August 18, 2019

We Need to Define Fascism

““You can’t define it as good or bad,” Caio Mussolini, great-grandson of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, told reporters on May 8, discussing fascism during his run for the European Parliament. Fascism was a “complicated, nuanced period.”

It’s not the first time the dictator’s progeny have defended him. Last October, granddaughter Alessandra Mussolini, a member of European Parliament, threatened on Twitter to “monitor” and “bring to court” anyone who disrespected the memory of her grandfather. In April, she tangled with Jim Carrey on Twitter after the actor posted a famous photograph of the bodies of Mussolini and his mistress as a warning about the dangers of fascism. “You are a bastard,” she tweeted at Carrey.

These incidents, and others, have exposed a peculiarity in how the Western world talks about history. It’s hard to imagine a serious public intellectual or politician of any stripe calling the Holocaust a “complex, nuanced period.” Nor are there many full-throated defenses of Hitler. But defending Italian fascism, while extreme, is still allowed in public discourse: Separated from the specter of Auschwitz, it seems, people have trouble defining what exactly about fascism is bad enough to make it indefensible.”

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