Saturday, December 05, 2015

Fascist Saturday

The Android app Zite has always been good at flagging odd and interesting content in a list that is easy to quickly scroll; but sadly, it is about to close and be absorbed into the less easily scrolled Flipbook.  I guess I'll try setting up a Flipbook account and migrate my Zite preferences to it, but I don't expect it to be as good.

Anyhoo, it was via Zite that I found this entertaining article from Atlas Obscura (a site that deserves a spot on my blogroll):  The Sex-Obsessed Poet Who Invented Fascism.  It starts:
It can be hard to reconcile the incredible charisma of Hitler written about in history books with recordings of his speeches in which he looks like a madman. Some might conclude that perhaps Germans didn't notice how off-putting he was because his style of declamation was widely used at the time and has simply fallen out of fashion.

But Hitler's speeches weren't normal or spontaneous. Neither were Mussolini's. Both of them were to a large extent imitating one man: an Italian poet named Gabriele d'Annunzio, who lived between 1863 and 1938. He was a war hero and famous libertine, and he essentially invented Fascism as an art project because he felt representative democracy was bourgeois and lacked a romantic dramatic arc.

D'Annunzio was a thrill-seeking megalomaniac best described as a cross between the Marquis de Sade, Aaron Burr, Ayn Rand, and Madonna. He was wildly popular. And he wasn't like anyone who came before him.
It's a great read.  Apparently, after WW1, he set up a purported mini nation in a city in what's now Croatia,  where his leadership style is described as follows:
Being d'Annunzio, he of course turned it into a sex-positive corporatist libertarian art commune. For 15 months. In the aftermath of a long war of attrition, nobody but d'Annunzio wanted to jump back into battle—and Fiume's eventual nationality was still on the negotiating table.

D'Annunzio believed that a country was sustained by faith, not trust. Therefore, instead of trying to govern kindly or honestly, he thought a leader should act like the head of a religion—not simply a pope or grand mufti, but a Messiah. It’s unclear whether he structured his government as a personality cult because he thought it would be effective, or because he was so self-obsessed it was inevitable.

You've seen what it looked like, because you've seen the imitators. D'Annunzio made stylized, inflammatory speeches full of rhetorical questions from balconies flanked with pseudo-religious icons. He outfitted his troops in embellished black shirts and soft pantaloons, and told them to march through the streets in columns, palms raised in a straight-armed Roman salute that would be plagiarized by the Nazis.

He called himself Il Duce. He encouraged his troops to brutalize "inferior" people to rally everyone else's morale, and attempted to found an Anti-League of Nations to encourage continual revolution instead of peace.
No one knows whether d'Annunzio exalted violence because of a Futurist pre-postmodern conviction that new structures could only emerge from complete destruction—modernity lancing the corrupted past like a boil—or whether he simply found the adrenaline arousing. Other of his governing ideals seem incongruously idyllic—music as a central duty of the state, enshrined in the constitution, plus nightly firework shows and poetry readings. In essence, he believed in government by spectacle.

Many artists of the time, including people who really should have known better, thought it was a daring and provocative thought experiment that should be allowed to continue indefinitely. Nevertheless, Italy itself eventually besieged Fiume (or as d'Annunzio styled it, Carnaro) and demanded d'Annunzio step down.
 How fascinating.  I feel I should have known about this guy before now.

No comments: