This article is from the archive of our partner .

It was only a matter of time before some started to wonder what the attack on Silvio Berlusconi said about Italian politics. With a still more surreal aftermath--a second attempt to assault the premier as he lay recuperating in the hospital, and an Italian crackdown on Facebook groups cheering the attacker--observers now have plenty of fodder to declare the system dysfunctional. Here's what they think recent events reveal about a country long known for its political eccentricity:


  • Berlusconi Is a Dictator  "This is a response reminiscent of a central Asian republic," write the editors of the Guardian, condemning Berlusconi and his supporters' suppression of Facebook groups "praising the repentant assailant." The groups, they allow, "are tasteless, but they little warrant a clampdown on internet sites deemed to 'incite violence.'"
  • Democratic Values Are Lacking  The Guardian's Anna Masera likewise finds Italian politics deficient, but thinks perhaps "this event will help restore the basic values and premises necessary in a democracy." Currently, she writes, summarizing an editorial in an Italian paper, "the atmosphere in Italy is similar to that of a stadium in which one hears only the voices of the ultras shouting. And where everybody seems more interested in the destiny of the premier than the country." Masera is encouraged by recent moves from Berlusconi's opposition to denounce violent responses.
  • The People Are Frenzied and Frustrated  Le Monde's Philippe Ridet calls the current Italian political situation a "cocktail" of, among other things, "political enfeeblement, ... frenzy of the majority, exasperation of the opposition, simplification of the debate, and media saturation."
  • An Abundance of Disturbed People?  "In another example," writes The Awl's Alex Balk, "of the sterling work done by the Italian security services, a 'young Italian with a history of mental problems has been arrested after he tried to enter the hospital room of Silvio Berlusconi during the night.' (This," Balk dryly clarifies, "is a different Italian with mental problems from the one who smashed Berlusconi in the face with a souvenir statuette on Sunday.)"

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.