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BBC World News - now with all content guaranteed sexed down By Mark Steyn (Filed: 26/07/2003)
Good evening. Reports that the former Italian leader Benito Mussolini is "dead" and "hanging" "upside down" at a petrol station were received with scepticism in Rome today. Our "reporter" - whoops, scrub the inverted commas round "reporter", the scare-quotes key on the typewriter's jammed again. Anyway our reporter Andrew "Gilligan" is "on" the scene "in" Milan. Andrew...
Andrew Gilligan: I'm leaning on a lamp post at the corner of the street in case a certain little duce swings by, and I don't see any dead dictators, John. But then the Allies have a history of making these premature announcements...
He's just above your head, Andrew. I know you don't like to do wide shots, but, if the camera pulls back, I think you'll find that's definitely a finger tickling the back of your ear...
AG: Well, there you are. He's not hanging from a petrol station, is he? He's hanging from a rope attached to a girder on the forecourt of a petrol station. We've become all too familiar with the Allies playing fast and loose with the facts.
Yes, indeed, Andrew. And contradictory reports that he was hanging from a lamp-post have led some observers to question the accuracy of the intelligence on which the "liberation" of Milan went ahead.
AG: That's very true, John. Senior figures in Downing Street are said to have demanded the whole story be "sexed up" by inserting a glamorous mistress, preferably knickerless. Hang on, I've been plunged into total darkness. Must be another power failure caused by inept Allied administration.
I think that's a skirt that's just fallen over your head. And what about those crowds behind you dancing the tarantella, singing "Funiculi, Funicula", and so forth?
AG: Well, John, it's yet another protest at the deteriorating security situation. As you can see, people are very worked up. Many haven't been paid in days. My own translator says it's over a week since his last cheque from the National Fascist Party Propaganda Office.
Thank you, Andrew. Joining us now is Harold Pinter. What do you think when you see these bodies hanging outside a petrol station?
Harold Pinter: No blood for oil, chum. Isn't that what they told us? Ha-bloody-ha.
Yet more spin, Robert Fisk? Or is that really him on that girder?
Robert Fisk: I doubt it. Gerda is more of a German name, and I can't see him with a German mistress. And if he had one, he wouldn't take her to a petrol station. A railway station, maybe. The Mussolini I know - the Mussolini who says, "Mister Robert, if only more Englishmen could make linguini as good as yours" - has a full head of hair, like Harpo Marx. But, if he is dead, then following the disastrous setback of D-Day, this is just more bad news for the Allies.
Thanks, Robert. Meanwhile, international aid organisations continue to express concern about Italy's worsening humanitarian catastrophe. Joining us now are Jonathan Steele of the Guardian and Will Day of CARE International. Mr Day, you recently wrote in The Daily Telegraph that Italy is "on its knees"...
Will Day: Absolutely. The Allies have been in Milan several hours, and there's still a total lack of basic services. I was just in the Piazzale Loreto and I was staggered by the chaotic queues outside the petrol station there.
Jonathan Steele: That's right, Will. Many are upset at the damage that's being done to Milan's infrastructure by random dangling. Does the coalition seriously expect us to believe it can invade an entire continent but it's powerless to prevent an outbreak of girder dangling?
Thank you, gentlemen. Meanwhile, the turbulent region's only independent TV network, al-Dente, reported that most Italians refuse to believe that the former duce is really dead. Joining me now are French intellectual theorist Michel Foucault and the leading Italian fundamentalist cleric, Pastor Al Forno, a vocal critic of the Allied administration.
Pastor Al Forno: This is yet more Hollywood-style trickery from the Americans. In the bars of Rome they are certain that this is a doctored still from Esther Williams's aquatic ballet in Million-Dollar Mermaid, with Esther and the girls diving off the boards retouched to look like hanging fascists. If you look closely, you can see the outlines of the swimsuits under the blackshirts. And the cheering Italian peasants in the background are Victor Mature and Walter Pidgeon. This propaganda is so crude it's laughable.
But it's 1945 and Million-Dollar Mermaid won't be made till 1952. Isn't that the case, Professor Foucault?
Michel Foucault: Ah, mon cher BBC ami, the very concept of time is a social construct intended to produce effects of reality within a false chronological discourse. For all we know, Mademoiselle Williams's movie may already be in development at MGM.
Thank you, M le Professeur. As the situation in post-war Europe deteriorates, a new poll shows that 20 per cent of Germans believe the British were behind the invasion of Poland.
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