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(en) Workers Solidarity No 73 - Review: Berlusconi's Mousetrap

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 6 Dec 2002 01:22:08 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

In July 2001 over a quarter of a million people gathered
to protest against the G8
in Genoa. The Italian state
responded to these demonstrations with violent
repression. Eighteen thousand cops were drafted into
the city; they beat and gassed thousands of people off
the streets, arrested hundreds and shot one young
Italian man in the head.

Berlusconi's Mousetrap is a feature length documentary
produced by Irish Indymedia http://www.indymedia.ie
about the events in Genoa.
The film is based on footage shot by Irish Indy media and
some film culled from the International Indymedia archive.
It is obvious watching the documentary that considerable
effort has gone into the selection and editing of the footage
as well as the sourcing and translation of Italian material for
the film. The result is an intelligent, complex and
accomplished documentary that undoubtedly captures the
spirit and atmosphere of a city where a political carnival
degenerated into a police riot.

The footage of the G8 leaders, the demonstrations and the
street battles is supplemented by numerous interviews with
protestors, politicians, Genoan residents and media types.
Throughout the film various testimonies and analyses
written about Genoa are read by actors and used as a
voiceover. More general musings about the world and the
state we are in come courtesy of recordings of speeches
from those old warhorses of the left John Pilger and Tony
Benn. The film also liberally quotes from Guy Debord's
critique of modern consumer capitalism "The Society of the

The film begins with the build up to the protest and the
transformation of Genoa city centre into a fortified military
zone, the so called red zone, to protect the G8. We see
protestors arrive from all over the world and take part in a
large march in support of immigrant rights; an event that
was characterized by a joyful sense of possibility and
solidarity. But as an interviewee remarks in the film "when
power exerts itself it creates a desert" and the next day the
police moved against the demonstrators with unbridled
ferocity as they marched towards the perimeter of the red

The film documents the police brutality in grueling detail. It
is with this extraordinary footage that Berlusconi's
Mousetrap really comes into it's own as a compelling piece
of filmmaking. In one almost nightmarish sequence the film
is slowed down, showing the police repeatedly pummel and
kick people, sweating from exertion, while the voiceover
narrates the testimony of an Irishman who was attacked by
the police and then arrested. In custody this Irishman
endured beatings and death threats and relates how
delirious and jubilant cops beat, threatened and pissed upon
other detainees while forcing some of them to sing fascist
songs. Again and again we see the police gassing and
attacking people without provocation.

After the shooting dead of a protestor and two days of street
battles the police launched a nightime raid on some of the
demonstrators sleeping quarters in Scuola Diaz and the
IndyMedia Centre. Ostensibly, the police were searching for
rioters but as the film makes clear the intention was to
terrorise the demonstrators and destroy any evidence they
might have of police brutality. Berlusconi's Mousetrap
proves in an effective and shocking way that their efforts
were in vain.

However, I do have some reservations about the film.
Berlusconi's Mousetrap isn't just a straightforward account
of what happened in Genoa. It poses the question- were the
events in Genoa part of a trap; a series of events engineered
to divide and demoralize the anti-capitalist movement?. It
also asks to what extent the Black Bloc http://struggle.ws/rbr/rbr6/black.html
a section in the demonstrations made up mainly of anarchists, was
infiltrated and manipulated by the Italian state into
providing a pretext and an opportunity to attack and
criminalise the movement as a whole.

This is where I think the film is at its weakest and least
convincing. The film suggests that the political decisions
that shaped the course of events in Genoa are shrouded in
mystery and a lot of time is devoted to vignettes and stories
that validate the idea that what happened on streets of
Genoa was part of a grand and secret conspiracy. This is
reinforced by the use sound effects, music, and surveillance
camera footage.

It is not that the Italian state is incapable of conspiracy and
intrigue. On the contrary Italian history over the past forty
years proves that the Italian elite is endlessly drawn to
Machiavellian plots that serve their own ends. It is simply
that in this case the "conspiracy" is an open secret. After all,
well before Genoa anti-capitalist protestors had been
batoned in Seattle and Prague http://struggle.ws/wsm/news/2000/prague_sept.html
and shot at in Gothenburg
and police forces and governments had begun, quite
publicly, cooperating and pooling information in order to
neutralize and contain the growing anti-capitalist
movement. There was, or is, no doubt that they intend to do
this through repressive police action and black propaganda.

Berlusconi's Mousetrap pays a great deal of attention to the
role that the Black Bloc played in Genoa. The Black Bloc is
depicted as an inexplicably destructive horde, a tiny
minority who were infiltrated, given free rein to go on the
rampage and used by the state to break up the movement. I
am sure there was police infiltration and some agent
provocateurs amongst the Black Bloc but this kind of thing
is just ordinary statecraft. Nor is it a surprise that the
mainstream media and the Italian authorities made a fuss
out of the bank burning and looting of supermarkets by the
Black Bloc as well as some of the more stupid and
counterproductive actions such as burning small cars and
the like. The film makes too much of all this and at times
seems to be scapegoating the Black Bloc for what happened
in Genoa. We certainly have to be able to rethink and
criticise the strategies and methods we use but Berlusconi's
Mousetrap doesn't really ask why these people chose to
engage in direct action or what alternatives we have. The
film comes close to representing the Black Bloc in much
the same way as the mainstream media does. This crude
and banal stereotype of the "sinister and violent" Black Bloc
serves only to help criminalise the movement as a whole
that is often portrayed as a mindless, traveling rent-a-mob.

This general tendency in the film to see things in a
conspiratorial light, I believe, risks emptying things of their
proper significance; in the twilight all cats are grey. Genoa
becomes, when viewed in this way, a pristine moment
manufactured in a laboratory of power rather than part of an
ongoing and shifting battle between the powerful and the
disenfranchised. This might also explain why the film
spends very little time examining differences within the
anti-globalisation movement or does little to situate the
events within a broader history of the left and state
repression in Italy and doesn't mention the widespread
demonstrations against Berlusconi's government held
across Italy after Genoa. If the events are being
manufactured and the outcome is a foregone conclusion
then the details are fairly irrelevant.

It is also unclear how Guy Debord's incisive dialectical
aphorisms, that are used at regular intervals throughout the
film, fits into the filmmaker's analysis of events in Genoa.
Within the vaguely paranoid atmosphere of the film this
citation seems more like a stylistic device rather than a
theoretical underpinning for historical analysis.

These criticisms aside Berlusconi's Mousetrap is a well
made and astute documentary that tells an important story
and proves once again the relevance of the Indymedia
project and reminds us that "our weapons are imagination
and unpredictability- the things they don't have".

Wu Ming

Producer: Irish Independent Media Centre
Photography: IMC Ireland and IMC Genoa
Editors: Eamonn Crudden, Joe Carolan, Leah Doherty
Director: Eamonn Crudden
No Copyright
Available from IFC bookshop or contact ecrudden@hotmail.com

Due to reasons of space a much shorter version of this
review was published in Workers Solidarity No 73. To read
the shorter version dowload the PDF file of WS73

See also

Against capitalist globalisation http://struggle.ws/wsm/news/2001/genoa.html
Analysis of and eyewitness accounts from the struggles
against corporate globalisation

July 17th 2001 - Irish anarchist reports from Genoa [with
A four section report with around 50 photos from an Irish
anarchist in Genoa

This page is from the print version of the Irish
Anarchist paper 'Workers Solidarity'  http://struggle.ws/worksol.html .

We also  provide PDF  http://struggle.ws/ws/pdf.html files of
all our publications for you to print out and distribute locally

Print out the PDF file of this issue http://struggle.ws/wsm/pdf/ws/73.html

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