Despot of the Week #7 – Benito Mussolini

September 23, 2009
Fascist_Headquarters_-_1934

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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When Jews Attack: Inglourious Basterds Review

August 31, 2009

basterds

The opening chapter of Inglourious Basterds is titled “Once Upon a Time in Nazi Occupied France” – and it’s a title you can read a lot into right from the outset. Just as Sergio Leone’s Once Upon A Time in America re-imagines America’s Wild West as a storybook fable of mythic grandeur, Quentin Tarantino’s latest cinematic extravaganza re-imagines World War II as a loving homage to spaghetti westerns, a delirious revenge fantasy, and a celebration of cinema’s power to rewrite history as an epic fever dream. In the fantastical alternate movie-verse of Tarantino’s oeuvre, World War II ends in 1944, with Jews exacting bloody revenge on Adolf Hitler in a hecatomb of terrorist atrocity. It’s probably the boldest, most irreverent and gleefully unrighteous take on World War II that’s ever been committed to film. And thank God for that. If I had to sit through another of the portentous odes to self sacrifice and salutin’ the flag that have cluttered up the war movie genre for the last couple of decades, I think I’d suffer a spontaneous attack of narcolepsy.

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