Journalism As a Mission
By Benito Mussolini
Comrades and Gentlemen: This important meeting of the journalists of the regime takes place only at the end of the sixth year thereof. You understand it could not have taken place before because it is only since January, 1925, and more particularly during the past two years that the problem of the Fascist press has been faced and almost entirely settled. In a regime which embraces everything, as any regime arising from a triumphant revolution should, the press is an element of that regime, a force at the service of that regime.
In a unitarian regime the press cannot be extraneous from the whole. This is why the whole Italian press is Fascist and should feel proud to militate compactly under the emblem of the lictor's rods. Starting with this undeniable fact, we immediately have a compass to guide the practical activity of Fascist journalism. We avoid that which is harmful to the regime and do that which helps it. Above all, and we may say it of Italy exclusively and apart from other countries, journalism, rather than a profession, or trade, becomes a mission of great delicacy and importance, because nowadays it is journalism which circulates among the masses. After the school has instructed the rising generations, it is journalism which carries on the task of information and formation.
Therefore, it is not absurd that, since we must continue the formative education of the multitude, journalists should be morally and technically trained. It is evident that journalists are not made in schools any more than poets. Nevertheless, nobody can deny the usefulness of schools.
This first meeting of the journalists of the regime is meant to be an honor and recognition. Those old accusations that Fascist tyranny suffocates the freedom of the press are now entirely discredited. The Fascist press is the freest in the whole world. Elsewhere newspapers are under orders from plutocratic groups, from parties, from individuals; elsewhere they have been reduced to the melancholy state of exchanging exciting news, the perpetual reading whereof saturates the public mind with a kind of stupefaction, with signs of atony and imbecility; elsewhere journals are grouped in the hands of a very few individuals who consider newspapers as true and personal industry like that of iron or leather.
Italian journalism is free because it serves but one cause and regime; it is free because within the laws of the regime it can and does exercise functions of control, criticism, propulsion. I most absolutely deny that the Italian press is the realm of boredom and uniformity. All who read foreign journals of all countries in the world know how gray, uniform, stereotyped, even to details, is their press. I affirm that Italian Fascist journalism must always and in greater measure differ clearly from that of other countries so as not only to build for the flag which it defends but also be a resolute, visible, very radical antithesis to the press of other lands.
This difference does not exclude another one equally important. Let me use a musical simile. I consider Italian Fascist journalism as an orchestra. The—la—is common to all instruments. This—la—is not given out by the Government through its press bureaus under some sort of inspiration and suggestion made according to daily contingencies; this—la—is given by Fascist journalism itself. It knows how to serve the regime. It does not wait the word of command every day. It has it in its conscience.
Once given the—la—there remains diversity of instruments and it is precisely their diversity which prevents cacophony and brings instead full, divine harmony. There is, besides, the diversity of the musicians' temperament, a necessary diversity because this imponderable but vital element makes execution ever more perfect. Each journal should become a well defined, that is, individualized instrument recognizable in the great orchestra. In a modern orchestra stringed instruments do not exclude wind instruments of unusual shape. There can be Fascist journals of serious aspect with perhaps an official tinge, and journals for assault, warlike, headstrong. There can be journals partial to certain problems; those which are big enough to be national, others which must be content as excellent regional or provincial journals.
For instance, it is absurd for a provincial newspaper to soak its readers with whole pages on world foreign policy. Their difference must be bound up with true and proper division of labour based upon Fascist journalism's common sense rather than upon instructions from above.
The national, regional, provincial press serves the regime by reporting its daily task, creating, maintaining an atmosphere and approval of its work.
It is a great adventure to live in this first extraordinary quarter century, a great adventure for you to be able to follow Fascist revolution in its progressive stages. Destiny has been particularly kind to you, permitting you to be journalists during a war and revolution, both rare, memorable events in the history of nations.
Now, do all those who think they serve the regime, serve it effectively, usefully? Not always. Those do not serve it who abandon themselves to laudatory adjectives, singing some obligatory rhyme for conventional purposes about every act and fact, even of small import, or every man even of modest stature. You must deflate and keep your distance. Six years of Fascist revolution are greater than any words, especially than many words. Nouns make adjectives superfluous.
Nor do those who give excessive space to crimes, featuring them for copy, serve the regime, nor those who neglect their journal's make-up, who should take great pains over headlines and text, especially headlines. I read, for instance, of rewards given to the reporter who spends his time between prison and hospital for the headline "Genius and Madness," as though genius inevitably dwelt in madhouses. Accidents during work become terrifying catastrophes. You feel bound to report that some young professor shoots his wife, as if it interested anybody but the janitor and their nearest relations. For the thousandth time you rehash the mystery of Rudolph at Mayerling and reprint to boredom the story of Baker, the self-styled Black Venus. All this is uneducative journalism of old regimes.
The new regime that is Fascist journalism must get off the rocks of this mentality and set out in search of and write about all other varied grand aspects, problems of individual and national life. Copy about crime must be left to police reports, except in those exceptional cases where great social, human or political interest prevails.
Those do not serve the regime who fail to keep their dignity before foreigners who are enjoying Italian hospitality, even when they express their opinion about the regime or Mussolini. I repeat that the highest marks assigned to me, with or without praise by any of these illustrious personages, leave me entirely indifferent.
Exalt big men, all those who render service to their motherland and humanity, not those vain ones who like to see themselves pictured in the act of saluting the unknown warrior. Nor do those serve the regime who lack discretion, especially in matters of foreign policy or finance; who are inexact; who go in for Barzinism late in the day; who cover themselves with incense or, in the heat of argument, stoop to defamatory remarks and cannibalism. Nor do those who indulge in the luxury of generic censoriousness and irresponsible moralizing, who look at all and nobody when precise facts and names are needed to correct evils betimes; nor those who fail to check facts and judgment passed upon people in their articles, thereby serving their adversaries with evidence against them.
This list of how to serve, or not to serve, the regime could be prolonged, but you already understand me and how to serve the regime.
I wish to stress that, apart from strictly political questions or those fundamentally embedded in the revolution, criticism can, with limitations, be exercised for all other questions. Before monetary reform was introduced I allowed polemics between those favoring and those against revaluation, not only in academic chairs but in reviews and dailies. In part, science, philosophy, a man's Fascist membership ticket must not give him privileges or immunity. Just as it should be permissible to say that Mussolini as a violin player is a very modest amateur, so it should be permissible to criticize objectively art, prose, poetry or the theatre without any veto. Here party discipline is not at stake nor does revolution come into play. When a man asks to be judged as poet, playwright, painter, novelist, he has no right to fall back on his party membership when judgment is unfavorable.
Jones or Smith may be a brave Fascist but a deficient poet. You must never give the public the alternative of being anti-Fascist because it hisses, or cowardly because it applauds all literary abortions, all bad poetry, all pictures which are daubs. The membership card gives no talent to those who lack it. I have not said all I could, but I think I have said the essentials. Above all this, your task will grow ever more important, nationally and internationally. Nationally because among other things the Italian people will within a few months' time be summoned to a plebiscite whereby it will record its effective consent to the regime in the eyes of the whole world. You must prepare this great manifestation and you have in your journals a means of doing so worthily.
In international spheres we are not marching toward easy times. The more Italy grows in political, economic, moral stature the more durable Fascist Italy becomes and the greater will be those inevitable reactions in anti-Fascist spheres which seem offended at having a new word of command in political and social camps. For this our press was vigilant, ready, equipped modernly with men who know how to argue with adversaries beyond our frontiers, who above all, are moved not by material but by ideal aims.
I hope that when I again convoke you I shall be able to see that you have always more decidedly, proudly served the cause of revolution. With this hope, accept my cordial greeting, in which there is a little reminiscence and homesickness.