Mussolini's use of Propaganda

During the rule of the Fascists, Mussolini used propaganda to brainwash Italian citizens to ensure support and increase his popularity.


He used various types of propaganda to achieve this. Examples include...

Newspapers

Mussolini had already banned all Anti-Fascist newspapers (including foreign newspapers) in July 1925 and required that all journalists should be approved by and registered with the Fascist party from December 1925. Therefore, when reading Italian newspapers, everyone would be influenced by propaganda as the news constantly promoted Fascism and portrayed Mussolini’s government in a very positive light.

Newspapers were used to promote the Fascist ideology, such as militarism, nationalism an d extremism. For example, when Italy joined World War Two on the side of Germany, in an article titled “People of Italy Run To Arms”, they stated that it was “Italy’s destiny to join the War”. As an ally of Nazi Germany, they also used their newspaper to spread Hitler’s news and Nazi German propaganda, such as anti-semitism.

Posters

Fascist Italy used posters to show Mussolini’s brilliance, the power of Fascism, the threat of communism and a number of other messages.

On the right is a poster with a large face of Mussolini above smoking factories, the caption being “Greetings to the Duce, the founder of the empire”. Clearly, this had the purpose of celebrating the Italian leader, showing how he has established power and authority over the national image, by leading the country through greater development and expansion, and the power over the nation as a whole. The factories in the foreground and background indicate the industrial advances that Mussolini advocates and has brought for Fascist ideology and Italy as a whole. His large face evokes a sense of national pride as the stoic facial expression and the shadows drawn present him as a powerful Italian patriot who has seen war.

We found another poster of a young child (representing Italy), captioned ‘Papa Save Me’ with a red flag and symbol of communism in the background. This would appeal to the upper class, businessmen and bourgeoisie due to their fear of communism. In short, it tells Italians that they should be afraid of communism. The child fits the technique of pathos as it targets the audience emotions, telling them that they should save the child, and thus, Italy– from communism.

Cinema

Mussolini changed the film industry and used the cinema to fit the interests of the state.

In 1934, a censorship government body was founded, with the power to read and change movie scripts, they awarded prizes to pro-Fascist movies and censored many foreign films. They provided full funding to movie scripts that had pro-Fascist messages in their original versions, whilst any approved movie scripts could also receive up to 60% of their funding from the state. With this, there was also a Directorate-General for Cinema who was responsible for monitoring it for anti-Fascist messages and for approving content.

In 1937, Benito Mussolini and his son Vittorio, founded Cinecitta movie studios with Luigi Freddi, Directorate-General for Cinema, in order to help filmmakers make films with pro-Fascist messages. The same year, an Italian movie, titled “Scipio Africanus: The Defeat of Hannibal” was released, promoting Italy’s Africa expansionist policy.

Above is Cinecittà Studios in the modern day. It is the largest film studio in Europe.

Radio

In 1924, Mussolini began to see the potential of the radio in dispensing propaganda. The Radio began to broadcast several state programmes. Although it mainly consisted of music, there were at least 2 hours of official broadcast each day, and this increased in the 1930s.

Additionally, Mussolini made speeches that were broadcast to crowds of people in Piazzas through loudspeakers. This is because, at the time, only 40,000 people owned a radio, although, by 1938, this had increased to 1 million and by 1939, 1 in 44 households owned a radio.

This large increase was likely due to the new rural radio agency which supplied schools with radios. There was also a Fascist leisure and recreational organization for adults called The National Afterwork Club (Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro, or OND for short). It ran community listening meetings that assisted in the spread of Fascist ideology, to people in rural areas and those who could not read.

Rallies and Sports

Italy was quite heavily invested in the sport of football, with Mussolini being an avid fan. In regards to sport, they had quite a few aims. The Fascist regime used football to improve the health and strength of Italian men, possibly as they wanted to be able to recruit a strong army in the event of War.

In 1934, Italy hosted the FIFA World Cup, using the opportunity to show off and sell Italian products. Rallies were also held, showing the might of the Italian Nation. Italy even won the World Cup that year, and it showed the strength of Italian men.

Many rallies were held over the years, aiming at impressing the audience, promoting discipline and encouraging national and collective identity. Examples of these rallies include the mass rally which was held in celebration of the seventh anniversary of the Fascist March on Rome. Again, in 1936, they organised a mass military parade in which medals were presented to war widows.

1934 FIFA World Cup Final: Italy vs Czechoslovakia

Art

In terms of art, Mussolini banned degenerate art in an attempt to control the public and only allowed abstract art. As already discussed, posters were created as Fascist propaganda. Mussolini was also featured in art where he was depicted as a strong saviour and hero of Italy.

See again on the right... Mussolini's large face evokes a sense of national pride while the stoic facial expression and the shadows drawn present him as a powerful Italian patriot who has seen war.

Sculptures

With regards to sculptures, a huge sports complex, called Foro Italico, was created in Italy, with the primary aim of Italy hosting the olympics in 1940. Known originally as Foro Mussolini (meaning Mussolini’s Forum), statues of Italian athletes were built to advertise the success and strength of Italy— and it still exists today as a significant example of Fascist architecture.

(Above) Foro Italico

Exhibitions

Furthermore, the Exhibition of the Fascist Revolution was held in Rome from 1923 to 1934 and featured art and sculptures.

It was opened by Mussolini on 28 October 1932 and had 4 million visitors.

The show told the story of the evolution of Italian history from 1914 until the March on Rome. It served as a work of Fascist propaganda which aimed at influencing and emotionally involving the audience, whilst it also compared Mussolini to the Roman Emperor Caesar, signifying that Mussolini would bring Italy back to it’s former glory.

(Above) Image showing the Exhibition is from this link.

Literature and Philosophy

In 1928, Mussolini also published his autobiography, recounting his youth, his time as a journalist, his experiences in World War I, the formation of the Fascist Party, the March on Rome, and his early years in power.

From 1929 and 1936, Enciclopedia Italia was published, also known as Treccani (after its developer Giovanni Treccani). It was aimed at rivalling Britain’s Britannica Encyclopedia, although it had a strong focus on Italy’s role in world development as it aimed at displaying Italian pride.

The philosophy of fascism was conveyed through the Manifesto of Fascist Intellectuals. In this, over 200 intellectuals, led by the philosopher Gentile, produced this book on the philosophy of Fascism, similar to how Mein Kampf showed the philosophy of Nazism and the writings of Marx and Lenin the philosophy of communism. This aimed to show that without Fascism, there would be no true culture, and to prove that fascism was the one true ideology.

Above is an image of the 35 volumes of Treccani / Enciclopedia Italia that were published, plus one index volume. In total, they contained around 60,000 articles and 50 million words.

Culture and Music

The National Fascist Cultural Institute was established to spread Fascist culture to the masses, and by 1941, had over 200,000, mostly middle-class members.

Musicians were forced to join the Fascist Union of Musicians and were forced to reject foreign influences in order to develop “Cultural Authority”. Despite this, there was still some musical diversity in Italy.