March 29, 2006

The "boiled babies" remark.

So Berlusconi insulted Mao? Find something more substantial to get mad about -- even if you are celebrating the "Year of Italy."
[Berlusconi's] comments on Maoist China were first made at a rally on Sunday.

"I am accused of having said that the [Chinese] Communists used to eat children," he said.

"But read The Black Book of Communism and you will discover that in the China of Mao, they did not eat children, but had them boiled to fertilise the fields."

He tried to calm the furore on Wednesday, telling Italian TV: "It was questionable irony, I admit it, because this joke is questionable. But I did not know how to restrain myself."
"It was questionable irony, I admit it, because this joke is questionable. But I did not know how to restrain myself" -- I love that. Our politicians should try that apology format: I did not know how to restrain myself.


Sean E said...

I'm just saddened that pointing out that Mao was, y'know, kinda evil can be seen as an insult to "1.3bn people". Are we at the point where even long-dead tyrants are beyond criticism? It's one thing for the ChiComs to get their panties in a twist, but it's really unfortunate that Italian political opponents would use it to score points.

jeff said...

Not wanting to read the "Black Book of Mao or Communism or other failed political systems," can anyone tell me if it indeed says that?

And if it's historically accurate?

Smilin' Jack said...

"But read The Black Book of Communism and you will discover that in the China of Mao, they did not eat children, but had them boiled to fertilise the fields."

I can certainly understand why the ChiComs are insulted by this stupid claim. If you use children to fertilize fields, you only get a fraction of the protein in them back in the crops. The Chicoms would never be so inefficient...I'm sure they did in fact eat the children.

Palladian said...

Isn't there a quite active communist party in Italy? Not that they're Maoists, but not that there's really much difference between subsets of communists either.

Italy is not a place to turn for coherent political philosophy, on any part of the spectrum.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Douglas Hoffer said...

Ann said:

"Our politicians should try that apology format: I did not know how to restrain myself."

I think President Clinton might have used that one...

chezDiva said...

I detest Communism and everything it stands for but Berlusconi was wrong to act the way he did. He's acting like a teenager instead of as the Italian Prime Minister.

As for his political opponents they are bloody leeches who will use anything against him. It's a shame that they can't be boiled and used as fertilizer. See I can say that as a lowly blogger but Berlusconi can't he can only privately think it.

Al Maviva said...

Y'know, you build a country out of war and failed-empire-ravaged rubble, they call you "Great Leader." You reform land policy, drag a country kicking and screaming out of the dark ages into, well, at least the late Enlightenment period, they call you "Father of the Country." They practically worship you.

But you kill just a hundred million people...

Gaius Arbo said...

I used almost the exact same defense in my blog entry on this very subject.

But I did not know how to restrain myself

I think he reads my blog.....

Dan from Madison said...

Jeff: I am reading the Black Book of Communism right now but I am not even up to China yet. I am only to around the mid thirties. I can't overstate the amount of death and violence the communists begat on this earth. Honestly, I can only read ten or twenty pages or so and I have to put it down and do something else. I would not be surprised one bit if I found some sort of baby torture in the book eventually.

reader_iam said...

Ah, Silvio--my hands-down favorite world politician, for sheer entertainment value. And I think the man is actually telling the truth--again, how refreshing!--when he says he doesn't know how to restrain himself.

Among other things:

He once kissed an Islamic bride at a Turkish wedding. He supposedly implied a Danish official should sleep with Berlusconi's wife.

He's compared himself to Jesus Christ and to Napoleon within a matter of days.

A couple of months ago, he said he'd practice abstinence until his country's elections.

But my very, very, very favorite Berlusconi story come via an interview he gave to Newsweek correspondents in which he implies that somehow, Vladimir Putin and President Bush held discussions about Silvio's sex life (more accurately, his purported lack thereof due to his election related abstinence pledge):

"What about his claim that he'd give up sex until after the elections? Berlusconi laughed, loving the question. "Absolutely the contrary," he said. So did that mean... he's having more sex? "No, no, no," said the prime minister, who is married to former actress Veronica Lario. A priest had asked him to make all the necessary sacrifices to win the election; Berlusconi had asked if that included chastity. "No, I'm not asking you to do that!" said the priest. But the press got it all wrong—again—saying he'd given up sex. "Naturally, many of my friends were concerned," Berlusconi told NEWSWEEK, "to the point that Putin called me and said that both he and Bush were very worried about me."

Don't you just love the imagery of Vlad and Geo dishin' about whether Silvio's getting laid (or not) and them getting all "worried" about it?

I sure do--thinking about it cracks me up as much as it did when that story came out a month ago.

Long live Silvio, his pancake make-up, and his not knowing how to restrain himself, I say!

(To be fair, Silvio says his problem is that the media is out to get him. In fact, he's claimed that he gets in trouble for saying the stuff that he does because of a left-wing media conspiracy--despite the fact that Berlusconi's government controls state-run television and most private stations are owned by his personal holding company.)

CB said...

Here is a video of the Prime Minister pantomiming sodomy of an unsuspecting bystander:

Jacob said...

The Chicoms would never be so inefficient...
We are talking about the same people who had all the sparrows killed, thus starting a famine? I'm sure they'd be that inefficient.

Chris O'Brien said...

Does this qualify as a "gaffe" under the wonderful Micahel Kinsley definition?

Jacob said...

The Black Book of Communism has this quote on 492 about the Henan region in 1959:
Thousands of detainees were systematically tortured, and children were killed and even boiled and used as fertilizer––at the very moment when a national campaign was telling people to "learn the Henan way." [emphasis added]

Interestingly enough this quote can be found further down on the same page:
In Henan and elsewhere there were many cases of cannibalism (63 were recorded officially): children were sometimes eaten in accordance with a communal decision."

The source for most of this page is Jasper Becker's Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine which says that Qisi Party Secretary Jiang Xuezhon was contemporously rumoured to have boiled hundreds of children and turned them into fertilizer, of which 20 were confirmed (100).

Jacob said...

PS– Qisi is in Henan.

sierra said...

Jeff, Dan: There's a book called "Scarlet Memorial" in which the author, Zheng Yi, describes officially sanctioned cannibalism in the Guangxi province during the Cultural Revolution. His theory -- and I can't vouch for its substance -- is that the cannibalism arose from a long-standing reputation on the part of a local minority group, and was used by the dominant Han as a way to terrorize the region. (The latter unfortunately not so hard to believe, given the times.)

There are plenty of other accounts of cannibalism in Communist China, but as a more prosaic byproduct of famine. One of the most notable/recent of these is "Hungry Ghosts" by Jasper Becker, which covers the "Great Leap Forward" period around 1960. There's been some debate over whether that famine, which killed around 30 million Chinese, was deliberately sanctioned (a la Ukraine) or criminally ignorant. Myself, I don't think the distinction is all that important, but Jung Chang's recent biography of Mao brings us evidence it was a deliberate policy. (Haven't read it.) One might argue that to sanction such large-scale famine is to sanction cannibalism, since one leads inexorably to the other, but it's a bit of a stretch.

Jacob: I'm not sure what "communal decision" the Black Book is referring to, but there's plenty of evidence of a gruesome custom, practiced during the famine, of exchanging children. If that's what's being referred to, I'd say it might qualify as a communal decision, but possibly not what the communists themselves had in mind.

Simon said...

Berlusconi quoted "The Black Book of Communism" to criticize Communist China?

I don't want to comment how true his comment is. But how would this comment gain his a little more votes/supports in Italy? What was his point to spread out some old story from a book? Is he not knowing the great change in China in the last 20, 30 years? Anyway, what does he really know about China?

At his age as a seem-to-be important politician, shouldn't he know better the world (including red communist china, his enemy) than a book published in 1999. Don't you think he could come up with something better than copying from that 1999 book?

Where the heck are his ignorance and hostility coming from?

Yes, I am Chinese, but not working for the govenment, and not living in China. My wife is from Europe, not Chinese. But, as you know I love my country. And I have to say, some books tell stories you want to believe.

Eli Blake said...

Berlusconi is a wacko (I posted on it here: Il Duce returns.

This remark is tame compared to the remarks he made claiming that he was the greatest European leader since Napoleon (as if years of war and national ruin was 'great') and then comparing himself to Jesus Christ, saying, "I am the Jesus Christ of politics."

Sylvio Berlusconi needs to be hauled off in a straightjacket and put in a padded cell, IMO.

sierra said...

Simon, it's indeed odd that an Italian politician would be commenting on what happened in China forty-some-odd years ago. But it's also odd that publication of the Black Book would itself have caused such a furor throughout Europe (America yawned). Communist parties are far stronger in countries like France and Italy, and they had an uneasy relation to actual communism, particularly that practiced in Russia.