At the origins of the Political Discourse of the 5-Star Movement (M5S): Internet, direct democracy, and the “future of the past.”

The 5-star Movement is a political party in Italy operating almost exclusively online. It was officially established as a political movement in 2009, and quickly became the second most important political force in Italy. The party (or non-party as defined by its members) grew from a series of advocacy campaigns launched in the early Noughties by Beppe Grillo, a popular comedian, and Roberto Casaleggio, a web entrepreneur, using the then new communication forms of blogging, online forums, and Meetup platforms. The web is not just a tool for the movement, but an integral part of the party’s ideology, which advocates the advent of direct democracy thanks to web technologies.

Unlike traditional political parties, the Movement operates almost exclusively online, without any headquarters and no non-digital types of communication (until recently, candidates were forbidden to give interviews on TV or to the press); Beppe Grillo’s blog (www.beppegrillo.it), used as an aggregator by early activists, is now the main “spokesperson” of the party; it is not just a tool of communication that replaces traditional party newspapers, but an integral part of the party’s life and of its history.

At the same time, the party thrived as a protest movement because it carefully crafted a “bipartisan populism” that does not allow to label the Movement or its members as either left-winged or right-winged, but draws largely from both spheres of protest vote. Consequently, the position of the 5-Star Movement on key (and divisive) issues such as immigration and the Eurozone strongly oscillates, the party’s communication on “ideologically charged” issues is characterised by strong u-turns.

This research will first give an overview of the relation between the 5-Star Movement and the World Wide Web, particularly the blog. It will analyse how this relation evolved over the years and why the analysis of the blog is fundamental to understanding the ideology and practices of the party.

In second instance, it will run a comparison of the live V archived blog (through the Internet Archives) to test whether it would be possible to reconstruct the evolution of the political discourse of the 5-Star Movement without web archives. The blog makes its post available online from 2005 onwards; this paper will test whether archived blog posts have been altered to reflect the newest line on these divisive issues, ultimately to argue about the importance of web archives as the only tool to reconstruct the evolving ideology of a party that officially communicates only through the World Wide Web.