The Man with a Famous Frown paraphrasing and using language from the BBC podcast above
He was a populist and nationalist, known for his jutting chin and perpetual frown. He had a keen sense of how to use the media to his advantage, and he was always looking for ways to project an image of strength and power. A journalist famously labeled him as "neurotic, excitable, self-pitying, excessively blasphemous, vindictively vengeful, ill-dressed, and a sponger." According to many who knew him, he was in politics, not because he loved people, but for the power and adulation. He campaigned on a platform of making his nation great again, returning it to its old glory. I'm talking about Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), of course.
Mussolini initiated a campaign to Make Italy Great Again: that is, to enable it to return to the glory days of the Roman Empire. He began as a socialist but turned into a fascist, suppressing all political opposition. Some of his policies were quite good, including large public works projects such as the draining of marshes and the construction of highways. He also dramatically increased military spending. But over time he became more and more isolated, more and more certain that he was right, less and less able to listen to anyone who disagreed with him, and it drove him mad.
Mussolini led Italy into World War II on the wrong side, aligning with Nazi Germany in a disastrous decision. He admired the power of the Nazis, including their goose-stepping soldiers. "I knew my friend Adolph Hitler would not desert me," he once said.
He was a womanizer. He had many mistresses, treating women as objects to be possessed and discarded when they were no longer useful to him. He bragged about dominating women and even about raping a woman. He stabbed one of hs girlfriends.
He was a powerful personality but not a likeable personality. A journalist famously labeled him as "neurotic, excitable, self-pitying, excessively blasphemous, vindictively vengeful, ill-dressed, and a sponger." Beneath it all was an insecurity. He was plagued by self-doubt and constantly seeking validation, often interpreting even the slightest perceived insult as an offense and seeking revenge. He was determined to achieve retribution at any cost. His was a politics of power and resentment.
Mussolini's fascism was totalitarian. Many politicians curried favor with him and were complicit in his rise. If you became part of his movement you could not sit back and watch. You had to participate in it in an active way. You had to put the flags out, to give yourself to it, body and soul. In doing so you received his favor, and you could participate in the power, fueled by resentment and anger. You could help Make Italy Great Again.
- Jay McDaniel
Mussolini's Life and Personality BBC Podcast
"September 1943, and German troops have just landed in gliders to rescue Benito Mussolini from the mountain resort where he was being held. “I knew my friend Adolf Hitler would not desert me,” he said later. But Mussolini died before the end of the war, shot and then strung up with his mistress in Milan.
Who was this man, and is he still relevant today? Nominating him is Professor Margaret MacMillan, emeritus professor of History at the University of Toronto and an emeritus professor of International History at Oxford University, not as her hero but as someone she says must not be dismissed as a buffoon. Mussolini founded and led the fascists in Italy, was a brilliant propagandist, and would have probably died in his bed but for the war. Winston Churchill, speaking in 1927, told him his fascist movement "has rendered a service to the entire world." Only later did he dub him the Italian Miscalculator. Mussolini declared war on Britain just as France was poised to fall.
As well as archive of Mussolini, Churchill, and the Italian journalist Luigi Barzini, the programme features Professor John Foot of Bristol University. Margaret MacMillan is the author of Peacemakers and a former BBC Reith lecturer. The programme is presented by Matthew Parris.
The producer in Bristol is Miles Warde
What is the Appeal of Authoritarianism?
Perceived stability and order: Authoritarian leaders often present themselves as strong and decisive, promising to restore order and stability in times of uncertainty and chaos.
Nationalism and pride: Authoritarian leaders often appeal to a sense of national pride, emphasizing the importance of unity and national identity.
Simplistic solutions: Authoritarian leaders often offer simplistic solutions to complex problems, such as blaming societal issues on specific groups or individuals.
Fear and insecurity: Authoritarian leaders may manipulate people's fears and insecurities, convincing them that only they can protect them from perceived threats.
Control and power: Authoritarian leaders often seek to consolidate power and control, promising to eliminate corruption and inefficiencies in government.
A Response to Mussolini
3As someone who identifies as a process-relational Christian, I strongly oppose the values that Mussolini represents. He stood for domination rather than cooperation, coercion over persuasion, and self-promotion rather than serving others. He glorified violence over peace and chose to align himself with Hitler rather than with peacemakers like Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Thich Nhat Hanh. Despite this, as Christians, we are called to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, and forgive others repeatedly. This does not mean that we condone harmful behavior or support those who exhibit it, nor does it mean that we divide the world into "good" and "bad" people. Rather, we recognize that every person has the capacity for both good and evil, including ourselves. Loving those who are violent requires us to seek to understand them and their motivations, even when we vehemently disagree with their actions. It means working to promote their well-being, rather than seeking revenge or retribution. In cases where punishment is necessary, such as incarceration, our goal should be rehabilitative rather than purely retributive. We should strive to help individuals become better people through counseling and opportunities for service. However, this kind of radical love is not easy to cultivate. We cannot simply think our way into it; we must pray our way into it. We must cultivate a loving-kindness meditation practice that allows us to wish happiness, health, safety, inner calm, and a sense of being loved for all living beings, including those we find repugnant. My hope is that people of all religions, political affiliations, and backgrounds can come together in this way, building creative, compassionate, diverse, and inclusive communities that care for the earth and all living beings. This world is not Mussolini's world, but it is a world where even someone like Mussolini, rehabilitated by love and kindness, could be welcomed. - Jay McDaniel
Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) was an Italian politician and dictator who founded the National Fascist Party and became Prime Minister of Italy in 1922. Mussolini's fascist government was characterized by authoritarian rule, nationalism, and suppression of political opposition. He aimed to create a modern Italian state, and his policies included large public works projects, such as the draining of marshes and the construction of highways, as well as increasing military spending. Mussolini's regime became increasingly repressive over time, with the establishment of a secret police force and the imposition of strict censorship laws. During World War II, Mussolini aligned Italy with Nazi Germany, and his regime was eventually overthrown by the Allies in 1943. Mussolini was captured by Italian partisans in 1945 and executed by firing squad.