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Silvio Berlusconi's Angry 'Whores' Still Love Him

I went to a pro-Berlusconi rally in Rome. It was pretty weird.

A Berlusconi supporter – one of the self-described "whores" who attended the protest. His sign reads: “Shame on you, court of injustice!”

Despite losing millions of votes in the last election, Silvio Berlusconi has managed to cling on to a good deal of his political power. The Great Seducer is still part of the coalition government, together with the Democratic Party, theoretically his long-time rival. His main concerns come, as usual, from his troubled relationship with the Italian penal code.

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On June the 25th, Berlusconi was handed a seven-year prison sentence (though he has a right to appeal) and a life ban from public office (again, he doesn't have to leave his seat in Parliament until after the appeals process). The indictments are serious: bribery and underage prostitution. The case that led to his trial dates back to May 2010, when an underage Moroccan prostitute, Karima El Mahroug – also known as Ruby Rubacuori ("Ruby the Heart Stealer")  was brought into a Milan police station on a theft charge and immediately released thanks to a convenient intervention by Berlusconi.

A little while later, the most spectacular political scandal in Italian history emerged, which was soon known to the world as "bunga bunga". After a series of journalistic investigations, more and more details began to surface, enlightening anyone who cared to Berlusconi's wild sex parties – mostly made up of young escorts – at his villa in Arcore. The former prime minister and his legal defence team described the gatherings as, simply, "classy dinners". Which obviously fooled no one, with the DA's office in Milan believing the meet-ups involved a "system of prostitutes organised for Silvio Berlusconi's sexual fulfilment".

Front cover of Il Foglio that calls for the demonstration.

In the rest of the world, just a slimline portion of any of those accusations would have been enough to irreversibly destroy a political career. But not in Italy. While the hardliners in Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party reacted badly, talking explicitly of a coup d’état, the Democratic party basically ignored the court's sentence, being far too concerned with saving the bipartisan government.

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On June the 26th, Berlusconi’s supporters staged a rally in Rome’s old town centre, just in front of the French embassy. The demonstration – sensitively named “We’re all whores” – was organised by the editor of Italian daily Il Foglio, Giuliano Ferrara. The journalist is well known in Italy for moving from the extreme left to the extreme right without really explaining his actions whatsoever.

Here's a video of Ferrara getting ready for the demonstration:

I arrived in Piazza Farnese at around 7PM, completely surrounded by "whores". Most of them came dressed up as decrepit old women, others were clearly well-acquainted with the local botox technician and the rest were either hysterical or middle-aged men with lipstick smeared all over their faces. Looking around, I noticed a raft of journalists, MPs and former MPs peppered throughout the crowd.

Before Ferrara arrived, I followed a guy – clearly wired out of his mind – as he raged around, desperately looking for microphones and shouting something about "justice" and "renewal for the PdL". As soon as the journalists lost interest, he offered his hand to the audience. Nobody shook it.

Soon after, Ferrara arrived and climbed on top of a van, with "Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones blasting out in the background. Ferrara's wife – writer and journalist, Anselma Dell’Olio – handed him a tube of lipstick, which he applied to his lips, sending, “a little kiss to Ilda Boccassini” – the judge responsible for Silvio Berlusconi’s prosecution during the last 15 years, and a woman fiercely hated by Italian right-wingers.

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Il Foglio editor Giuliano Ferrara applies his lipstick.

“This is a little show of our dissatisfaction,” Ferrara started, raising the microphone and taking a drag from his cigar. He continued, using the rest of his speech to proclaim that, "Berlusconi ain't no saint" and that "anyone should be able to commit little peccadillos" without ending up in the clutches of Milan's "turban-wearing judges". And, if the atmosphere wasn't quite toxic enough, the crowd responded by shouting, "At least we're not fags!"

Ferrara portrayed Berlusconi as a declining Don Quixote, going as far to describe him as a "mellow, seductive, rich and creative" man who "naturally attracts beautiful girls who are happy to be with him". Which is not only clearly false to anyone with eyes, but also raised the awkward issue of Ferrara, perhaps inadvertently, justifying statutory rape in front of a large crowd of people.

The Il Foglio editor went on to claim that the convictions of bribery are pure fabrication – that the famous call to the police station was in fact a “wonderful phone-call” made by a “statesman”. Cue some rabid applause from the crowd and a particularly nervy lady launching a tirade against the country's "ugly judges". I asked her what she thought of Ilda Boccassini. “Boccassini needs to be properly spanked,” she replied, proudly.

In the meantime, Ferrara was lamenting the "puritanism" of the left-wingers in their stance towards Silvio's "young friends". There's nothing wrong in looking for a shortcut to success, he said. The main thing is that these "prigs" [the left-wingers] don't like these girls' "lifestyle". Which is perhaps the first instance of a human being assuming that being paid to suck the dick of a Priapus statue while rich, powerful men stare at you lecherously can be classed as a "lifestyle".

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Italian politician Daniele Capezzone, a member of the People of Freedom Party.

A few steps away from me, I noticed former Minister of Agricultural Policy, Giancarlo Galan, shaking the hand of PdL spokesman, Daniele Capezzone. Looking beyond him, I realised that everyone was there (and, by everyone, I mean a number of high-ranking, right-wing Italian politicians).

Berlusconi's girlfriend, Francesca Pascale (in the orange dress). 

Berlusconi’s girlfriend, 28-year-old Francesca Pascale, suddenly appeared through the crowd and was immediately hounded by cameras and photographers. Someone asked her, “Do you feel like a whore, too?”

She answered, “I don’t feel a whore, and neither does Ruby.” The politician Giancarlo Galan, on the other hand, told a journalist that “he feels like a whore", before adding that, if everyone who took part in the elegant dinners at Arcore is going to be considered a whore, then he’s "the sluttiest one". Which, looking at his fluid, shiny face, made me throw up a little in my mouth.

Italian entrepreneur and politician Daniela Santanchè – a member of the People of Freedom Party.

Daniela Santanchè, one of Berlusconi's most loyal PdL MPs, screamed, “They have sentenced Silvio Berlusconi to death! What we witnessed yesterday isn’t worthy of a civilised country!” For the first – and probably last – time in my life, I agreed with her.

I moved towards the centre of the square and decided to dive into the heaving throng of Berlusconi disciples. Another middle-aged woman was loudly insulting Ilda Boccassini: “She’s a real bitch, a huge bitch! I mean, come on – on which basis you can convict a man whose only crime is being generous?”

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Another woman was telling a journalist that Silvio is more powerful than ever: “You don’t understand. Berlusconi is going to be more powerful because we aren't leaving him. Silvio will never walk alone. He never has.”

Davide Fabbri.

I bumped into Davide Fabbri, better known as “Davide The Viking” – a minor local celebrity who calls himself a "seduction coach" and claims to be related to Benito Mussolini. Two things that one man should maybe not brag about.

The Viking was holding a banner that read: “RUBY EXPLOITED BY MILAN’S TALIBAN JUDGES”. If that wasn't enough of a giveaway that he has certain issues with Italy's magistrates, he told me, "They’re suckers – traitors of the people who have to be judged by the people. We’re sick of this ideological mistreatment. We have cases of Muslim paedophiles and nobody says a thing!

Davide's friend, Antonio. 

I stopped Antonio, one of the Viking's friends, to ask him why he was supporting Silvio. “I’m here because of the exploitation of women,” he answered. “It’s what made me angry. Unfortunately, I was expecting Berlusconi’s sentence – I knew it could happen. But I also know the situation for women in Morocco and Italy; there are ten-year-old girls being forced to marry 30-something guys here in Italy. They often end up at the hospital beaten up or raped.”

Antonio paused and shook his hands in indignation: “And who do they punish? The only man in Italy who took a girl out of the streets, out of a difficult situation, gave her money to live and gave her a future. If it was me, they would have given me a prize. But since it was Berlusconi, they gave him seven years and a political life sentence.”

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I asked him what he thought of the fact that Silvio was paying these poor, underage girls for sex. "In this case, he was really a benefactor," he answered. "Because he could have used his power without giving them a dime. I’ve been a singer in clubs in my own small way. Girls came to me asking, ‘Please, could you help me find a job?’ So Imagine what Berlusconi could do! If he gave them money, he did it exclusively because he wanted to, because he wanted to help the girl [Ruby].”

“And what about the other girls?” I asked. “Berlusconi has also helped men, even though he's not gay!" Antonio answered, illuminating me to the idea that it's possible for one man to help another without either of them being gay. "He's saved the lives of many people. Berlusconi helped many people and gave money to many people, and I don’t think he fucked all of them.”

Members of Young Italy (The PdL youth wing) with a banner reading: "Berlusconi eternal leader."

Antonio was on fire, eagerly throwing out invective after insult after damning critique of the Italian magistrate system: "What they’re doing now to Berlusconi will happen to the left-wingers tomorrow! Yes, those rubbing their hands now, those that are happy. Remember this: it’s way better to spend a night as Berlusconi than a life as a sucker!"

As the demonstration was coming to an end, I felt a wave of resignation wash over me. "Shame on you Boccassini, shame on you judges!" Giuliano Ferrera roared from the stage, before masterfully subverting Shakespeare's most famous line to get over whatever point it was that he was trying to make: "To fuck or not to fuck, that is the question."

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The rest of us Italians have never had to make that choice, because Berlusconi has been fucking us in his own way on-and-off for the last 20 years, without paying us a dime.

Follow Leonardo on Twitter: @captblicero

More stuff about Silvio Berlusconi:

Did Berlusconi Buy Balotelli to Help His Election Bid?

I've Got an Alien in My Head

In Defence of Silvio Berlusconi