Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Protocols of the Elders of Brussels

Conspiracy theories are a alive and well in Italy.

Today’s editorial by Marco Travaglio in Il Fatto Quotidiano is headlined “Giù il cappuccio” (Off with the hood) which he repeats in the text. His point is that the new junior ministers in Monti’s government have political pedigrees (and sometimes not very clean ones) behind their “technical” qualifications. Fair enough… but why introduce the innuendo that they are somehow masons.

Travaglio is a liberal who for a decade or more has been the country’s conscience on corruption and malpractice, mostly Berlusconi’s but not only. So why does he stoop to plot theories?

From the moment Monti was given the job of forming a government, there was a swirl of insinuations first around him and then around his cabinet and now, around the junior ministers too.

Mario Monti after all, is an ideal target for conspiracy theories. He is apparently a man of power but ever understated, quiet and confident with a subtle sense of humour. This in a country where power is usually advertised loudly, certainly in Berlusconi’s version but even before that, ministers and cardinals had costumes and cars which showed their status. In the past the only downplayed power in Italy was the mafia, the ultimate conspiracy.

Monti’s power too, is hidden, so the conspiracy logic goes. He comes from an elite university, the Bocconi in Milan both as a student, a teacher, rector and president. A good proportion of his cabinet are also Bocconiani, enhancing the idea of an old boy network; the rest come from other universities or are managers or professionals (an admiral for Defence, a magistrate for Justice, a diplomat for Foreign Affairs). Monti is also a real catholic (in Italy almost everyone is nominally catholic but few practice beyond rites of passage – hatching, matching and dispatching) as are a significant number of the cabinet. Then there is the banking connection; Monti worked as an international advisor to Goldman Sachs and more sinister for the conspiracy theorists, he has been an active member of the Bilderberg group and the Trilateral Commission. Both are very discreet meeting places for people of influence who discuss international politics and economics off the record and as such easily branded as cabals of devious leaders planning world dominance.

His time in Brussels is well known and well documented as is the mutual respect between him and the EU establishment. But for some, that too is evidence of underhand activity.

A few days after Monti’s appointment, a very loquacious and publicity-seeking Freemason, Giole Magaldi, declared that Monti was a mason on a controversial radio chat show La Zanzara. And that an unspecified number of his cabinet were also masons.

It is difficult to judge how many Italians take the “plot” seriously but the beauty of any self-respecting conspiracy is that it’s impossible to disprove a negative so the temptation to think there must be something there is strong. The original “Protocols” were a plagiarised fraud, uncovered 18 years after they were first published in 1903 but that did not stop Hitler using the text as if it were true. Even today, copies are on sale in many countries purporting to be serious evidence of the “Jewish plot”. It is a story which is flexible (and vague) enough to bend into most real history over the last century which is why it is longlasting and devastating as an antisemitic tract.

The Monti protocols are far more banal but to sustain the plot we can see that the banks (or many of them) have indeed been supported by governments from the US to Greece. There are indeed networks running through Monti’s cabinet (it would be surprising and disturbing if none of them knew any of the others). Hardly Dan Brown stuff, though.
Monti and his colleagues have experience and achievements which can be judged on their merit; his presence in both the Bilderberg group and the Trilateral are part of this curriculum and give us an idea of what sort of policies he will put forward and the methods he will use to implement them.

So far the talk has been of anything but radical policies. The most likely are what he has promised, liberal economics tempered by social justice – hardly a plot. Especially if he succeeds.

There are indeed flaws in some of the ministers and junior ministers’ CVs. Some are definitely not neutral, non-political technicians and some apparently have some shadows in their past and potential conflicts of interest in their present. But Travaglio and other serious journalists should concentrate on that and the real policies that the government proposes, not hoods, aprons and plots.

As Monti was putting his government together, a friend wrote to me asking if he was Jewish… if he was, the last piece of the plot theory would have fallen into place. But who knows, maybe going to mass and appointing lots of Catholics to his cabinet is all just a coverup and Brussels really is run by Jewish bankers and masons… who are preparing to take over Italy.

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