Poor administration, lack of trust: The end of Five Stars Movement?

Beppe Grillo Beppe Grillo (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Beppe Grillo’s party seems to be falling under its own weapons.

The Five Star Movement, Movimento 5 Stelle or M5S, is arguably Italy’s most vocal anti-establishment party, pursuing the dream of the absolute popular sovereignty. An energetic and very successful project, over the last year it has suffered a number of setbacks, and its collapse might be near.

M5S was founded in 2009 by Beppe Grillo, an Italian comedian, and Gianroberto Casaleggio, an Italian entrepreneur with strong expertise in institutional communication. Casaleggio is responsible for what became the M5S motto: “There is not a right-wing or left-wing idea. There are good and bad ideas”. It is precisely the traditional partisan distinctions that M5S seeks to overcome.

According to M5S, true democracy can only be reached by replacing the traditional representative system with full popular sovereignty. Such direct democracy would take decisions on all matters.

In this process, “the Net” is fundamental, namely the allegedly well-informed citizens grouped under the massively popular Beppe Grillo’s Blog — it is the most visited blog in Italy and among the 10 most visited in the world — and other internet media affiliated with M5S, such as TzeTze, La Cosa, il Blog delle Stelle. These sites are owned, in fact, by Casaleggio Associati, the IT communication enterprise of M5S co-founder Gianroberto Casaleggio. He was the mind behind the M5S blog system, as well as its direct-democracy and non-partisan ideology.

It is one thing to use irrationality methodically, and another to use irrationality irrationally.

Such a design is morally appreciable, but in practice it proves to be problematic, rather ineffectual, and clearly flirts with irrationality. On the other hand, the technical build-up of M5S shows that its architects have well understood the suggestive, falsely syllogistic, dynamics that does govern today’s political communications.Irrationality is not always a morally despicable way of propaganda, but it has a major drawback: it ends up suffering from overconfidence. It is one thing to use irrationality methodically, and another to use irrationality irrationally (forgive the pun). The Five-Star Movement is showing signs of suffering from the latter.

Recent events are not helpful towards the Movement. Firstly, note the recent fuss about M5S’s switch from the Euroskeptic EFDD group in the European Parliament to the pro-Europe, liberal ALDE. Considering MS5’s philosophy, the proposal for this switch and the online voting (78% voted in favour of ALDE) are quite odd. It was not a good idea: ALDE rejected M5S’s self-candidacy to join its lines, while Farage’s EFDD imposed strict diktats on the Movement’s policies as a precondition for accepting it back into the Euroskeptic group.

Besides, Grillo is not new to this sort of oddities. In 2009, after having repeatedly presented candidate mayors in several Italian communes and vowed his opposition to the centre-leftist Democratic Party / Partito Democratico (PD), he presented his intention to subscribe to the same party and stand for its secretariat.

Secondly, the situation in Italy is similarly critical. Several politicians, including several parliamentarians and mayors across Italy, have been forced to quit because of online accusations and initiated judicial investigations against them. Mayor Virginia Raggi of Rome, a M5S member, has been experiencing a hard time over allegations of corruption in her administration, especially since last December, when her right-hand manager Raffaele Marra was arrested for illicit real-estate activities. Meanwhile, she nominated Renato Marra (Raffaele’s brother) to Rome’s Department of Tourism, a nomination she later withdrew.

Raggi is currently under investigation and has been called to interrogation. Of course one can say that Rome is a special case. The eternal city seems to be pathologically affected by corruption and inefficiency: just before Raggi, in the umpteenth series of scandals, the former mayor Ignazio Marino was forced to resign by his own administration, crushed by the judicial investigation named Mafia Capitale, which revealed a Mafia-like system of corruption in the capitol’s public tenders.

With a past of this sort, Rome has all it takes to be M5S’s fortress, and, at the same time, to be a cause for its ruin. Grillo knows it: Raggi’s administration triumphs, M5S stays in the race. If the opposite happens, M5S risks being identified itself as “one more of those corrupted parties”. Which is why the Movement is using its best efforts to protect the Roman mayor.

By now everyone in Italy knows that when a M5S politician is suspected of illicit behaviour, a vote is immediately organised on the Net for his/her expulsion. The M5S charter provides for the absolute and unconditional spotlessness of its politicians. Not surprisingly, the online polls have always been supportive of expulsion measures. Rather than the triumph of democracy, this smacks of witch-hunt. A strong political antagonist can easily exploit it: it will suffice to initiate a formal investigation against, say, a MS5 mayor, to start a process that will most likely lead to the mayor’s resignation from office. Plus, in Italy, public prosecutors can investigate anyone without needing to answer for that – just because it is an investigation, not an accusation.

But maybe, finally, Raggi’s misadventures have made Grillo realise the shortcomings of this approach and led him to propose a new charter on its politicians’ involvement in judicial matters, that for the moment is not official because of quorum issues. The charter provides for the expulsion of M5S politicians that are found guilty of an illicit behaviour – being simply under investigation would not anymore constitute a reason to vote for an expulsion.

Internal strife, however, goes further. The Movement’s charter is being filed against by a group of M5S activists – mostly expelled politicians – who claim that the “expulsions method” in itself is illegal. If this wins, the M5S directorate won’t have the power to expel its members of parliament, or mayors or any of its associates elected to public office. What is more, the legitimacy of M5S itself is being questioned in a trial promoted by lawyer Venerando Monello – a PD member – that seeks to prove an illegal conduct of Casaleggio Associati as private company controlling de facto M5S and, thus, a public-interest body.

Thirdly, there has been a good number of reports that do not contribute to the image of the Five Star Movement either. Among them, a factual, widely echoed report of BuzzFeed pointed out in compelling terms why M5S is dangerous for Europe. While a wiser choice would have been a competent reply to such accusations, M5S in a short note only vaguely referred to the “spreading of false news”.

This situation may well be the result of two dynamics: the Net, and the recklessness of Grillo’s proposals. The Net, on its side, cannot be judged much of a culprit, because it undogmatically follows the use that Grillo and the M5S directorate make of it. The Blog, capable of orienting and informing M5S supporters, is mostly self-referential: it doesn’t seek to obtain the approval of its audience, and it doesn’t need to because its findings cannot even be questioned by its public. A profile that matches allegations by ex-M5S deputies describing Casaleggio’s shadow over the movement as ‘controlling everything’.

The overall picture is rather critical. The Five Star Movement has a praiseworthy moral ground, and certainly remarkable merits. Among them, the revival of people’s involvement in public life, which is awfully low in most developed countries. But the online means used by M5S also have drawbacks: dangers lie in the internet’s capacity to manipulate public opinion, especially when handled by an IT communication enterprise like Casaleggio Associati. It becomes easy to attract the public by verging on populistic clamour and instinctive judgement. The web as such may be part of the problem, being associated with computers and other non-human “objective” elements. In fact, it still benefits of an aura of unquestionability among basic users that can lead one to believe any self-referential news spread online.

M5S’s tools have an enormous potential that can be either constructive or destructive, and needs, therefore, conscientious handling: it can lead the citizenry to sounder, rational thinking, or to new persecutions, summary judgements and, finally, conflict.

Niko Costantino
About the author

Niko Costantino holds a BA in Languages and International Relations from the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and MA in International Relations with Political Strategy and Communication from the Brussels School of International Studies (University of Kent). His main interests include Mediterranean and European relations, cultural diplomacy and non-state actors. He collaborates with the think tank KEDISA as foreign policy analyst and participates in NGOs by advising communication and lobbying strategies.


Would you like to share your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published.

Legal Note

1.    Terms and Conditions

2.    Privacy Policy

3.    Cookies Policy

 

1.    Terms and Conditions

Contact data for the web owner

This website has been created by KATOIKOS to promote their products and services.

– Name: Katoikos, S.L

– Co. tax Code:  B87123162

– Address:  Calle Campomanes 10, 28013  Madrid (SPAIN)

Registration details: Registered in the Commercial Register of Madrid.

Intellectual and Industrial Property

The various elements of this page, and website as a whole, are protected by Spanish legislation on intellectual and industrial property. The trademarks, trade names or logos appearing on this website are the property of the company, or, where appropriate, of third parties, and are protected by Trademarks Law, and of which KATOIKOS holds the legitimate license.

The information provided may not be used for commercial or public purposes, or modified. If the user downloads materials for personal and non-commercial use, warnings shall be kept about copyright and trademarks. To download and use the company logo that appears on the website, prior authorization is required.

Any unauthorised use of the images may violate copyright laws, trademark laws, the laws of privacy and publicity, and communications regulations and statutes.

Liability for Damage

KATOIKOS assumes no liability for damages you may suffer when browsing the web or in the use of computer applications that are part of it. Neither are warranties given as to the correction of malfunctions or updating of content.

Content you share with us

We may include features on this website that allow you to share your content with us and other users of the site. Please note that by sharing content it may become publicly accessible. You grant to Katoikos a worldwide, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license, without compensation to you:

 (a) to use, reproduce, distribute, adapt (including without limitation edit, modify, translate, and reformat), derive, transmit, display and perform, publicly or otherwise, such content, in any media now known or hereafter developed, for Kaotikos’ business purposes, and

 (b) to sublicense the foregoing rights, through multiple tiers, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law. The foregoing licenses shall survive any termination of your use of the site, as further described below.

For all of the content you share through the site, you represent and warrant that you have all rights necessary for you to grant these licenses, and that such content, and your provision or creation thereof through the site, complies with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations and does not infringe or otherwise violate the copyright, trademark, trade secret, privacy or other intellectual property or other rights of any third party, and is furthermore free from viruses and other malware.

Rules of Conduct

When using this website and/or sharing content with us, you are prohibited from posting or transmitting :

1. any unlawful, threatening, defamatory, racist, obscene, scandalous, deceptive, false, fraudulent, inflammatory or profane material or any material that could constitute or encourage conduct that would be considered a criminal offence, give rise to civil liability, or otherwise violate any law.
2. Any virus, worm, Trojan horse, Easter egg, time bomb, spyware or other computer code, file, or program that is harmful or invasive or may or is intended to damage or hijack the operation of, or to monitor the use of, any hardware, software or equipment;
3. Any unsolicited or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials, “junk mail,” “spam,” “chain letter,” “pyramid scheme” or investment opportunity, or any other form of solicitation; and
4. Any material non-public information about a person or a company without the proper authorization to do so.

In addition, you will not:

1. Use this website for any fraudulent or unlawful purpose;
2. Interfere with or disrupt the operation of the website or the servers or networks used to make the website available; or violate any requirements, procedures, policies or regulations of such networks;
3. Access or use this website through any technology or means other than those expressly designated by us.
4. Restrict or inhibit any other person from using this website (including by hacking or defacing any portion of the website);
5. Except as expressly permitted by applicable law, modify, adapt, translate, reverse engineer, decompile or disassemble any portion of this website.
6. Remove any copyright, trademark or other proprietary rights notice from this website.
7. Frame or mirror any part of the webiste without our express prior written consent;
8. Create a database by systematically downloading and storing all or any content;
9. Use any robot, spider, site search/retrieval application or other manual or automatic device to retrieve, index, “scrape,” “data mine” or in any way reproduce or circumvent the navigational structure or presentation of this website, without our express prior written consent.

Links

Kaotikos  reserves the right to remove any messages or statements or cancel any links.

This site may include hyperlinks to other web sites that are not owned or controlled by Katoikos. Katoikos has no control over, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, privacy policies, security or practices of any third party websites.

Content may be hosted on YouTube or other social media. Those operate their own set of terms and conditions and privacy policy which are separate to the ones presented on this website. Katoikos no control over and assumes no responsibility for, the content, privacy policies, security or practices on YouTube or other social media.

 The right to terminate your access

Katoikos reserves the right to terminate your access to this website at any time if you do not comply with these Terms and Conditions or you infringe Kaotikos’ rights in the content provided on this website.

Governing Law

These Terms and Conditions are governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of Spain, without regard to its choice of law provisions.  You agree to the exclusive jurisdiction by the courts of Spain.

Changes to the Terms

Katoikos reserves the right to make changes to the Terms and Conditions from time to time. You acknowledge and agree that your continued access to or use of this website will constitute your acceptance of such changes.

2.    Privacy Policy

Kaotikos takes the protection of your personal data very seriously and collects, processes and uses your data only in accordance with the standards of the legal data protection regulations.

Data is collected, processed and used with technologyes of the provider web trends for marketing and optimisation purposes and also for sending news and information you may be interested in by any electronic services, such as email or SMS.

Our website user’s database is registered at the Spanish Agency of Data Protection. You have the rights of access, rectification, deletion and opposition, regulated in articles 14 to 16 of the LOPD.

For this, please write to:

KATOIKOS (Data Protection) Calle Campomanes 10, 28013, Madrid (SPAIN)

Or send an email to info@katoikos.eu. Your ID will be requested for these issues.

3.    Cookies Policy

This site, like many others, uses small files called cookies to help us customise your experience. Find out more about cookies and how you can control them.

This page contains information on what ‘cookies’ are, the cookies used by the Kaotikos’ website and how to switch cookies off in your browser.

If it does not provide the information you were looking for, or you have any further questions about the use of cookies on the Katoikos’s website, please email info@katoikos.eu.

What are ‘cookies’?

‘Cookies’ are small text files that are stored by the browser (for example, Internet Explorer or Safari) on your computer or mobile phone. They allow websites to store things like user preferences. You can think of cookies as providing a ‘memory’ for the website, so that it can recognise you when you come back and respond appropriately.

How does the Katoikos’s website use cookies?

A visit to a page on the Kaotikos’s website may generate the following type of cookies: Anonymous analytics cookies.

This website uses Google Analytics, a web analytics service provided by Google, Inc., a Delaware company whose main office is at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View (California), CA 94043, USA (“Google”).

Google Analytics uses “cookies”, which are text files placed on your computer, to help the website analyze how users use the site. The information generated by the cookie about your use of the website (including your IP address) will be transmitted to and stored by Google on servers in the United States. Google will use this information on our behalf in order to track your use of the website, compiling reports on website activity and providing other services relating to website activity and internet usage. Google may also transfer this information to third parties where required to do so by law, or where such third parties process the information on Google’s behalf. Google will not associate your IP address with any other data held by Google.

Anonymous analytics cookies

Cookier Name Origin Aim End
__utma Google Analysis 2 years since set –up or update
__utmb Google Analysis 30 minutes since set –up or update
__utmc Google Analysis When browser sesión ends
_utmt Google Analysis 10 minutes since set –up or update
__utmz Google Analysis 6 months since set –up or update

How do I turn cookies off?

It is usually possible to stop your browser accepting cookies, or to stop it accepting cookies from a particular website. All modern browsers allow you to change your cookie settings. You can usually find these settings in the ‘options’ or ‘preferences’ menu of your browser. To understand these settings, the following links may be helpful, or you can use the ‘Help’ option in your browser for more details.

Cookie settings in Internet Explorer
Cookie settings in Firefox
Cookie settings in Chrome
Cookie settings in Safari web and iOS.

 

© 2017 Katoikos, all rights are reserved. Developed by eMutation | New Media

Become a
Being up to date with Europe only takes a few seconds.
Your information will never shared with a third party.
logo
subscriber!
Get our periodical newsletter sent to your inbox!
I have read and agreed the Privacy Policy (required)
Become a
Being up to date with Europe only takes a few seconds.
logo
subscriber!
Get our periodical newsletter sent to your inbox!
Your information will never shared with a third party.
I have read and agreed the Privacy Policy (required)