iMussolini app is top of Italian download chart


SO, FOR Italy’s iPhone/iTunes generation, who is the most downloaded artist? Michael Jackson? U2? Eros Ramazzotti? Madonna?

No, his name is Benito Mussolini, Italy’s fascist dictator who ruled the country from 1922 to 1943 and who was executed by partisan fighters in 1945, long before iTunes and the vast majority of its clientele saw the light of day.

Rather than listening to the songs of Lady Gaga, Italian iTunes users have been busy downloading Mussolini speeches such as that of June 10th, 1940, in which he announced Italy’s entry into the second World War alongside Hitler’s Nazi Germany: “Listen to me, the hour of destiny has struck in the sky of our homeland, the hour of irrevocable decisions.”

An application called iMussolini, launched on January 21st, has been a surprising hit, quickly registering 1,000 downloads a day at a cost of 79 cents and becoming AppleStore Italy’s best-seller.

The application contains video, audio and text of more than 120 speeches made by Il Duce.

Even though the application discourages clients from “making inopportune comments praising fascism”, the success of iMussolini has sparked plenty of seemingly approving comment, such as “Dux, Dux, Dux”, the slogan with which fascist-era crowds greeted Mussolini at public meetings.

Elan Steinberg, vice-president of the US-based American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, called the iMussolini application “a disgrace and a surrender to crass commercialism” as well as “an insult to the memory of all victims of Nazism and fascism, Jew and non-Jew, and should be condemned for its offence to decency and conscience”.

Opposition forces such as the Federation of Young Italian Communists have called the application a “hymn to fascism”.

Historians have recalled how Mussolini in 1938 introduced infamous and punitive racial laws which effectively deprived many Italian Jews of their citizenship, jobs and wealth. It is estimated that 8,000 Italian Jews died in the Holocaust.

Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of Il Duceand a current deputy in the centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) party of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, says that “those speeches, like them or not, form part of history but if you want to wipe out history with censorship, help yourself”.

The success of iMussolini, however, again prompts some intriguing questions. Just how much do young Italians know about their country’s recent history and its fascist past? And more importantly, how much has that past and Mussolini’s role in it been “sanitised” by the Italian right?