Donlald Trump’s Twitter account seemed to have little controversial ground left to tread, until it shared a quote from fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on Sunday.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 28, 2016
As comparisons of Donald to Nazi Adolf Hitler have been rife throughout the Republican nomination process, throwing Benito into the mix should be none too surprising. The Mussolini quote is one of his most well-known, and Trump’s Twitter certainly isn’t the first to share it.
— kirk acevedo (@kirkacevedo) November 25, 2015
On top of it, Donald was fed the Benito quote by Gawker. The news organization published a piece soon after Trump’s so-called endorsement explaining that it was part of a Twitter account set-up by senior writer Ashley Feinberg and Media Editorial Labs director Adam Pash. Since December, 2015, @ilduce2016 sent the words of Mussolini to @realDonaldTrump — in the hopes that one day he would use one of them without realizing the implications of the source.
“Last year, we set a trap for [Donald]. We came up with the idea for that Mussolini bot under the assumption that Trump would retweet just about anything, no matter how dubious or vile the source, as long as it sounded like praise for himself. (It helps that that a number of [Benito]’s quotes sound plausibly like lines from [his] myriad books.)”
It didn’t take long for some of Donald’s 6.46 million Twitter followers to catch the inadvertent fascist association. By noon on Sunday, the story had already gone viral. Trump was even asked about his Mussolini quote while appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press. The Republican frontrunner did not deny the quality of the fascist quip at all, simply saying that the words still held wisdom even if they were from the mouth of someone widely reviled.
“Look, [Benito] was Mussolini. It’s okay to — it’s a very good quote, it’s a very interesting quote, and I know it. I saw it. I saw what — and I know who said it. But what difference does it make whether it’s [Benito] or somebody else? It’s certainly a very interesting quote… I want to be associated with interesting quotes.”
While Mussolini certainly used the quote in a speech during the 1920s, the origin of what Donald tweeted is a bit ambiguous. Some sites attribute it to the Romans, which would, of course, seem logical, as they were one of Benito’s biggest inspirations for fomenting nationalism in Italy. The earliest inspiration of the quote is, in fact, found in Trump’s purported favorite book, the Holy Bible.
“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.
Despite the questionable origin of the fake Mussolini Twitter account quote, the dispute does raise interesting questions about journalists entrapping their sources in order to create news. While the practice can often be used for good — such as infiltrating corrupt companies or capturing what elected officials say behind closed doors — Gawker isn’t pulling back the curtain to catch something that’s already going on. Instead, they are prepping Donald for a punch line, one that took nearly two months for them to even catch him in.
Being appalled by Donald Trump’s Twitter is certainly the correct response for any level-headed individual, but Gawker baiting him with a Benito Mussolini quote — that the man himself didn’t even come up with — to try to drive home what a fascist he is seems both dishonest and unnecessary. Neither of these two traits are essential for disparaging the GOP presidential hopeful. Anyone familiar with fascism has already seen that in his campaign from the first nationalistic “Mexicans are rapists” freakout.
[Photo by Ralph Freso and Luce/Getty Images]