Media and Fascism: Mass Media in Italy and Germany during Hitler’s And Mussolini’s Leadership


Media is the plural for medium, which means the channel through which information is conveyed. Mass media are forms of media that are used to convey information or news to a large audience by use of different forms of technology such as radio, television, internet, music, news papers and magazines. Mass media has several effects among the masses including reflecting the culture of a people as well as creating the culture. This is done by promoting moods and attitudes to the multitudes of what may be either important or unimportant.

Mass media plays a crucial role in the government. It can be used to either exalt or undermine accountability and transparency in the government. Balkin J.M (1998, n.p) says that politicians and other members of the government can use media to simulate the political virtues of transparency through media manipulation. This aspect is well achieved because most people do not have the chance to directly interact with the ruling government; they therefore make their opinions based on what the media portrays about the ruling government.

The media tends to rule out less entertaining stories to give more coverage to political aspects of the country such as infighting, elections, scandals as well as the private lives that these politicians live. In the long run the political tension or the political temperatures of the influence the discourse / themes and attitudes the people have towards the leadership of the country.  For this reason, depending on the extent to which the government has control over the media, it is possible for the government of the day to continuously perpetrate its injustices and undoing without attention and skepticism from the public.

Trotsky, L. (2002, 5) defines fascism as term originating from Italy. It was a movement that was characterized by spontaneous movement of large masses of people with new leaders from the rank and file. It is a plebian movement in origin that was directed and financed by big capitalist powers. The government being the supreme organ of the state requiring everyone to conform to its principles also characterizes it. The ruling government of the state seeks to conquer the rest of the world thus requiring all the humans in the world to submit to that particular government. Moreover, fascism necessitates that anyone against the principles of the government to be done away with. It is criminal to question the government and this is seen as detrimental to the attitudes of the rest of the population since one may end up corrupting them. Fascism is effectively applied by the use of militarism to have everyone conform to the ruling government.

Governments that employ fascism have to control every organ of the state. They require patriotism, disregard human rights for the sake of the security of the country, the military is rendered supreme above all other needs of the country, sexism is highly upheld, and the government of the day uses the most common religion to manipulate the public ideologies. The corporate elite benefit more resulting to corruption and fraudulent elections. In addition, the government either directly or indirectly controls the mass media. During war, the mass media content is often censored.

This paper seeks to examine the state of mass media in Italy and Germany during Hitler and Mussolini’s leadership. It analyses the use of mass media by these leaders to perpetrate fascism and to what extent were mass media content censored for the sake of national security.

Literature review

Despite the difference in geographical location between Benito Mussolini’s regime in Italy from 1922-1943 and Adolf Hitler’s regime in Germany from 1933-1945, these leaders share have a lot of similarities and a few differences with regard to their leaderships styles. The main similarity is that both used fascism as a principle to maintain their leadership. They established and maintained single party states through the warring periods and this was well executed by the ignorance of national discontentment. They both received undying support due to their ability to present a bright future for their countries. The aspect of social policy was used by these leaders to impose fascist ideologies to the masses and to retain their power throughout their leadership. They also applied fascism to control the larger population and marginalizing opposition parties or movements. (Rudbeck-IB-History-Revision, 2015, n.p)

The rise of dictatorial regimes played a major role in contributing to the beginning of the World War II. Italy and Germany succumbed to the fascist rule while Russia adopted totalitarianism. By 1939, only two major states in Europe, France and Great Britain remained Democratic. Several other European states and Latin American countries adopted authoritarianism where Japan adopted a militarist regime that led to its warring later on. Totalitarian regimes in Russia and German extended the functions and rule of the government. They expected active loyalty and commitment of citizens to the goals of the state regardless of what they were aimed at. Whether war, socialist society. They used modern mass propaganda techniques and high-speed communications to subdue the hearts and minds of their subjects. They sought to control political, social, economic, cultural, as well as intellectual aspects.

Burt, D. S. (2001, 302) writes a biography about Mussolini saying that Mussolini was an editor of the Socialist Party Newspaper and gained prominence as a leader of the revolutionary left wing party. When World War 1 broke out he turned to nationalism and after serving in the army, he formed a fascist group. He was later elected to parliament later marched on Rome and finally leading the king to making Mussolini the premier. Mussolini formed a dictatorship; eliminated opponents restricted the press and ended parliamentary government.

After Mussolini lived from hand to mouth for several years he took advantage of a political amnesty and embarked on a career in political journalism (Sarti, R. 2004, 429). He excelled as a journalist making him popular as a socialist revolutionary and opponent of party leader Fillipo Turati. After the 1911 protest by Mussolini against the Italian Turkish War, he was arrested and gained reputation as hardliner. He rose in 1912 as the head editor of the socialist newspaper Avanti. He later got uncomfortable with the legal tactics of the socialist party and hoped that war would provide a direct path to revolution. He late challenged the party position that Italy should stay out of European conflict that had broken out in august. He was later expelled from the party and he launched his own newspaper Il Popolo d’ Italia that ran the slogan ‘War Today, Revolution Tomorrow’ that demanded that Italy should intervene in the war. During the war he served as an artillery instructor was wounded and got back to his newspaper. It is from this point that he formed the Fascist Party (Sarti, R. 2004, 430).


Italy under Mussolini’s leadership

Fascism was born in Italy during Benito Mussolini’s rule by use of a fascist movement. He was a veteran of World War I and by this time established a new political group; ‘Fascio di Combattimento’ translated to mean ‘League of Combat’. This movement won support from middle-class industrialists who were fearful of working class agitation and large-scale landowners who were against agricultural strikes. The movement became more popularized when it became Mussolini’s national rhetoric and the fear that the middle class had toward socialism, communist revolution and disorder (Duiker, J. W. & Spielvogel, J., 2010, 617).

On 29th October 1922, Mussolini alongside other fascist threatened to march in Rome if they were not granted power. King Victor Emmanuel gave in and made Mussolini the prime minister of Italy. By 1926, Mussolini had already established the institutional framework for fascist dictatorship having been made the head of government with the power to legislate by decree. The police were given the mandate to arrest and confine anybody guilty of both political and nonpolitical offences without the due process of the law. All political and cultural organizations were then dissolved. By this same year, all anti-fascist movements were outlawed and the secret police force was established. By the time, the year came to an end Mussolini ruled as Italy’s ultimate ruler ‘Il Duce’ meaning “the leader’.

Mussolini tried to create a police state but it was not very effective. His attempts to also exercise control over all forms of mass media such as radio, newspapers, and cinema to promote propaganda to integrate the masses into the state were also not very fruitful. Fascists propaganda was disseminated through simple slogans such as “Mussolini is always right” that were plastered on walls all over Italy. The fascist also portrayed the family as the pillar of the state and women’s position were reserved to the kitchen. The popular slogan used for was “women into the home.” They were to be homemakers and produce babies. This was also seen as the perfect mission that women have in life. For this reason, women were not allowed to get employment outside their homes as this would affect their productivity and give them a sense of independence, which would in turn affect their physical and moral habits that were contrary to the principle of childbearing.

It worth noting that despite the suppression and use of propaganda in the creation of numerous fascist movements, Mussolini never achieved the totalitarian control that was experienced in Germany by Hitler or in Russia by Stalin. He was not able to completely destroy the old power structure. He was soon overshadowed by a much more powerful fascist movement to the north (Duiker, J. W. & Spielvogel, J., 2010, 617-618).

In a separate book, Spielvogel, J. (2014, 594) says the press laws during Mussolini’s leadership gave the government the right to suspend any publications that fostered disrespect to the Catholic Church, the monarchy or the state. He also says that Mussolini adopted the use of slogans all over the walls in Italy portraying Mussolini as being right always and the  fact that women were destined to belong to the kitchen. He attempted to mould Italians into a fascist ideology by developing fascist organizations. The regime relied more and more in on the services of youth organizations known as the Young Fascista to indoctrinate to young people to fascist ideologies by enrolling them in Fascist youth groups that various activities among them marching drills, calisthenics, seaside and mountain summer camps as well as contest. This was met which mixed feelings where the Italian teenagers who did not like the military training or routine training simply refused to attend these sessions.

However, Mussolini failed to attain the degree of totalitarian rule that was experienced in Germany. Some institutions such the monarchy and military were never absorbed into the fascist state, they managed to retain their independence. Despite having boasted that he would help workers and peasants, he allied himself with the interests of the landowners and industrialists at the expense of the lower class people (Spielvogel, J. 2014, 594).

John McCannon explains that Mussolini used modern technology and bureaucracy to control every aspect of the subject’s lives. He compares Mussolini to other totalitarian leaders such as Stalin and Hitler terming Mussolini leadership as mild. Though he imposed, censorship controls over culture imprisoned and even killed political enemies and dissidents and used propaganda to create a cult of personality. (341)

Germany when Hitler’s leadership

In Germany fascism arose during Adolf Hitler’s rule. At first, Hitler attempted to seize power in Southern Germany in Beer Hall Putsch where he failed but brought him and the Nazi’s into national recognition and prominence. He rose to power at the end of World War 1 after serving in the Western Front and decided to get into politics. He joined German Worker Party, which was among the extreme nationalist parties and assumed party by the end of 1921, which he renamed National Socialist German Workers’ Party popularly known as Nazi Party. In two years the membership was at 55,000 including 15,000 in the militia

He later staged an armed uprising against the government in Munich in November 1923, the Beer Hall Putsch. The putsch was later crushed and Hitler was sentenced to prison where he wrote an autobiography named “My Struggle” that outlined facts about his movement and its underlying ideologies of extreme German nationalism, virulent anti-Semitism, and anti-communism. All these aspects were intertwined with the social Darwinian theory of struggle that stresses the right of superior nations to Lebensraum (living space) through expansion and the right of superior individuals to secure authoritarian leadership over the masses. During his imprisonment Hitler realized that the Nazi would come to power through constitutional means unlike the previous mode of overthrowing the ruling government.

William J. Duiker, Jackson Spielvogel 2010, 617-618He later reorganized the Nazi Party and competed for votes with other parties. By 1929 the Nazis had a national party organization. Three years later, the Nazis had 800,000 members thus becoming the largest party in Reichstag. Previously disturbed by unemployment among other factors Hitler promised to create a new Germany that was free of class differences and party infighting. He confirmed his appeal to national pride, national honor and traditional militarism was positively and warmly received by his listeners. The Germans were enthusiastic of his leadership and looked up to him as their savior and deliverer from their problems. For this reason, the right wing elites of Germany including the industrial magnates, aristocrats, and the military and higher bureaucrats were optimistic of Hitler’s leadership that would save Germany from their Communist takeover.

The then president Paul von Hindenburg was put under pressure and he agreed to allow Hitler become chancellor on January 30th 1933 and form a new government. Within two months Hitler organized on how the Nazis would take over and he was crowned on March 23. This was followed by the Nazis acting fast to bringing all the institutions into their control. The civil service was purged for Jews and democratic elements, concentration camps were established for the opponents of the new regime, trade unions dissolved and all other parties except the Nazi were abolished. By the end of 1933, Hitler and the Nazi had established the foundations for a totalitarian state. When Heidenburg died on 2nd August 1924, the office of Reich president was abolished and Hitler became the ultimate ruler of Germany. Having crashed the parliamentary state, Hitler was tasked to establish a total state with the goal of developing an Aryan racial state that was aimed at dominating Europe and d the whole world forever. (William J. duiker, Jackson Spielvogel 2010, 618)

McCannon, J. (2006, 341) also explains that despite the democracy that was characteristic of the German rule during Weimar regime, the straining economic conditions especially the fact that almost 40% of its population was unemployed brought it to an end thus popularizing the extremist parties: the Communists and the Nazis. A series of elections in 1932 made the Nazi Party the largest in Germany and in 1933; Hitler was appointed the chancellor of Germany. He further explains that Hitler became an absolute tyrant within months. In 1933, the Reichstag building was burned down and Hitler took advantage of this situation thereby declaring a state of emergency and passed the enabling act that suspended the Weimar Constitution and gave Hitler the power to rule by decree for four years. He also outlawed all other political parties especially the communist parties, took control of the press and mass media, banned labor unions, imposed a system of state capitalism, built concentration camps for political opponents and also established a secret police. He managed to end the unemployment crisis by a giant public works program and highway building and massive increase in arms production (McCannon, J. 2006, 341). The Jews were forced out of professions, their businesses were boycotted, and they were physically harassed. Before the World War II, the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 striped German Jews of their citizenship and forbade the Jews and German non- Jews to marry or have sexual relations of any kind (McCannon, J. 2006, 342)

Perry, M., Chase, M., Jacob, J., & Daly, J., (2014, 742) say that the Communist Russia, Nazist Germany and Fascist Italy used mass organization and mass media to control the minds of the people and regulate behavior. They conveyed the image of a virile leader, Mussolini had himself photographed bare-chested or in a uniform with a steel helmet. Other photographs showed him riding horses, driving fast cars, flying planes and plying with lions cubs. Elementary school textbooks depicted Mussolini as the savior of the nation. The press, radio, and cinema idolized life under cinema. They implied that fascism had eradicated crime, poverty and social tensions.

In 1935, Mussolini invaded Ethiopia and incorporated Ethiopia into the new Italian empire. He later sent his support to fascists in Spain hoping to expand his influence. Adolf Hitler was later impressed by Mussolini’s efforts and therefore established a relationship leading to signing of military alliance known as the pact of steel. Hitler also influenced him to discriminate Jews in Italy. Italy’s resources were stretched to capacity thus many Italians believed the alliance with Germany provided them a chance to regroup. Hitler’s’ invasion into Poland and the war with Britain and France forced Italy into war thus exposing weaknesses in its military. Greece and North America fell and the German intervention saved Mussolini from a coup de tat. Mussolini died when there were allied forces that forced Germany to move its forces to the eastern troop against the Soviet Union. Mussolini was forced to resign and he was arrested but the German forces rescued him. He attempted to escape alongside his mistress but he was captured on 27th April 1945 and they were executed the following day (Bio, 2015, n.p)


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