, an interesting news story slipped through my cracks this week: according to a story published on Wednesday by The New York Times, an Italian court convicted three Google executives for “violating Italian privacy laws.” (For more detailed background on the case, see also this Reuters post.) Many see the ruling as part of the Berlusconi government’s attempt to curb freedom on the internet and part of an over-arching plan to maintain control of public opinion through the cultural hegemony of television (as head of state and thus chief executive of public television and owner of the major privately-owned television channels, Berlusconi has a virtual monopoly on what is televised in Italy).
Above: To appreciate this parody of the Rutelli clip, you need hear the “interpreter’s” markedly Roman accent. The short film is indicative of Italians’s embrace of the internet as a viral medium for satire. And again, I can’t underline enough the centrality of satire in Italian culture. Just think of the pasquinades of 16th-century Rome — same idea, different medium.
If you’ve visited Italy in recent years, you know that connecting to the internet can be a daunting challenge there. At least one restaurateur explained I spoke to in 2008 said that this is because the Italian government holds the internet providers responsible for what their users and customers post on the internet. It’s simply not worth the hassle for restaurateurs, for example, to provide internet access to their customers (and this guy was an entirely hip and successful winemaker in German-speaking Italy, who has a sleek, contemporary restaurant in the Alps). When you can get online in Italy, some businesses (like hotels) ask you to sign a written document stating that you are fully liable for what you publish on the internet.
Above: A quick search on YouTube quickly rendered an example of the type of virally circulated clip that might bother Berlusconi.
Does any of this have any bearing on the world of wine? Yes, in my opinion, it does. Now, more than ever, Italian wineries need to use the internet as a medium for viral marketing of their products to English-speaking consumers. This is especially true right now when the enosphere is shifting radically to the internet as its preferred medium of communication.
Okay, time to get down off my soap box… If you made it this far into the post, thanks for reading!
Buona domenica a tutti…