Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Posts tagged “Italy

Nazi General Anton Dostler is tied to a stake before his execution by a firing squad, Italy; ca. 1945.

jmnW1ME

General Dostler ordered and oversaw the unlawful execution of fifteen captured US Soldiers. The soldiers were sent behind the German lines with orders to demolish a tunnel that was being used by the German army as a supply route to the front lines. They were captured and upon learning of their mission, Dostler ordered their execution without trial. The US soldiers were wearing proper military uniforms and carried no civilian or enemy clothing and were in compliance with Hague Convention to be considered non-combatants after their surrender. Under the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare, it was legal to execute “spies and saboteurs” disguised in civilian clothes or enemy uniforms but excluded those who were captured in proper uniforms. Since fifteen U.S. soldiers were properly dressed in U.S. uniforms behind enemy lines and not disguised in civilian clothes or enemy uniforms, they were not to be treated as spies but prisoners of war, which Dostler violated. They shot the Americans and buried them in a ditch by their field headquarters.

The general was convicted and sentenced to death by an American Military Tribunal. The trial found General Dostler guilty of war crimes, rejecting the defense of superior orders. He was sentenced to death and shot by a firing squad on December 1, 1945 in Aversa. The execution was photographed on black and white still and movie cameras.

*You can see this photo being taken at 1:22 here:

Advertisements

Why is the Mona Lisa so famous?

The Mona Lisa famous largely because of good and abundant press, honestly. The various reasons for the fame of the Mona Lisa can be split into the times before and after it was stolen from the Louvre in 1911.

La-Mona-Lisa-mas-joven-de-Leon_54351932538_54028874188_960_639

Prior to the theft:

  • Leonardo’s name was a well-known and very well-respected one in art historical terms, meaning owning any piece by him (especially considering there are only ~25 total paintings out there, either known or lost/destroyed/speculated) was a big deal. He might not have been the best Renaissance painter, but he was the Renaissance Man, and rightfully considered a master of his craft.
  • It broke all sorts of conventions for painting at the time: the portrait is cropped oddly, she’s not a religious subject, it’s intimate, the blurred background and use of sfumato was very unusual. Because of this, this new motif of portraiture began to be imitated almost immediately.
  • The painting was owned by a number of kings and kept in their various residences before it was transferred to the Louvre after the Revolution. While it was in private (royal) view, its existence was known because of the copies and imitations that already existed, and also because it was accessible to a number of royals, nobles and dignitaries. Once it was put on public display in the Louvre, in the time of the Romantics, it became a big hit. Writers and poets began to refer to her, romanticizing her, making her something of a myth.
  • In particular, in the 1860s, an English critic named Walter Pater wrote a long and vivid and extremely poetic essay praising the painting, calling her a “ghostly beauty”. At this point, art criticism was in its infancy, so this made a huge contribution to the field, and became by far the most well-known piece of writing about an artwork at that point. Here’s an excerpt of what he says:

It is a beauty wrought out from within upon the flesh, the deposit, little cell by cell, of strange thoughts and fantastic reveries and exquisite passions… She is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen day about her

  • And possibly most importantly, nobody truly knew who the hell she actually was.

So you’ve got this painting that has been copied since nearly the day it was finished, that’s been owned by kings, that was painted by an acknowledged leader of Renaissance ideals and techniques, and that’s had the most famous (at the time) piece of art writing that exists written about it, and its subject is still a mystery.

Then she gets stolen from the Louvre.

After the theft:

  • Because of all of the above, the theft was widely publicised. At this point the Mona Lisa was considered a “treasure” of France. There were rewards offered, there were numerous newspaper articles written – we’re talking worldwide, not just in France. Everybody knew the Mona Lisa now.
  • After the painting was found, the commercial aspect of her image began. You already had painters and engravers from as far back as the 16th century making copies of her. Now, with a much more widely circulated and accessible media, and new forms of printing and photography, her face was everywhere. Film and theatre stars posed like her, parodies were painted (like Duchamp’s with a moustache), she was on greeting cards and postcards and stamps, songs were written.
  • The Louvre lent the painting out twice – once in 1963 and once in 1974 – adding to the international fame of the work.
  • Dan Brown wrote some ridiculous book claiming that the Louvre owned 6 Mona Lisas and the curator got to “decide” which one to display as real the Mona Lisa is androgynous and represents the union of Jesus & Mary Magdalene, and was a threat to the Catholic Church. Or that it was a self portrait. People read Dan Brown and believe this.
  • And now, more than 8 million people every year see her, and her fame continues.

She’s not famous because she’s the best example of a painting ever, or even of a Renaissance painting. She’s famous because people keep talking about her. They have done ever since she was painted, and they’ll keep doing so. It’s a beautiful painting, but it’s 90% myth.


What is Fascism?

Fascism is a hard ideology to define because nearly every modern government or political movement has been called ‘fascist’ by somebody. I contend that fascism was a political movement unique to the early 20th century, especially in Europe, because its worldview was shaped by events and philosophical ideas from the late 19th century until the interwar period. Some people have called states like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq ‘fascist’, but I believe that there is a big difference between authoritarian dictatorship and genuine fascism.

article-1220263-00D3DAC400000190-853_468x286_popup

So how did fascism originally develop? It grew out of a European intellectual movement which criticized the alienating effect that industrial society had on modern man, as well as late 19th century critiques of Liberalism and Positivism. They believed that industrial society robbed men of their individuality; however they wanted to assert it at the same time. These ideas were adopted by many young people, especially young, middle-class socialists, because they wanted to rebel against what they perceived as pointless and archaic bourgeois morality and conformity. This is why in the 1930s, fascism looked like it might actually take over Europe: it successfully harnessed people’s dissatisfaction with modern society and directed it into political channels.

1069px-Gustave_Le_Bon_about_1900Fascists were influenced by philosophers like Gustav Le Bon who wrote about the need for a strong leading figure to lead the masses against social ills. He believed that people were fundamentally irrational, and should embrace their irrationality. This was taken up by fascist ideologues who thought that their members’ irrationality should be harnessed by the leader and directed into political action, which was mostly comprised of beating up socialists, communists and trade unionists (or Jews in the case of Nazism). Fascism was a fundamentally violent ideology which praised war and conflict. Both Hitler and Mussolini believed that war was the highest expression of human ability and society, and sincerely thought that life was a continual conflict between people for limited resources (hence the title of Hitler’s autobiography, Mein Kampf). To fascists war was a good thing because it let nations or races decide who was the strongest and who deserved the planet’s resources.

hitler-mussolini-florence-italy-second-world-war-ww2--rare-amazing-incredible-pics-pictures-images-photos-nazi-germanyFascism’s insistence on embracing irrationality is one thing that makes it hard to comprehend; although Hitler and Mussolini wrote their respective handbooks about fascist beliefs, they ultimately rejected concrete doctrines and always acted in response to current events. This is why a lot of fascist rhetoric and actions seem to be contradictionary.

The First World War gave fascism its mass base. Veterans across Europe felt alienated in civilian society after the war, which could not understand their experiences on the frontline. A lot of them wanted to return to an idealized comradeship and hierarchy of the front line, which fascist organizations like the SA and the Blackshirts offered. A lot of them didn’t actually care about the nuances of fascist ideology, they just felt like they didn’t belong in civilian society and needed order and comrades. Instead of a real enemy opposing army, fascism offered them a frontline against post-war society which was especially attractive in revisionist countries like Germany and Italy, where many wanted to destroy the existing Liberal order which they blamed for their countries’ humiliations.

dhs9_zps4bc26c6bUnlike socialists and communists, fascists wanted to cure modern society’s alienation through the creation of a hierarchal state made up of different social classes working together for the benefit of the nation. This is called ‘corporatism’ and is fascism’s only real contribution to economic thought. The competing segments of industrial society would be united by the leader act entirely through the state, which incidentally would preserve existing capitalist hierarchies and strengthen them. Fascists were for a sort of inverted social-democracy which would give social services to its members but not to anyone else. If you were not a member of the nation or the Volksgemeinschaft – tough luck. This is why many people participated in Fascist and Nazi organizations like the DAP or Hitler Youth; if you did not actively participate in the national or racial community, you were not a part of it and would be socially ostracized (or worse) and denied state benefits. They didn’t necessarily believe in fascist ideology, and many opposed it, but the fascist state required them to participate in it.

mussolini-01The major difference between fascism and socialism is that the former was all about preserving hierarchy and bourgeois society, while getting rid of industrial alienation through the creation of a totalitarian society. Mussolini thought that by giving up your individuality to the totalitarian state, you could have your energies and efforts multiplied by its services. Paradoxically, by surrendering individuality, alienation would somehow disappear. In industrial societies, fascism was popular with the middle class because it offered a cultural and social revolution which would keep hierarchies and fortify them through corporatism. Unlike conservatism, fascism wanted a cultural revolution that would create a “New Fascist Man” who had no individuality separate from the state. This is why it was appealing to the middle class; it let them vent their frustrations about modern society and be little revolutionaries while simultaneously protecting their property and position in the social hierarchy.

The emphasis on maintaining private property and hierarchy was what made fascists hate socialists and communists. Fascism marketed itself as the “Third Way” between Liberalism, which was responsible for alienation and the post-war Wilsonian order, and Socialism, which threatened to take bourgeois property in an economic revolution. Conservatives and fascists usually got along because they both hated the same things, but most conservatives failed to understand the revolutionary aspect of fascism and believed they could be controlled to curtail workers’ rights and revise the Paris Treaties, which didn’t really work out.


Image

B-25 Mitchell bombers of 321st Bomber Group, US 447th Bomber Squadron flying past Mount Vesuvius, Italy during its eruption of March 18-23, 1944.

Ykf7Oip


The headquarters of Benito Mussolini and the Italian Fascist party, 1934

When do you start questioning if your national leader is a super villain?

When do you start questioning if your national leader is a super villain?

 

The secret to their success… subtlety.


Image

Matterhorn – Italy/Switzerland border

Matterhorn - ItalySwitzerland border [1024x682]


“Ascension d’un sérac,” Ascent of a glacial column on Mount Blanc, ca. 1899

a1TO16u

Link to original source from the Central Library of Zurich.


A GI spraying a DDT/kerosene mixture on top of a bed and child, while smoking a pipe, in a southern Italy house, during post-WWII Mediterranean antimalarial campaign. 1945

DDT was safe enough to spray on our beds and rub in our hair, then it thins a couple of egg shells and everyone loses their minds.