Mussolini’s Rituals


‘Mussolini thought the Italians needed to be hardened, and he launched what he called an anti-bourgeois campaign. And among the things he banned, or tried to ban, anyway, was people shouldn’t shake hands, they should give the Roman salute, you know, raising their arm and their hand up in the air. […]

[A] man named Achille Starace, was kind of his circus master, who kept coming up with these ideas of rituals, mass rituals and other kinds of rites that he thought would make the Italians ever more devoted to their duce, which is the kind of Latiny term of leader that the Italians used to refer to Mussolini.

In fact, Mussolini required being referred to as DUCE, D-U-C-E,[1] it’s spelled, and it had to be written in capitals in the newspapers by the 1930s. It couldn’t just be written in the normal way.’

– Kertzer, D. (April 24, 2015) ‘Pope And Mussolini’ Tells The ‘Secret History’ Of Fascism And The Church. NPR.


[1] duce; ‘leader’ from Latin duco, meaning ‘I lead’. E.g. Il DUCE ha sempre ragione; ‘the leader is always right’.

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Necrocracy and the Eternal President


North Korea displays all the trappings of a fundamentalist theocracy (Tellis, Wills. 2007). It has long been established that the North Korean culture of government has taken the shape of a leadership cult with special reverence for its founder Kim Il-sung. This worship became particularly apparent in the 1990s when its founder – the first in the current trinity of Kims – passed away.

‘Under the leadership of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Korean people will hold the great leader Comrade Kim Il Sung in high esteem as the eternal President of the Republic and carry the revolutionary cause of Juche through to completion by defending and carrying forward the idea and achievements of Comrade Kim Il Sung.’

– Preamble to the Constitution of North Korea (1972, revised 1998)

In 1998, four years after the death of the so-called beloved and dear leader, it was established that Kim Il-sung would hold the office of President of the Republic for the rest of time.

Subsequent North Korean leaders (a hereditary privilege of the Kim family since the founding of the state) have been made head of the party and of supreme commander of the army, but the office of president is still held by the man who died in 1994. This makes North Korea the only state in the world with a dead president; effectively, the only necrocracy in the world.

15/ix mmxvi


Viruses can get viruses. A new one recently discovered in a French cooling tower was found to be infected by another, smaller one.

In ‘The Sword In The Stone’ (1963), Merlin the Magician wears pink boxer shorts.

The Trojan Horse was in fact Greek.

According to Islam, the robe and banner of Muhammed were green. Muslims also believe everyone in paradise wears green silk robes.

During World War II, the British had an official “Hate Training Academy”. It was stopped because it made soldiers too depressed.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

There was such a thing as HUAC


Established in 1938, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives that conducted investigations through the 1940s and 1950s into alleged communist activities.

Its actions resulted in several contempt-of-Congress convictions and the blacklisting of many who refused to answer its questions. Highly controversial for its tactics, it was criticized for violating First Amendment rights.

The following transcript of an excerpt from the interrogation of screenwriter John Howard Lawson by HUAC chairman J. Parnell Thomas gives an example of an alternative wording of the question and a sense of the tenor of some of the exchanges: Continue reading

Life in Turkmenistan


At the time of writing, Turkmenistan remains one of the world’s most repressive countries. The country is virtually closed to independent scrutiny, media and religious freedoms are subject to draconian restrictions, and human rights defenders and other activists face the constant threat of government reprisal. The government continues to use imprisonment as a tool for political retaliation. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the President of Turkmenistan, his relatives, and associates enjoy unlimited power and total control over all aspects of public life.

“Let the life of every Turkmen be as beautiful as our melons.”
– Saparmurad Niyazov, President of Turkmenistan (1990-2006)

Continue reading

Orwellian and Huxleyan Dystopias


Journalist Christopher Hitchens, who himself published several articles on Huxley and a book on Orwell, noted the difference between the two texts in the introduction to his 1999 article “Why Americans Are Not Taught History”:

We dwell in a present-tense culture that somehow, significantly, decided to employ the telling expression “You’re history” as a choice reprobation or insult, and thus elected to speak forgotten volumes about itself.

By that standard, the forbidding dystopia of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four already belongs, both as a text and as a date, with Urand Mycenae, while the hedonist nihilism of Huxley still beckons toward a painless, amusement-sodden, and stress-free consensus.

Orwell’s was a house of horrors. He seemed to strain credulity because he posited a regime that would go to any lengths to own and possess history, to rewrite and construct it, and to inculcate it by means of coercion. Whereas Huxley rightly foresaw that any such regime could break because it could not bend. In 1988, four years after 1984, the Soviet Union scrapped its official history curriculum and announced that a newly authorized version was somewhere in the works.

This was the precise moment when the regime conceded its own extinction. For true blissed-out and vacant servitude, though, you need an otherwise sophisticated society where no serious history is taught.

Some years before that, the social critic Neil Postman had contrasted the worlds of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World in the foreword of his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death:

  • What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.
  • Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much information that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism.
  • Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.
  • Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.
  • In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure.
  • In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.

Young Tory of the Year


[Susan, a television presenter, (Stephen Fry) is in a box at a concert hall; there is a packed house behind her and an orchestra tuning up. A man called Brent Wheeler (Hugh Laurie) is sitting next to her.]

Susan: Hello and three dozen welcomes to the Harrowgate Young Tory of the Year, here at the Daily Mail Hall, Horrorgate, in front of an invited audience of local businessmen and their slightly awkward teenage children in pony-tails and annoying ties. With me is one of the judges, Brent Wheeler, and he’ll be giving expert advice and telling us what to look out for. Good evening Brent.

Brent: Quite right.

Susan: Brent, the standard last year was incredibly high, do you think we can look for something similar this year?

Brent: Well, Susan, I think we probably can. I’ve been a judge for some of the local heats and I can tell you the talent this year is as awesome as ever it’s been.

Susan: This being the night of the finals, the competitors will be concentrating on keynote speeches and displays of general prejudice and ignorance, is that right?

Brent: More or less. There is a new round this year, however, a Getting Shiny-faced in a T-shirt round.

Susan: T-shirt? That sounds very …

Brent: Well, this is the way modern Young Toryism is being developed. T-shirts show that it isn’t just an art for the middle classes, but has general American street fashion-wise appeal for the young and hip-trendy.

Susan: Right, well. The lights are going down behind me as you can probably hear, and our first competitor, Andrew Tredgold is ready to go on.

As a Young Tory, Andrew Tredgold, steps on to the stage with a speech. There is a blue cyclorama behind him with a Union Jack-Arrow logo and the slogan “Forward with into Britain tomorrow right step”.

Susan: (cont.) Andrew is in his second year at Exeter reading Human Bigotry and Libertarian Nonsense. He counts amongst his inspirations the “Family Values” theme by Kevin Patten, the “Further Cuts in Public Expenditure” suite by Kenneth Clarke, arranged Portillo, and the “Endless Variations in J. Major”. So, Andrew Tredgold, South West regional winner.

A young man called Andrew Tredgold (Hugh Laurie) stands in front of those perspex autocue screens and clears his throat. Stephen Fry is the conductor, a la Simon Rattle. Andrew watches nervously as Stephen gives him a reassuring smile and then cues him. The Planets – Jupiter by Gustav Holst is played in the background.

Andrew: (as Andrew: becoming incredibly fast) Conference. Core values, real punishment for offenders, family standards, opportunity for individual enterprise, roll back the frontiers of the state, Michael’s bold and imaginative initiative, and yes, why not corporal punishment, really crack down, young offenders, rules of law, and yes I make no apology, respect for ordinary decent vast majority, welfare spongers, as Norman said so clearly, individual enterprise culture, opportunity attack on trendy liberal educational wishy-washy to pick up on Kevin’s wonderfully forceful point, sloppy thinking, sixties, in Michael’s bold and imaginative values, standards, decency, family, law, yes. I make no apology and why not even perhaps, God and pride in country, decent ordinary sloppy people, vast majority of bold new initiatives, decent, family standards, core values, return to fifties, reponsibility, individual, respect, standard, values, and yes, why not, values, respect, standards, ordinary, decent apology, I make no standards, vast family law, and why not sloppy corporal God punishment individual decent spongers wishy-washy trendy family crime Michael values. Thank you.

Huge applause.

Susan: Well, the audience absolutely loving Andrew’s performance there. But what will the judges make of it, I wonder? Brent.

Brent: Well, it was wonderfully confident and assured, wasn’t it? Original, though. I’m not sure how much the judges will like that. Did you notice in one of the earlier passages he opted for “family standards” instead of the more classically correct “family values”? But the technique was astonishing for one his age: he was every bit as insulting as a Tory twice his age.

Susan: Any actual mistakes?

Brent: Not real mistakes, no.

Susan: I thought at one point that he was going to say something that made sense.

Brent: He just managed to avoid that, didn’t he? A tense moment. But, no. Very assured, very ghastly: completely sucked dry of youth, energy, ideals, imagination, love, passion or intelligence.

Susan: Well, while the audience vomit we’ll return you to the shop where we bought you.

 – Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie: A Bit of Fry & Laurie (1989-1995)

On A Liberal Bias


“Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

– Stephen Colbert