ROME — "Benito Mussolini is now live ..."
The announcement comes across Facebook on a typical afternoon, circa 2017, as a video of Il Duce speaking from a balcony in Piazza Venezia in Rome begins to roll. Moving over to Instagram, the image-based social network, there is a survey sponsored by Mussolini imposing himself categorically on users, "Would you like to see the return of Il Duce?" If you answer, the ad promises, you could win an exclusive daily planner for history buffs.
The new frontier of Italian fascist nostalgia has hit the web. A flourishing undergrowth of pages, websites, and blogs has attracted thousands of followers in recent years, and numbers continue to make a slow but steady rise. Currently, the Italian parliament is discussing a law proposed by the left-center Democratic Party which would impose jail sentences of between six months and two years for spreading propaganda of the Italian fascist and Nazi-fascist regimes. In order to curb the proliferation of fascist ideology online, sentences would increase by a third if the crime is committed online.
He's different than current politicians.
Social networks have become the main form of diffusion for these ideologies, as seen by the thousands of Facebook pages and groups dedicated to the Italian fascist period and its front men. Virtual platforms have won the hearts of users thanks to an ever-growing multimedia approach with the use of videos and images that are published daily. This propaganda is often adapted to the most current news cycle. One video features Mussolini's voice carrying the message "no to jus soli", that is, birthright citizenship. Another one of the hundreds of Facebook pages dedicated to him, declares: "Mussolini, different from our current politicians …"
The name "Benito Mussolini" obviously remains the most popular brand name on social media for the far-right in Italy, proven by the 140,000 fans with the same profile name and the hundreds of pages and groups with his namesake.
Posted on I Giovani Fascisti Italiani Facebook page
Others include: "Fascist Revolution", which streamed a four-hour "Holy Mass, Live" solemnized by the fascist priest Don Giulio Tam in Mussolini's hometown Predappio; the "Young Italian Fascists" (I Giovani Fascisti Italiani), founded on Facebook just two years ago but boasting more than 86,000 fans; or the Facebook page "Lazio and Fascist" (Laziale e fascista) which unites the soccer club's fans and the political ideology, enjoying nearly 90,000 registered users.
There is also an "official" profile of Benito Mussolini on Instagram. The account manager posts images with comments made in the first person such as the caption of a painting depicting Mussolini on a horse which reads "My portrait dated 1924. Oil on canvas."
Political passion can so easily become a business. Predappio is teaming with shops full of fascist paraphernalia. Many, such as Ferlandia, are among the first to appear online. The catalog has a wide assortment of products ranging from Predappio cologne with a wooden cap of Il Duce to bottles of "Black wine," the symbolic color of fascism. Meanwhile, the aforementioned "Young Italian Fascists" promote souvenirs and clothing for sale on the website Duxstore.it, though to get a price quote on a replica of the so-called Goliardic billy club, which were once widely used to beat fascism's opponents, the manager will ask an interested "comrade" to "contact him privately."
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