Mussolini Education Paper

Published: 2021-09-12 16:40:09
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How far do you agree with this assessment of Fascist propaganda? (1924-1936)It is true to say that much of the fascist propaganda implemented during Mussolini’s dictatorship was created for the ‘ignorant masses’. However, the propaganda cannot be described as being ‘solely aimed’ at typical Italians as other forms were used to reach the high cultured and educated members of the public.The use of the term “ignorant masses” has a specific context within this assessment. As the text describes what Mussolini knew and how he acted, we can understand the words to be thought of as Mussolini’s interpretation of the general public. He was known to describe them as “…stupid, dirty, do not work hard enough and are content with their little cinema show…” (Robson), thus beneath him. Mussolini knew that they were the easier option and more susceptible to propaganda, he was aware of the educated and cultured posing a difficult task and almost a threat. His appeasement with this higher cultured group determines the level of propaganda taken upon the ignorant masses. However there were still forms of propaganda that did contact the high cultured and educated, whether intentional or not, and some attempts to reach those slightly less educated and cultured than the intellectuals.Fascist propaganda had many forms and ways to affect people. As Robson comments ” “one must strike the imagination of the public: that is the real secret of how to govern” That’s what Mussolini felt” Visually high impact and vocally arousing propaganda was the most useful to the Fascists as at least 17% of Italy was completely illiterate throughout 1924-1936. This propaganda could affect the emotive aspect of human nature rather than the intellectual features. The mass media such as posters and radio were a way to impose propaganda upon the completely uneducated. Words are not necessary to crate an immediate and strong impact where the use of colour and image are. The poster for the Olympic Games displaying a javelin thrower in line with an Italian soldier launching a grenade links Italian prowess in sport with war (Hite). It encourages the fascist ideas of aggressive foreign policy and creates an image of the viewer himself also being capable of doing something great for his country, out on the battlefield instead of the sports field. Posters would contact all groups of people from housewives doing their daily groceries to southern peasant farmers. This particular tactic emphasises the intended audience as an educated and cultured person would be able to see the hidden message. It may also not be interesting enough to attract their attention in the first place as a poster cannot replace literature, art and other cultured interests. This Fascist propaganda was aiming at the most uneducated through the lack of text and use of image.In 1924 radio became state run and content controlled. Their stern, martial tone had as much of an impact as their content of music and ever increasing official broadcasts such as Mussolini’s major speeches. Few people had radios although their numbers increased from 40 000 in 1927 to 1 million in 1938. This was renovated by the use of loud speakers in the piazzas and radios in village halls. Although disregarded by Mussolini at first, the radio became a favoured tool in reaching the ‘ignorant masses’ whether at work, home or even school. Cinema also became a more popular device. Although it was lightly censored, a government agency LUCE was created to produce ‘cinegiornali’ which were created to standardise cinema outings and indoctrinate viewers with images of a happy and successful Italy. Again the cinema was accessible to many as it was affordable e.g. working class, youth and so was often used for propaganda.Through mass activities such as parades and rallies, Fascism was able to gain support by representing itself through the spectacles themselves, and as Robson observes, “…striking the imagination”. Mussolini obtained details from Stalin of Soviet May Day parades which he imitated, and by creating a bold and exciting atmosphere and strengthening this though large scale, people were enthralled by the new things set before them. At the same time Fascism could transfer values of discipline and collective identity upon observers. Many types of people would be affected by the spectaculars, by being in the presence of them or hearing the roaring crowds and charismatic Piazza Politics on the radio. In the South, radios would be stationed at village halls for the farmers and peasants to hear. This supports the idea that Fascist propaganda was aimed at the ignorant masses (the general public) as it reached out to many. It subtly imposed these ideas by striking patriotic feeling, implying the idea of restoring Italy to a powerful exciting nation.Sport, another mass activity, promoted national pride and the physical and emotional struggle for war. Again it brought about a sense of collective identity, social solidarity and discipline via excellent access, opportunity and provision. Many new stadiums were built and successful national teams were seen as a way to increase national pride and therefore support for the regime. E.g. Carnera became the heavyweight boxing champion from 1933-1935. Anyone could take part at low cost, however sport may have reached out to the higher educated and cultured as some may have had interests in sport before Fascists ‘propaganderised’ it.In terms of culture, the Fascists simplified high cultural aspects such as art to incorporate it into every day life for the ‘masses’. Its’ use was to hark back to ancient Rome, which in itself was a powerful symbol of greatness and success. Art had greater provision such as through architecture so that it had a strong impact throughout day to day life. However impressive it may have been in the large towns and cities, the peasant southern towns saw little of this, only on posters which had a lesser impact. The expense was therefore questionable considering the overall impact. Other failure stems from cultural diversity in Italy. One Fascist style could not be decided upon, and to do this would appear far too obvious as indoctrination and control. Particularly with more educated classes, e.g. teachers- Mussolini classed as the ‘ignorant masses’, who may have seen through it and would retract their support. All other aspects of Fascist propaganda were tried to be subtle and so art was a tough area to settle on.Defining “those with education and high culture” needs to be in context of Mussolini’s character. His view of those with culture and education will be in league with himself, ‘the messiah’ or comparatively close in relation to the “ignorant masses”. With Mussolini as an arrogant and condescending leader, it is drastic for him to “know” that he could absolutely “never” influence those who are educated and cultured; therefore he regards them as an impossible task and possibly of concern. This is why he practically appeased this group of people so as not to loose support, disregarding the thought of ever gaining it from them, particularly through propaganda.Mussolini thought that the educated and cultured were unreachable through propaganda, but there were still attempts made to influence them through the likes of literature, music and drama. However it was considered less important as it would not gain as much support as easily as with the “ignorant masses”. For example Mussolini spoke of ‘a theatre for twenty thousand”, hoping to extend this art form to the masses. However it never happened as this area was such a low priority.Mussolini’s appeasement of the cultured and educated arose from their presumed interest groups such as literature, art and the newspapers. As pre-mentioned, Mussolini could not heavily indoctrinate Italy as with Nazi Germany as he needed to keep elitists and the King on side. The Pope and religion was also too heavily influential in Italy to completely indoctrinate the nation, he would loose too much support. He kept the cultured groups’ support by not forcing anything on them and not taking anything away. In this way he kept their support instead of trying to gain more of it. A good example of this is within the media, particularly newspapers. The newspapers began to be censored in 1923 by Prefects and by 1926 the last opposition paper suppressed.However, although the only press agency was run by a fascist, the propaganda was extremely subtle. So much so, that some papers that remained were allowed to continue in growth such as the Vatican’s paper which increased in circulation from 20 000 to 250 000 in the late 1930’s. Some foreign papers were also allowed in Italy. The same system applied to the radio, where the cultured and educated were allowed access to alternative radio stations such as the Vatican broadcasts, the BBC and the Rosselli broadcast from Spain. This was all the more appealing as some luxuries were able to stay. Mussolini was not forcing the educated to read the posters and go to the cinema, he appeased them instead.Mussolini thought he could “never influence those with education and culture” and “solely aimed” specific forms of propaganda at the general public, he possibly did reach the cultured with it. He thought they were too clever to be influenced by propaganda aimed at who he thinks are the “stupid” masses (Robson) which actually reflects how he positions himself within society. He ranks himself at the top, intelligent, yet he has mistaken the cultured for having an emotive level that involves patriotism and pride. Through their failure during WW1, many Italians (irrelevant of education) will have felt shame and have hope of a rebirth of a greater Italy. Propaganda such as parades and national sporting events may have had an impact outside the ignorant masses, questioning the idea of never being able to reach the educated and cultured. It is questionable whether they realised they were possibly reaching this higher group, but as the assessment states that “Mussolini KNEW that he could NEVER influence…” the probability is that they really knew they couldn’t reach anyone cultured and educated at all by any means and that any success was by chance.In conclusion, I agree with this assessment of fascist propaganda to the extent that the majority of the propaganda was aimed at the general public or “ignorant masses”. However there were sub-classes which the propaganda did reach and exceptions to the statement of “never” influencing those with education, and “solely” aiming it at the masses. Educated and cultured members of the public may have had interests in modern day architecture, ancient Rome or sport that drew them to appreciate the Fascists regime and give it more support. It seems likely that propaganda played a major role in sustaining Mussolini’s regime and making him an extremely popular leader. This in itself supports the idea that he had a majority of support of the masses, which was influenced by successful and subtle propaganda.

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