Listen to this 4 minute clip from this week’s Ralph Nader Radio Hour Podcast by Professor Ugo Mattei, lawyer and activist who masterminded the Italian campaign against the privatization of water.
Professor Mattei illuminates that not only was social media not helpful, it was a hinderance.
Here’s a preview of the clip. I’ll post the full transcript when it’s up on Ralph’s site.
“People understand how important it is not to leave water in corporate hands. Giving water to corporations is putting ourselves literally and physically at the mercy of those monsters.”
“People today after ten years of neo-liberalism and social media are not able to understand physical struggles. The social media are against social movements. It’s complete rhetoric and narrative that social media are crucial for the success of these kinds of battles.”
They’ll be coming after our water too, people. Posting about it on social media won’t stop them.
Here’s the transcript with Ralph and Ugo, talking about the efficacy of social media for building movements.
“You cannot really build democracy and fight the power structure by virtual reality. You have to do it on the ground with real people.”
Ralph Nader: Ugo, this is part of the phenomena is why people from Britain to Italy are revolting against the European Union and the centralization of power and the rejection of what people want in the respective countries. But you mentioned that the role of social media was starting to weaken your effort to rebound in this area?
Ugo Mattei: Well the social media at the time were practically not there. This is a very different . . . this is a very interesting perspective that they can give you because that was not over. This whole story about corporatization in Italy is not over at all. We are still fighting. And right now as we are talking, we are closing a campaign that we carried on for the last six months in order to reintroduce a statute in Parliament, okay, as a popular initiative that was the very same statute that the Berlusconi… that we protected with the referendum 10 years ago, but that was never enacted into law by Parliament. So this is why I was telling the story. So what happened after the referendum, was we got this intervention of the European powers. Berlusconi got scared, that was July 2011, Berlusconi got scared and passed the law, hastily passed the law unmaking the result of the referendum altogether, okay. Basically he passed the emergency decree in August 15. It was called the Decreto di Ferragosto. August 15, he passed a statute saying the result of the referendum is Tamquam non esset, things are going to go as before, okay. So he basically did what Draghi and Trichet told him to do. So what I had to do, that was August, me and others, but that one was really pretty much my own thing, I wrote an article on The Manifesto, which is the newspaper, asking a local government that was run by the left, the only one in Italy, to sue government against this law, okay. So I challenged that in front of the constitutional court and we won that one. So the constitutional court said he’s unconstitutional for a government to pass a law that unmakes the will of the people once the will of the people was expressly and formally expressed in a referendum. This was the turning point. That was a decision of the constitutional court. We gained that; Berlusconi got in crisis. 2011 the government of Berlusconi collapsed because Berlusconi was not able to deliver what they asked him to deliver from Brussels. This is the true story. All the rest, the girlfriends and all the other [bleep] is just something that is part of the folklore. The truth of the matter is that Berlusconi was required to privatize these assets. We are talking about €250 billion euros, okay. We’re talking about the real serious cash. Berlusconi was required to corporatize that. He couldn’t deliver it because he was embattled, and so what happened was that the President at the time, Napolitano, put a new government which are the government of Mario Monti, was an European Commissioner, basically telling him they’re going to privatize anyway. So we have a complete constitutional crisis on that, a complete constitutional crisis . . .
Ralph Nader: By the way, our listeners should know that Berlusconi is a multi-billionaire. He owns . .
Ugo Mattei: He’s a tramp.
Ralph Nader: Trump admires him. Ugo Mattei: Yeah, of course.
Ralph Nader: And he owns a lot of radio and TV stations. He’s totally without any sense of boundaries or rule of law, so that’s who Ugo and his colleagues were taking on. Ugo, because of the time limitations, I want to have our readers learn about what you said could be common example for global strategy, that means including the United States, in your very interesting way of getting people’s attention. You call it an experiment in transforming indignation, otherwise known as anger, into new institutions of the commons where people will control what they own and not have it taken away by the corporate state or any other variation of corporate global domination. Could you explain that as briefly as you could and how far it’s getting and why it relates to people in our country?
Ugo Mattei: Well, that’s exactly what they were trying to say about the social media, so at the time there were no social media yet, very important. This time now, 10 years later in which we are doing the same thing now to try to transform indignation in law, that is to say to try to have, finally after 12 years, the reform of the civil code be put into the Italian books of law, okay. We’ve been collecting more signatures now and we found it hard to get 50,000 signatures, okay. So we got 1.5 million to introduce the referendum, now we find it difficult to find 50,000. We actually got it barely because the people today, after 10 years of neo-liberalism and 10 years of social media, are not able anymore to understand physical struggles.
Ralph Nader: This is an amazing comment.
Ugo Mattei: This is really important; the social media are against social movements. It’s complete rhetoric and narrative that the internet and the social media are crucial for the success of these kind of battles. I think it’s a complete . . .
Ralph Nader: It’s supposed to be just the opposite, right?
Ugo Mattei: Supposed to be the opposite, but it’s not true. That’s what the people believe, but it’s not true. It’s simply plainly false. The social media are not avenues of emancipation, of political emancipation of the people. Actually they are ways to keep the people attached to their laptops, hypnotized by their cell phones, believing they are doing politics by writing “I like it” on some Facebook program, giving away their personal data, creating a society of control and a society of surveillance, and of spectacle, that is the opposite on what we try to create when we talk. We need institutions of the commons. Institutions of the commons are institutions that require physical participation, that require engagement, that require thorough discussion, not slogans. We have to invent institutions, new institutions that are going to be in place for the next 100 years that are able to substitute institutional constructions that took 200 years to capital to build and to destroy with its own corporatization, okay. We are talking about really important war we have to do and we cannot do that on Twitter, okay?
Ralph Nader: Ugo, obviously, it’s music to my ears. We’ve been trying to say this to people, but you actually saw it on the ground when you had to go physically and meet and connect with people. You collected far more signatures and aftermath energy by far.
Ugo Mattei: By far.
Ralph Nader: Then when you had access to theoretically all the people on the social media.
Ugo Mattei: Yes.
Ralph Nader: So you’re saying you cannot really build democracy and fight the power structure by virtual reality.
Ugo Mattei: No.
Ralph Nader: You have to do it on the ground with real people.