Perhaps we should talk about Fascism. The Italian version that used the ancient Roman symbol of a sheaf of wheat stalks bound together to form the shaft of an axe. The ideology that Rick Santorum touts as what his grandfather escaped from when he emigrated to America in 1925. The Party and movement founded by Benito Mussolini. Born in 1883, he was a troubled and violent child; at eleven he stabbed a fellow student and was expelled. He was raised a socialist and spent his early life a union laborer. He railed against the king, the church, the government; and was opposed to war, conscription, and to censorship. Early on he demonstrated a high aptitude for journalism, and when he was 26 he started both a family with his girlfriend and a Socialist newspaper, La Lotta di Classe.
Journalism not only gave Mussolini the power to make up stories, but the means to spread his own mythology. He was quoted as saying: “The thing I learned as a journalist is you can make people believe almost anything.” He would write about non existent things, and people would believe them, and thus he utilized the media to influence the population.
Does This sound familiar? A mythomaniac using a media outlet to seize power? A media outlet constantly being fact checked and found to be lying?
Mussolini was initially opposed to Italy entering World War I, but after a few months he broke from La Lotta di Classe and started a new newspaper, Il Popolo de Italia then went to fight in the war.
In 1917 a grenade launcher exploded near Mussolini, leaving forty fragments in his body. He called the explosion the most beautiful moment in my life, and incorporated the experience into his own mythology.
By 1919 Italy was in chaos, on the brink of civil war. Unemployment was rampant, strikes were called, and the Italian middle classes began to fear the spectre of communism. Mussolini exploited those fears, with promises to fight communism, restore law and order, and reduce unemployment.
Sound familiar? Conservatives using the specter of Communism or labeling any opponent as Socialist as a method of fear mongering and influencing elections?
Mussolini’s dream was to restore the Roman Empire, and he regarded himself as a modern Julius Caesar. On March 23, 1919 Mussolini formed the Fascist party, which he promoted as a sane alternative to the red menace of communism, and which established itself with violence, as he simultaneously formed a private squad of hundreds of men dressed in black shirts and armed with guns and knives who fought against the fascist opposition—liberals, catholics and socialists.
In 1922, when Mussolini was 39, at a fascist party convention the decision was made to go forward with a plan to overthrow the government. The black shirted fascists took up arms and marched to Rome with the plan to force the king to dismiss the government and make Mussolini prime minister. The king was afraid, and before any violence had occurred, made Mussolini Italy’s 27th prime minister. Yet Mussolini rewrote the truth through the power of the press, and told the nation he’d come to power through a violent takeover.
In 1925 Mussolini abolished all political parties excepting the Fascists, making Italy a totalitarian state. Opposition was made illegal by law. The only political party was the Fascists, and membership was mandatory. You could not teach in school, be a civil servant or government employee unless you carried the card of the fascist party.
Sound familiar? We are now witnessing a fascist government rise in Hungary by creating a permanent majority and this is what is happening now in America with the Citizens United Supreme Court Ruling and the Conservative Putsch to restrict voting rights.
In 1925, Mussolini decreed: “the government demands that the schools be inspired by the ideals of fascism.” From childhood they were indoctrinated at school, and from the age of four were given toy guns and black shirts. The indoctrination was ordered by the fascist state to instill deeply patriotic feelings in the children.
Home schooling, corporate controlled Charter Schools? Destroy the Public education system? Texas permits its schools to rewrite text books with false history and blatant lies.
Mussolini also created a repressive police state to enforce fascism. There were widespread fascist police, and very little escaped their notice.
In today’s fascist America right wing militia domestic terrorist attacks, including many murders, are now almost a daily occurrence. And surely you’ve noticed exuberant policemen with their truncheons and their jugs of pepper spray--which the Fascist Propaganda Outlet calls a simple food product-and which they’ve been wielding against innocent protestors with reckless abandon.
Mussolini was politically savvy enough to know that he had to work with the Catholics, and the church was looking to make a deal. The church had lost control of the Vatican since around 1870. In 1929 Mussolini and the Vatican signed the Latin Pact, which ceded to the church virtually everything it sought. The pope gained control of the Vatican City, and received one and three quarter billion lira in compensation for losses, mostly through government bonds. Through their control of that quantity of government bonds, the Catholic church was effectively funding the fascist state. Pope Pius XI actually went so far as to proclaim that Mussolini “was that man whom divine Providence had allowed him to meet."
The Conservative program exploits christianity for money and power and trolls the churches for its members. Right wing christianity is as fundamentalist and rigid as the Taliban. Atheists are smeared as an anti social threat.
Mussolini used the Italian newspapers to justify Italy’s military campaigns with rumors and lies, and their alliance with Germany in World War II that led to Mussolini’s downfall and execution, and the end of fascism.
Maybe way back in 1925 Rick Santorum's grandfather escaped Mussolini's Fascist Italy, but 85 years later, Rick has come full circle and is trying to recreate an American version.