Benito Mussolini originally appeared to be a vulgar cartoon too outlandish to be feared, until it was too late, his entire country perverted into something awful before his murderous gaze.
I thought particularly of his assault on the press when Sarah Huckabee Sanders spoke on behalf of the White House in urging ESPN to fire broadcaster Jemele Hill, for calling Trump, a white supremacist, a white supremacist. It’s clear by now that while Trump can degrade the office of the President, distort ideals and do serious harm to our democracy, he has zero chance of squashing the free press. That’s true for several reasons: his gross incompetence, the traditions and independence of our media (for all its many failings) and the decentralization of news, which, oddly, also abetted his rise.
Italy of the Thirties was a different place and time, however. In 1933, Mussolini ordered all Italian newspapers to push aside current events and dedicate their front pages to articles about Julius Caesar. The message was clear, that Mussolini was a latter-day Caesar and would rule with absolute authority. The odd decree was covered in an article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in September of that year. Another piece from the same publication, this one from 1937, spoke to the moribund state of the press 15 years after the Fascist’s rise. Tragically, that’s how things went, until the madman found himself, in 1945, hanging upside down from the business end of a meat hook attached to the roof of an Esso gas station.