Despot of the Week #7 – Benito Mussolini

September 23, 2009

Big Brother is watching you: Fascism is born in Italy

In the first half of the 20th century, Europe was one seriously messed up place. It was a time that constituted the last bastion of the old, crumbling Empire building European states. Every tribe on the continent feared and loathed every other tribe.  They’d all been fighting each other for pretty much most of the last one and a half thousand years or so – ever since the collapse of the Roman Empire in fact. The only good foreigner was a dead foreigner as far as most Europeans were concerned. Preferably with knitting needles sticking out of his eyeballs. The increasingly unhinged paranoia and encroaching senility of the old European elite led the continent blindly into the First World War – the most destructive war in history up until that time and just about the most pointless, so far as what anybody actually got out of it.

Economic stagnation followed, and then the Great Depression. Europe might as well have been back in the Dark Ages. The stench of revolution was in the air. People were pissed. They were prepared to get behind any ideology that appeared to offer something more glamorous and interesting than what they had at present. Just about anything, in other words. It was like Judaea at the turn of the millenium. People would listen to any deluded nutjob willing to get up on a soapbox in the market square and claim to be the son of God. Turmoil, upheaval and disillusion will do that to a people. That was Italy in the 1920’s. Into that great big desire for any alternative stepped Mussolini and his ideas about fascism – the most oppressive (and the most camp) form of government to come out of the 20th century. Fascism had a bit of everything: dressing up in uniform, wearing medals, putting on silly hats, marching around, saluting the flag and admiring gigantic propaganda posters featuring homoerotic imagery of muscular, Spartan supermen who would be the fascist worshipping utopians of the future. The people found it all very exciting. This is the story of how Mussolini pranced into power and captured the peoples’ imagination, only to be savagely hacked to pieces for his comic level of incompetence during World War II.

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Despot of the Week #3 – Mohammad Reza Pahlavi

August 12, 2009


In this edition of the Despot of the Week, The Grand Inquisitor examines one of the favourite foreign policy tactics of powerful Western democratic states: conspiring to establish vicious dictatorships in third world nations for fun and profit. The Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, was on the point of being ousted by Mohammed Moseddeq’s emerging parliamentarian government, before the CIA, in collusion with British Intelligence, acted to incite a military coup, restoring Pahlavi to power. Once he was back in the driving seat, Pahlavi established the sinister SAVAK agency of secret police as his instrument of control, terrorising the Iranian population with brutal methods of repression for the next quarter of a century. The lion’s share of Iran’s rich oil reserves were divided among British and US corporations, while Pahlavi propped up his regime with a steady flow of Western support, effectively becoming a puppet ruler for his imperial masters.

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Despot of the Week #2 – Nero

August 3, 2009


In the second edition of the Despot of the Week, The Grand Inquisitor takes a trip back through the ages to the Roman Empire in the First Century AD, a time when despicable cruelty and unspeakably foul sexual deviancy were rampant among some elements of the ruling class. Nero was perhaps the worst of a particularly unsavoury bunch of Roman Emperors, although admittedly, he is up against some pretty stiff competition. Nero was especially infamous for his persecution of the then fledgling Christian religion, and was declared the first incarnation of the Anti-Christ by the early Christian Church. He also had a habit of bumping off political rivals, wives, family members and anybody he took a mild disliking to with a reckless abandon. Nero even had his own mother murdered, allegedly after pursuing an incestuous relationship with her.

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Despot of the Week #1 – Saparmurat Niyazov

July 28, 2009


In a new weekly series, The Grand Inquisitor will profile world history’s most brutal, repugnant and in some cases, downright ridiculous Despots. Emperors, Kings, Military Dictators, Presidents-for-Life – whatever their titles may have been, these were all men who combined severe autocratic rule, wholesale villainy and in most cases, immense physical repulsiveness. Welcome to The Grand Inquisitor’s new regular column, Despot of the Week. First to come under the microscope is Turkmenistan’s Saparmurat Niyazov, a man so ruthless he banned lip syncing at public concerts and renamed the month of April after his mother.

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