Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mussolini on your iPhone

Question: will people ever learn? Answer: probably not.

The two major Italian papers, the Corriere and Repubblica, have just reported that there is a newish app for the iPhone called iMussolini, which features about a hundred of the dictator's speeches. This is undoubtedly disturbing, because, as one of the journalists noted, Mussolini memorabilia has always been around, but one supposed that it was cranky old die-hards buying the stuff. Hard to imagine that the same demographic will buy the app, which is going for 79 euro cents and has quickly become the number two app sold in Italy (what could number one be? iHitler?)

Understandably, an organization of Holocaust survivors has objected to this. But what is Apple to do? This material is already available elsewhere; this is merely a portable version for Duce admirers to get their Fascism fix whenever they want it. It would clearly be against our First Amendment rights to eliminate this.

Something perhaps could be done on the Italian side. Although the Italians obviously have constititional provisions for freedom of expression, they also have laws against advocating or supporting the theory of Fascism or attempting to bring back the Fascist party (apologia di fascismo, ricostituzione del disciolto partito Fascista). The constitutionality of these laws has been challenged in Italy, and newer forms of right-wing organizations have exploited the wording of the law (disciolto- disbanded, defunct) to maintain that they are in fact forming a new party as opposed to Mussolini's old party.

A disquieting social and legal matter with no easy solution.

Update, Feb. 4. A day or two ago the Italian developer of the app took it down due to a copyright challenge. Although I think this is one of those cases where copyright matters are used as an indirect form of censorship.