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Useful Notes / Benito Mussolini

"Fascism is a religion. The twentieth century will be known in history as the century of Fascism."

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini (1883-1945) was an Italian fascist politician who was leader of Italy from 1922, pretty much up to his death. Unlike his German contemporary Adolf Hitler, he was never in official command of his nation due to King Victor Emmanuel nominally being Mussolini's boss.

Mussolini first got the idea for fascism when he was a war reporter in the trenches of World War I, following around the soldiers (and later becoming one). And he liked what he saw in the Army: he wanted to create a society organized like a military battalion, a rigid conformist society with no dissenters to undermine patriotic values.

Today, he is most famous for being the first fascist ruler of any country, and for his colonial war against Ethiopia in 1935 (called Abyssinia at the time) which proved the ridiculous incompetence of the League of Nations. He was a close ally of Adolf Hitler and fought on Nazi Germany's side during the war, although the Italian Army were more of a hindrance to the Nazis than a help. To be fair, when Hitler wanted Italy to enter the war, Mussolini said what amounted to "can it wait until I've industrialized my country in five years?" (this may have been a random number chosen to delay Italian entry indefinitely... until Germany annexed half the continent with ease, at least).

That all said, there is a real historiographical debate about how much of a Fascist Mussolini really was - as the most notable members of his cabinet consisted of political opportunists rather than die-hard Fascist fanatics - and Mussolini himself seemed to waver a lot when asked how far the Fascist revolution was intended to go. On at least one occasion, he even said that Italy was not ready to be Fascist. In other words, he seemed to believe in Fascism, but was too cynical about Italy and politics in general to believe that a Fascist revolution could take place and thus was content to run a straight-up dictatorship with Fascist dressing, electing to maintain his position rather than upsetting the status quo. Thus, Fascist Italy was not as totalitarian as Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia - although it was a one-party state with media controlled and opposition banned, people were rarely killed for political reasons. It remained a de jure monarchy and was heavily influenced by the Catholic Church, with whom the Fascists maintained a complex relationship. During the interwar years, Italy was well known for its aggressive foreign policy: aside from conquering Ethiopia (Abyssinia) and participating in World War II, the Fascists also entered the Spanish Civil War (on the side of Francisco Franco), severely oppressed their colonies in Libya and Somalia, attacked the Greek island of Corfu to force diplomatic concessions, and invaded Albania as a show of power following Hitler's annexation of Czechoslovakia. Although Mussolini ruled for more than 20 years, several parts of Italy barely noticed any change from the previous fifty.

Soon after the British and Americans began their invasion of Italy, Mussolini was deposed by King Victor Emmanuel III following a de facto vote of no confidence in the Grand Council of Fascism on 25 July 1943. In September the Italians joined the Allies and declared war on Germany. The Germans responded by invading Italy and forcing Mussolini, by now wanting to retire, to form a Nazi state called the Italian Social Republic. He was caught while fleeing to Switzerland and executed by the Italian resistance in 1945. They shot him in the gut first, dragged him into the nearby city of Milan and then hung him upside-down at a gas station while crowds of angry Italians spat and threw things (trash, bricks, other unpleasant things) at his body.

Mussolini does not come up in history quite as often as Hitler does, despite being a significant influence on the development of Nazism. Basically, he was the Garfunkel to Hitler's Simon.

Works in which Benito Mussolini appears or is cited include:

  • One episode of Cheers had Carla trying to get around a family naming tradition that would have unintentionally forced the name "Benito Mussolini" onto her unborn baby.
  • Frequently appeared in the wartime comics of Carl Giles. Giles was saddened to hear of Mussolini's death, as it meant he would no longer be able to mock him, uttering the immortal words: "I've lost my Musso!".
  • Mussolini makes an appearance in Disney's World War II propaganda short, "Der Fuehrer's Face".
  • Mussolini is also caricatured in The Ducktators and Tokio Jokio.
  • Nero in the Nero album De Rode Keizer ("The Red Emperor") becomes Roman Emperor's Nero's replacement and announces he will give a speech on the balcony, mimicking Mussolini.
  • He is the narrator of a chapter in Captain Corelli's Mandolin. The entire chapter is a furious megalomaniac rant by Mussolini, where he raves about the "survival of the fittest", praises the discipline and martial virtues of the Roman Empire, and how he wants the Italian people to have "ice in their soul". It ends with Mussolini being disturbed by his cat, and promptly kicking the cat to death.
  • Mussolini plays an important part in Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Dante-based Science Fiction novel, Inferno, where he guides the novel's protagonist Through Hell and (Not-Quite) Back.
  • In The Pride of Life, Othello's superbeasts are named for European dictators, including "Mussol" for Mussolini.
  • Mussolini appears in Lemon Demon's "Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny" as part of the Badass Crew that takes down Memetic Badass Chuck Norris.
  • In Harry Turtledove's Worldwar, Mussolini is overthrown when Italy is eventually overrun by the Race, but is busted out of prison by Otto Skorzeny and later seen in exile in the United States.
  • A Greater Britain, a work aimed at rescuing Oswald Mosley from the scrappy heap, does the same to Mussolini: he fights on the Allied side of the truncated equivalent to WW2, and it reflects on his political gifts which tend to be brushed over nowadays.
  • The Beano had two main wartime comic strips, Addie and Hermie (about Hitler and Goering) and Musso the Wop, which used Italian stereotypes cheerfully and mocked the Italian Army for its lack of success in North Africa.
  • Joey from Friends claimed his grandmother was the 6th person to spit on Mussolini's corpse.
  • Homer from The Simpsons non-deliberately mimics Mussolini's way of gesturing during speeches (fittingly held from a balcony during their holiday stay in Italy) during the episode The Simpsons S 17 E 8 The Italian Bob. He actually wanted to mimic Donald Trump, but it went horribly wrong. By 2016, however, this seems oddly prescient.
    • Also, Milhouse's full name is "Milhouse Mussolini Van Houten".
  • Mussolini features prominently in Vincere, a recent movie which tells the life of the young Benito Mussolini and his rise to power from the point of view of his first wife (Ida Dalser), who was abandoned when Mussolini returned from the first World War. Both Ida and her son (called Benito Albino) were later forced into a mental institution and died of "natural" causes.
  • Tea With Mussolini, obviously.
  • In The Office (US) Dwight reads a speech by Benito Mussolini apparently trying to say that paper salesmen are a Proud Warrior Race.
  • Mussolini was brought to the present in a time machine to fight against Roberto Benigni in an episode of Celebrity Deathmatch. In this episode Mussolini also inexplicably wears a pickelhaube helmet, which is a German military helmet from World War I!
  • While Moe is doing his best Hitler impersonation in The Three Stooges short You Nazty Spy, Curly does a spot-on impersonation of Mussolini.
  • Is parodied along with Hitler in The Great Dictator, in which the two conflict over which country would invade Austria. Truth in Television at the time, though the two became close allies later.
  • In Mafalda, Miguelito's grandfather is an admirer of Mussolini. He even manages to trace the Moon Landing to Mussolini (Mussolini -> Hitler -> Von Braun -> NASA -> Moon Landing).
  • This xkcd strip.
  • The protagonist of Lena Wertmuller's Seven Beauties uses a Mussolini imitation as part of his insanity defense to weasel out of a murder charge.
  • Appears as the Big Bad in the Gaddafi-era Libyan propaganda film Lion of the Desert (based on the story of the suppression of Omar Mukhtar's anticolonial revolt in Italian Libya in the late 1920s and early 1930s), portrayed by Rod Steiger, with the position of The Dragon filled by the ruthless General Rodolfo Graziani, plated by Oliver Reed.
  • Rod Steiger played Mussolini again in the Italian film The Last Days of Mussolini.
  • Lampooned by British comedian Alexei Sayle of the show The Young Ones, whose version of Mussolini enters the Eurovision Song Contest to sing a song about making yourself feel better through the fine art of making stupid noises.
  • On Scott Walker's 2006 album The Drift there's a song called "Clara", which is supposedly sung by Mussolini to his mistress Clara Petacci while they're hanging from the gas station.
  • The Big Black song "Il Duce" is about Mussolini.
  • In the pilot episode of Marvel's Agents Of SHIELD, Agent Coulson refers to Loki as "the Asgardian Mussolini."
  • In one episode of Lovejoy the latest Grail in the Garbage turns out to be a stone nose broken off a statue of Mussolini in wartime Italy.