Smile stronger than sword

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Struggling frenetically in keeping ourselves updated we often drop out some important judgments just because they belong to a recent past, even if they are often dramatically contemporary  both from juridical and social point of view.

That is the case of a decree a Roman Court dating back in 1989 which clearly outlines the borders of satire rights.

The subject of that judgement was a case between Nicolazzi, at that time the Italian Minister of Public Works, and Ugo Tognazzi, one of the most famous Italian comedian of all times, who scared for over fifty years our cinema describing vices and virtues of Italian society.

During a performance of “The Miser of Molière” in a Roman theatre, Tognazzi went down in the audience area denouncing a heavy robbery of gold. Groping among spectators, looking for his gold, Tognazzi (alias “Arpagon”) asked to the laughing audience if, by chance, they knew where a fellow called Nicolazzi was, being in actor’s opinion, the author of the robbery. The actor exploited an obvious homonymy with the Minister name. The Minister in question declared himself offended “in his name, honour and reputation”.

The case was brought to the attention of the Court of Rome which discharged the actor from any liabilities related to the sentences pronounced during the performance stating that “in order to be effective, the satire from an humoristic point of view, shall hurt and hurt badly if needed”.

We cannot forget the social function exercised by the satire for ages, since the time of the ancient Greek and Roman authors, which high-lightened the bare truth of leading people and politicians.

The satire, armed with the smile, achieves the healthy function “to moderate power, to deglamourize and to humanize people with fame and to humiliate the arrogant”. In this respect politicians must be conscious that there is a “social interest of the community to know even details of  private lives, accordingly to the interest of the community to check the public functions and all their aspects, which may very well interfere with the evaluation of suitability of the person in charge of those functions”.

It is easy to catch how modern the words of the Roman Court are.

The satire has played, especially in the last decade, a prominent role in public life of Italy, as precious function of social control, inherited by a millenary tradition.

Freedom of satire is anyway tied up with the comedian role: if the comedian moves from the theatre stage to the political stage, his/her satirical witticism from comical and grotesque turn in offences to the person addressed and to democracy in particular.

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