The Ministry of Popular Culture and Italian Propaganda on the Home Front, 1938–1943
Drawing on largely unexplored sources such as government papers, personal memoirs, censored letters and confidential reports, Staging the Fascist War analyses the crisis of the regime in the years from 1938 to 1943 through the perspective of a propaganda programme that failed to bolster Fascist myths at a time of total war.
Chapter 2. From Non-Belligerence to the First Air Raids
Chapter 2 From Non-Belligerence to the First Air Raids With Europe on the brink of a new war in September 1939, most Italians were still under the influence of the jingoistic complacency that followed the Ethiopian and Spanish campaigns. The spectre of a future, total, war was still confined to fiction or to initiates in the military or academia. Yet beyond the propagandistic curtain, people feared Hitler and did not want alliance with Germany. Open dissent did not exist, but Mussolini was con- stantly informed in police and party reports that his country, which since coming to power he had been seeking to transform into a nation of ‘citizen soldiers’, was not ready for war, and neither was the military machine. ‘The Italian race’, he told Ciano in January 1940, ‘is a race of sheep. Eighteen years are not enough to change it’.1 Yet Mussolini was adamant in supporting Hitler and in giving both the Germans and the democratic powers the impression that Italy could join the fight at any moment. To achieve this aim, he needed a propaganda and media narrative that could compensate for what the country lacked in substance. Hence the frequent press and radio reports on successful exer- cises and displays of discipline among civilians. The mcp, under the Duce’s supervision, was in charge of staging that narrative, maintaining control over not only the press, but also cinema, theatre, the arts and all forms of popular culture. The promotion of Alessandro Pavolini in autumn 1939 to...
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