- This is interesting from KoU on Gabriele D'Annunzio, who provided many of the techniques and ideas that Mussolini went on to utilise in Italian Fascism. Steiner is describing here D'Annunzio's use of consciousness lowering techniques for manipulating crowds using emotion. Shades of Hitler I reckon.
"A remarkable copy of this event took place under the same starry constellation in 1915 when, not Cola di Rienzi, but Signor d'Annunzio[ Note 9 ] called together a crowd on the same spot in a very similar way! Again a delirious consciousness was affected by ideas and symbols which conjured up pictures that were eminently suitable for speaking to this delirious consciousness. I am not criticizing anybody's consciousness but merely reporting facts facts which, if you like, have been pushed as far as possible down into the unconscious. But this does not alter their effectiveness. On Whitsun-day 1915 the same happened in Rome as had happened on Whitsun-day 1347, which also fell on 20, 21 May. One day makes no difference. On the contrary, the constellation was all the more identical. At Whitsun 1915 there was a repeat performance of what had happened under Cola di Rienzi in 1347. The new event was thus particularly effective, for it was borne on the same vibrations, the same waves, the same conditions.
History will only be understood when such facts are known, when it is known what can be achieved with the help of such facts. Regardless of what the influences were, Signor d'Annunzio, through the life he had led so far, had the potential of succumbing to all sorts of influences, and he had the strength to put these influences to use. Let me remark merely that, because of his earlier poetry, this poet was called by a number of critics representing the healthy side of Italy `The singer of all shameful degeneracy'. In ordinary life his name was Rapagnetta, which I am told means `little turnip', but he called himself d'Annunzio.
Under this starry constellation Signor d'Annunzio gave a speech [ Note 10 ] which you may judge for yourselves because I am going to read it aloud to you to the best of my ability. To put you in the picture: There were two parties in Italy at that time, the Neutralists and the Interventionists, and Signor d'Annunzio set himself the task of transforming all the Neutralists into Interventionists. The Neutralists wanted to preserve neutrality, and Giolitti, [ Note 11 ] a man who had been very active in Italian political life for a long time, was for neutrality. That speech by d'Annunzio, which was like a repetition of the one made long ago by Cola di Rienzi under the same starry constellation, went as follows::"
<sniped the inflammatory and uninteresting speech>
Thus spoke the new Cola di Rienzi. Then he received the #8224 presented to him as a special souvenir of Nino Bixio. This #8224 stemmed from ancient days and had been treasured by the Podrecca family. The #8224 is presented pardon me, but this is really true by the editor of Asino! Asino is a particularly obscene satirical journal. But d'Annunzio takes hold of the #8224, kisses it solemnly, strides through the crowd and enters not, like Cola di Rienzi, a horse-drawn triumphal chariot, for times have changed he enters a motor car, having first commanded all the church bells to be rung. The delirious consciousness must not be allowed to fade too soon. All the bells are rung to keep it going a little longer.
Then d'Annunzio halts his car at the telegraph office and sends a telegram to the editor of Le Gaulois who answers I am sorry I do not know how to pronounce this in French so I shall have to say it in the German way who answers to the name of Meier:
`Rome, 1 p.m., great battle fought. Have just spoken on the Capitol to an enormous, delirious crowd. The bells are sounding the alarm, the cries of the people rise up to the most beautiful sky in the world. I am drunk with joy. After the French miracle I have now witnessed the Italian miracle.'
Without making any comments or taking sides I simply wanted to point out certain facts in order to show, by the way in which they are connected, how things happen that are hardly noticed by our unobservant contemporaries. I wanted to show that although the `singer of all shameful degeneracy', as he was called in Italy, probably did not believe very strongly in the miracle of Whitsun, he nevertheless succeeded very well in working on certain unconscious impulses by using a repetition of an event which made available considerable forces within a delirious consciousness. This man, who in his own country is called `the singer of all shameful degeneracy' and who has succeeded in writing a novel which trumpets forth his relationship with a famous woman in the most contemptible way this man found another whole series of effective images in another long speech, this time in the Constanzi theatre. The image of the cannon, which I have already mentioned, is rather less significant. I cannot read the whole speech to you as this would take too long. Let me give you a passage from the beginning and another from the end. It begins:
<skipped next one too>
And so it goes on. Then, at the end we find a new, warmed-up version of something we know so well from the gospels. [ Note 14 ] D'Annunzio of all people dares to speak the following words:
`Blessed are they who have more, for all the more shall they give, all the more shall their enthusiasm be inflamed!
Blessed are they who have for twenty years a pure spirit, a hardened physique, a courageous mother!
Blessed are they who refrained, waiting and trusting, from squandering their strength, preserving it instead with a warrior's discipline!
Blessed are they who scorned unfruitful dalliance, saving their virginity for this first and last love!'
D'Annunzio of all people says: `Blessed are they who scorned unfruitful dalliance, saving their virginity for this first and last love!'
`Blessed are they who shall tear out the hate rooted in their breast with their own hands and then offer their sacrifice!
Blessed are they who yesterday still resisted the event, yet today silently accept it as a profound necessity, desiring now to be no longer the last but the first!
Blessed are the young men who hunger and thirst for glory, for they shall be satisfied!
Blessed are the compassionate, for they shall wipe away the shining blood and bind up the lustrous pain!
Blessed are the pure in heart, blessed those who return victorious; for they shall see the new countenance of Rome, the re-crowned head of Dante, the triumphant beauty of Italy.'
So even in our own time such things are sometimes said! And it is so important, my dear friends, not to pass by these things. For not all people act in accord with the One Whose birth we celebrate in the holy night not those who scream out such beatitudes into the world. To belong, not to the darkness, but to the light which has entered into the world: This is a feeling with which to fill our souls at the time of this holy feast. To dedicate ourselves to the light, instead of to that inattentiveness which brings us only darkness: This, too, can be something in these grave times which it is important for us to inscribe in our souls on Christmas Eve.