Media and the Idea of Italy, Essay Example
The war’s aftermath saw Italy plunge into a grave political crisis, upon which Mussolini’s regime manifested. This was largely due to the patriotic movements formed by veterans and assault troops, along with students and Italian citizens, all guided by their steadfast leader D’Annunzio (Iodice 3). However, Benito Mussolini, an ex-socialist journalist, became even more powerful and prominent and thus established his fighting leagues, which were referred to as Fasci di combattimento, in 1919. The fascist period lasted between 1922 and 1943 when the National Fascist Party ruled the kingdom of Italy. During the period, Benito Mussolini was the Prime Minister. Even though he had promised “…to make his country great again” (Iodice 2), his activities included war profits confiscation, diary and letters confiscation, an eight-hour workday, and the voting for women, which was not what the citizens expected. By 1922, the Fascists had destroyed the Socialists and ran the Catholic deputies out of the parliament while still destroying their houses (Iodice 3). The country lost its credibility with all the destruction and unfair power exercises. Mussolini built power bases throughout the nation in different locations, such as Arpinati, Bologna, and Leandro (Iodice 3). The men in power in those places exercised immense power during the fascist period (Iodice 3). Mussolini, by 1922 was indispensable in Rome, and his squads had taken over the cities across the nation. For the Fascist Party to gain all the power, it did not only rely on coercion but also the use of media, propaganda, and other strategies.
Mussolini heavily invested in media to gain power and rule Italy. His former experience as a teacher and a reporter also came in handy. “…. Mussolini had been through numerous experiences as a teacher, a reporter, and Socialist Party official” (Iodice 2). As a journalist who was initially working for the Socialist Party, Mussolini took the advantage to shift his interest and come up with his party by writing what he felt would touch people and gain his followers. He employed his journalistic skills and knowledge to gain power and control. Initially, Mussolini was a military officer who served in World War I. After returning home, he sought ways to unite the citizens and began giving emotional speeches. He tried to call the nation to let a dictator lead the country, “…. Yes, a dictator can be loved. Provided that the masses fear him at the same time. The crowd loves strong men. The crowd is like a woman” (Iodice 2) arguing that only a strong leader would unite the Italians and help them overcome the post-war mass unemployment, strikes by socialists, communists, and chaotic political parties.
Mussolini first ensured that all modes of communication through the media were regulated, and he gained monopolistic power. He wanted first to control communication by what people were hearing. He was also interested in breaking all the unions so that no groups of people would have one voice and act against him and his party. With his group protesting, the fascists visited the socialist offices, institutions, and party newspaper headquarters and attacked and burned them down (Iodice 3). All other newspapers were located, looted, and burnt down. The Fascist Party organized militias across the country. With this power, they fought the Bolshevik crusades, broke up strikes, and fought labor unions and farmers’ cooperatives. They used violence to ensure that no organization threatening them was left standing, which was their doctrine.
To gain his power, Mussolini used the Socialist Magazine and Avanti (Socialist newspaper) to sell himself. Mussolini was initially a faithful socialist, organizing trade unions and writing for leftist publications. During World War I, Mussolini acted as the editor of the popular Socialist Magazine. However, he used the war to take a right turn in politics. Instead of continuing to decry the war, Mussolini started advocating for it. His politics was characterized by the themes of racial superiority, xenophobia, and imperialism, which were included in his editions and publications (Merziger et al. 137).
Mussolini did not only rely on the Socialist Magazine and Avanti (Socialist Newspaper) to sell himself. Instead, he formed his newspaper, Avanti, and gained full control over Il Popolo d’Italia newspaper (Iodice 3). He also had philosophical roots and a lot of belief and knowledge of the Nietzsche, Sorel, and Max Stirner writings, preparing him for his ruthless and dictatorial leading movements.
The Ministry provided financial support for the publishing of books. In 1938 alone, the party facilitated the printing and delivery of 250,000 new books, which were done in 14 languages and 850,000 books in 16 language reprints (Antonelli et al.11). The books were used as propaganda vessels (Antonelli et al. 11). The Fascists used the books to spread war and promote some events such as the war in Ethiopia.
The party seized all publications which seemed incompatible with the regime. Authors not consistent with the fascist creed were also warned and their works destroyed. Additionally, the party reduced book importations and translations. Some books and publications not aligning with the regime were also withdrawn from circulation. For instance, in 1939, 913 books were withdrawn by the publishers, while 40 books were withdrawn from circulation (Antonelli et al. 11). This was a strategy of ensuring that people read only what the party intended and fed them with propaganda.
The party used radio broadcasting to spread its propaganda and regime. They formed the first radio station in 1924 (Antonelli et al. 12). After the first radio station, URI (Unione Radiofonica Italiana), the regime formed and used more radio stations such as Ente Italiano per le Audizioni Radiofoniche (EIAR) that entertained and spread the news to the public (Antonelli et al. 12). The news and entertainment programs were also censored to meet the regime’s needs.
The broadcasting of Radio Bari started in September 1932. The radio, as Marzano claims, “….it basically broadcasted during the entire fascist decade of war” (3). In broadcasting, the radio gave credit to Mussolini’s efforts. Radio broadcasting was used to keep and revive the fascist policy in Italy. “Radio Bari went along the entire fascist policy between 1934 and 1943, strongly supporting all wars that Rome fought, and being fascist Italy’s mouthpiece in the Arab countries,” which was a plan of Mussolini (Marzano 3). The radio strongly supported the wars that Rome fought over the years and being fascist. With the radio station, Italy carried an intense propaganda activity in the Arab countries, which was intended to justify their actions over the invasion of Ethiopia, to pave the way for Italian occupation. It was the perfect mouthpiece for fascist Italy’s non-belligerence (Marzano 4). The radio bulletins were always critical of the Arabs. At the same time, the radio was spreading serious propaganda campaigns against London and Paris.
Theatre has been an Italian cultural heritage for a long time. In those days, the theatre was seen by the fascists as a “form of art that is eminently social and, hence, necessarily political” (Antonelli et al.10). It was viewed as a strong weapon that would work better than direct propaganda. Therefore, the fascists demanded that shows that would “shake the souls of the masses and promote the theme of self-sacrifice (Antonelli et al.10)” among other regime themes, be held only by the theatres that would attract a massive audience. Further, the Ministry limited the number of foreign plays and operas that could be performed in Italian theatres (Antonelli et al.10). By 1930, only plays composed and written by Italians were allowed.
Cinema attracted fascists as well. Previously, Italy was at the forefront of silent movie production (Antonelli et al.11). Although it had lagged due to sound advent, and the USA dominated the market, the government saw it as an issue it would solve with good investments. The fascists saw it as an opportunity to influence the feelings and thoughts of the masses, thus focusing on it not only as a tool of entertainment, leisure, education, or moral growth but also as a propaganda vessel. That was the first step to Italy’s growing and steady film industry. The government inspected and reported to the parliament on a regular basis regarding films and other film-related productions, making sure that any content adhered to their standards.
The dominance in film and theatre ensured that people watched only what aligned with Fascist values. For it to be successful, the Ministry of press and propaganda was created in 1935. After its creation, the Ministry produced 30 movies yearly, which increased to 48 in 1938, 80 in 939, and 112 in 1940 (Antonelli et al. 12). The Ministry also imported and exported movies. Private investments in the movie sector were mushrooming and allowed only if their productions aligned with the regime.
Joining forces with the media, he created a passionate party comprised of disgruntled students, former union members and war veterans. The group was drenched in patriotism and zealously determined to reconstruct their nation. Their philosophy was all under Fascism, and they gave their leader Mussolini all their support.
In November 1922, Mussolini gave his first speech after being conferred the Prime Minister by the King of Rome, Victor Emmanuel III, on October 30th. The courtroom was filled to its brim with journalists, observers and “black shirts” eagerly awaiting Mussolini’s entrance. When he took center stage, the room fell into a hush as his powerful oration rhythmically sent words flying like flaming arrows at those present in attendance (Iodice 6). Onwards, he made that his iconic oratory style. He would use carefully selected pronouns with a rhythmic flow in his speeches to scare the masses (Iodice 6). His words in the concurrent speeches were brutal and ominous (Iodice 6).
When he was voted prime minister, Mussolini leveraged education and books to bolster his cause. To aid him in this endeavor, Mussolini appointed Giovanni Gentile, a renowned Italian philosopher, as Minister for Education. Through both articles and books written by Gentile himself, fascist concepts were better understood throughout Italy at large (Antonelli et al. 2). Mussolini had banned other newspapers and articles, so his education minister, Gentile’s articles, acquired many readers. He also used this strategy to get people to read and perceive his intended message. In addition, he invested heavily in education, which was intended to produce future fascist generations. The idea of penetrating education was evident at the primary school level. Politically compliant teachers instilled fascist values and beliefs in children’s minds, subjecting them to a rigorous educational regimen that shaped their ideologies. Mussolini’s regime indoctrinated its citizens with values that included absolute submission to officialdom, heroic behavior, and safeguarding Italian heritage. The penetration was also achieved in the other education levels. The regime successfully controlled the minds of the children, teenagers, and youths who went through Mussolini’s heavily government-invested education system.
The nation was initially a symbol of western civilization. The intellectuals claimed that they could not see the nation experiencing totalitarianism. However, Mussolini led the country to totalitarianism. Fascism was characterized by totalitarianism, which can be described as incomplete totalitarianism (Gentile 5). Fascist totalitarianism denies any theory resulting in the identification between communism and national socialism (Gentile 2). After Mussolini acquired power, the movement tried to change the nation’s beliefs and democracy by bringing his beliefs and rules. He was a dictator who led the nation to dictatorship. His chief idea while destroying all other parties, such as socialists and unions, was fighting any possible resistance that might arise, and conquering the society, which proves how he brought the nation to totalitarianism.
With the introduction of government-related principles to the education system, Prime Minister Mussolini was also focused on teaching the young generations and making them his loyal followers in the future. He created a new civilization to attain totalitarianism in the nation. Some of the evidence that can be used to prove how he achieved making the nation totalitarian includes his use of coercion imposed through force, killings, and threats. With his group protesting against the left in the streets and neighborhoods nationwide, he ensured no unions or groups were left, and all existing parties were destroyed. He also ensured that the people were fed with propaganda after ensuring he controlled newspapers and all forms of media. He ensured that his speeches were full of threats and propaganda, which ensured that people were filled with fear and that none would attempt to go against him. The whole nation was already under his control. Through his proposals, he turned the Italians into racists and urged them to protect their race, implying that they were discriminating against other races. For instance, he supported discrimination against Jews (Antonelli et al. 2). The propaganda continued during World War II and the Mediterranean War, where radio Bari (which was formed courtesy of Mussolini) carried out propaganda activity in the Arab countries and was against the Muslims (Marzano 2). His ruling was also characterized by the “capillary organization of masses” (Gentile 4), where he came up with the principles and roles developed to guide males and females in the education system.
The institutional realm also defines totalitarianism where the leader ensures that there is only a single leading party, the police are used as apparatus for their suppression and power control, the fascist leader orders the political system, the corporate organization of the economy alienates all the unions, and the imperialist foreign policy was intended at aiming supranational expansion. Culturally, Mussolini created a controlled society through the values instilled in future citizens through a politically penetrated education system. He also made the whole nation a national community disciplined, controlled, and subordinated to favorable values. All those realms were a way of achieving totalitarianism. Fascism created an ideal type of society that they would like to have, giving them an easy time in the ruling. Therefore, totalitarianism is a fundamental and essential element to define it (Gentile 6). The totalitarian movement regime was an ideal type of Fascism.
Conclusively, Fascism led the nation to totalitarianism through its realms and ideologies. The education system guided students to the citizens the nation would want to have in the future that would be easy to rule, and all other parties and unions were destroyed so that Mussolini would not get any resistance. The acquisition of power was made possible by his use of all forms of media. With his teaching, reporting, and philosophical experience, Mussolini was a good writer, editor, and communicator. His military experience also gave him the courage and knowledge to control people. Media control was the main method that resulted in his rise in power, as he convinced people to buy his proposals and abide by his rules. Using the education system and military, he gained followers who were students, veterans, and others who enabled him to carry out his dictatorial activities. With the control of and help from the media, Mussolini emerged as a powerful leader.
Antonelli, Valerio, et al. “Popular culture and totalitarianism: Accounting for propaganda in Italy under the Fascist regime (1934–1945).” Critical Perspectives on Accounting (2022): 1-14.
Gentile, Emilio. “Fascism and the Italian road to totalitarianism.” Constellations 15.3 (2008): 1-13.
Iodice, Emilio F. “Lessons from History: The Startling Rise to Power of Benito Mussolini.” The Journal of Values-Based Leadership 11.2 2018: 1-32.
Marzano, Arturo. “Radio propaganda during the war: The Mediterranean scenario in Radio Bari’s broadcasts (1940–1943) 1.” A Fascist Decade of War. Routledge, 2020. 1–19.
Merziger, Patrick, et al. “Crises, Rise of Fascism and the Establishment of Authoritarian Media Systems.” The Handbook of European Communication History 2019: 135.
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