A few months ago, I was playing a video game called Sniper Elite 4; a third person action stealth video game that was set in the post-Nazi era of 1943 amid the fall of the Fascist Italian regime under Benito Mussolini. After I finished its story mode, the vibe of the video game is stuck within myself and triggered me to read more about the Nazi Italy. Video games indeed helps you trigger curiosity and make you learn more thing as what some memes on the internet say. This blog post, that is supposed to be an academic requirement also became an outlet of this video game geekery in a much broader sense.
Today, the democratic erosion in modern day Italy, as I may see is still not that prominent but that does not mean it is not under threat. The spotlight has been pointed to the Italian far-right politician and current Lega Nord leader, Matteo Salvini who has been known for his anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic messages presented in the media.
In the recent news from The Guardian, Italian senator Lilian Segre has increased her security due to extreme far-right threats when she passed a proposal for an Anti-Racism Commission. Segre, a Jewish and a holocaust victim is a Senator of Life in Italy. In her younger day, she got separated from her father during World War II. Two days after their separation, her father was killed.
Moreover, in an article from ANSA, published last October 17, 2019 headlines, Rally open to CasaPound — Salvini, where he stated. “We have opened the square to all Italians of good will… This (accusations) of a fascist rally makes everyone laugh, no one believes it anymore.”
CasaPound is a neo-fascist party which was inspired by a fascism-sympathizer, Ezra Pound where he supports the ideas of Mussolini. In the recent 2018 Italian General Elections, 0.9% of votes were give to the said party however, as per The Washington Post, the results may be minimal in nature, but if the neo-fascism propaganda continued to persuade many more people, this may soon be harmful considering the kind of messages they are expressing.
It is hard to admit that studying History is slowly losing its value by making wrong things right. Also, the concerns of the masses are being used for their own propaganda to persuade them for support to a cause that may not be presently harmful but will soon be felt in their society in the future.
The Mussolini Rhetoric
In Elizabeth Jean Nelson’s Communication Studies on Mussolini and the Rhetoric of Perpetual Struggle, she aimed to study how Mussolini created the concept of struggles and how it creates fascism movements throughout his leadership.
In the same publication written by Nelson (1991), she argued that Mussolini was able to “manufacture the use of struggle as both a theoretical and actual motivating force for social change.” She also explained that Mussolini was able to define that “through confrontations, this help secure Italian’s attention, loyalty and commitment towards the movement of fascism” where this has helped him throughout his dictatorship.
In a September 1920 public discourse of Mussolini, he mentioned his growing confidence of fascism, relayed by Nelson (1991):
Struggle is at the bottom of everything, because life is full of contrasts. There is love and hate, black and white, night and day, good and evil, and until these contrasts are balanced, struggle will always be at the root of human nature, as the supreme fatality… Today, there may be war, economic rivalry and conflicting ideas, but the day in which all struggle will cease will be a day of melancholy, will mean the end of all things will mean ruin. An attempt to return to peace and tranquility would mean fighting against the existing dynamic period.Benito Mussolini, “The Tasks of Fascism,” in Mussolini as Revealed in his Political Speeches, ed. and trans. Bernardo Quaranto di San Severino (London: J. M. Dent, 1923), 108-120. as cited by Elizabeth Jean Nelson’s “Nothing ever goes well enough”: Mussolini and the rhetoric of perpetual struggle (1991)
This rhetoric aims to mobilize Italians to prepare for an action, while they Mussolini’s party was also targeting a seat in the parliament. The rhetoric aims to explain the fascism is the answer to all the Italian struggles, as interpreted by Nelson (1991).
Nelson was able to share in her paper that Mussolini’s definition of physical struggle, where violent fascism, as Mussolini thinks that this is a heroic act:
Fascist violence, is heroism… This is the violence I approve and which I approve and which I uphold and which Fascism — and I speak to Fascist of all Italy — ought to make hers… Our friends have been heroes, their action has been that of warriors, their violence saintly and moral. We exalt them, we remember them and we will avenge them.”Benito Mussolini in San Severino, 162. as cited by Elizabeth Jean Nelson’s “Nothing ever goes well enough”: Mussolini and the rhetoric of perpetual struggle (1991)
To the eyes of Mussolini, this is the new Italy he totally envisions, a representation of bravery and fortitude.
In Nelson’s conclusion, it shows that Mussolini’s rhetoric on struggles eventually won him a seat as Italy’s Prime Minister. Though manufactured and manipulated, this helped him to create Italians. The physical struggle has also prepared citizens to sacrifice their lives for fascism.
The Modern Day Fascism Movement: CasaPound Italia
Certainly, there is a big change when it comes in the promotion of Fascism. During Mussolini’s era, the fascism influence is cascaded through his speeches. There are not much technology during the World War II time unlike today. The present, as seen in the video, a more compassionate fascism party, the CasaPound Italia shows what they can do for Italy. They can give service to Italians who are in need of shelter, food, healthcare, etc. However, these are all exclusive to pure Italians. As what they defined in the video, someone who has no relationship with an immigrant and Italian who has given service and love to their own country.
Observing the current trend of the new fascism movement, this is a mixture of Mussolini’s ideology and pop culture. They have extended their influence on the youth by infusing pop culture like: rock music, graphical memorabilia and they even offer a space for Youth Fascism discussions.
Though, they also admit that Mussolini has his faults during his leadership, the current party is ready to admit those faults and swear not do it again.
Clearly, the modern day fascism parties like CasaPound Italia is a nativist and anti-immigrant by nature. With their anti-immigrant rhetoric, as well as similar far-right parties like the Lega Nord and the Five Star Movement, this has created some unpleasant treatment towards immigrants in Italy and their openness of refugees that came from unstable places. Thus, resulting to further racism and worse, human rights violations.
So, What’s Next?
Neo-fascist parties like the CasaPound creates their own propaganda in the Italian politics by giving free services to Italians, such as healthcare. This seems to be like a tip of an iceberg. In the world of politics, everything that seems to be convincing could have a consequence that is hard to be fixed soon as damage occurs. Once they are seated in a certain position in the government, subverting democracy, as what Levitsky and Ziblatt calls it might happen with the consciousness of its own citizens.
As mentioned previously, CasaPound Italia has 0.9% votes in the last general elections making them a third runner up in the seats of the Italian Parliament. As citizens or even the international community, we should be more conscious on this kind of tactics that may soon harm a country’s democracy.
The real threat for now, as far as I can see is the polarization that may soon aggravates in the Italian society. They are divided with their political perspectives but this does not mean they should neglect their obligations in sustaining the democratic norms of their country. Political rhetoric is important to be analyzed as what Nelson say, this could provoke a movement. We are the only ones who can determine and our only hope is to be convinced on to something not worth regretting.
- Nelson, E. J. (1991). “Nothing ever goes well enough”: Mussolini and the rhetoric of perpetual struggle. Communication Studies, 42(1), 22–42. doi:10.1080/10510979109368319
- Pietro Castelli Gattinara, Caterina Froio. 2019. “Analysis | Why Italy’s Media Fixates on CasaPound, an Extreme-Right Party with a Racist Agenda.” The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/05/28/why-italys-media-fixates-casapound-an-extreme-right-party-with-racist-agenda/ (November 10, 2019).
- ANSA, Redazione. 2019. “Rally Open to CasaPound Salvini – English.” ANSA.it. http://www.ansa.it/english/news/politics/2019/10/17/rally-open-to-casapound-salvini_dd0ef7e6-c594-0a9-a7a2-6631e7311137.html (November 10, 2019).
- Giuffrida, Angela. 2019. “Italian Holocaust Survivor given Police Escort after Far-Right Threats.” The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/ nov/07/italian-holocaust-survivor-given-police-escort- after-far-right-threats (November 10, 2019).
- Chiocca, Pietro. 2015. Hate Speech International Hate Speech International. https://www.hate-speech.org/make-it-new/ (November 13, 2019).