Gawker Tricks Trump into Retweeting Mussolini Quote

In rapid succession Donald Trump has claimed he doesn’t know who David Duke is, and knows nothing about white supremacists. As he told CNN’s Jake Tapper on State of the Union, “Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK?”

The two obvious problems with this claim are that 1) he is a bald-faced liar; or 2) he is too ill-informed about the country of which he wants to be president. Of course, Trump was lying, as CNN has pointed out.

At least he didn’t pretend not to know anything about Mussolini when, as if to put punctuation to my column yesterday about Trump and Hitler, he “retweeted” Mussolini*:

Mussolini, of course, was Hitler’s contemporary and ally and fascist dictator of Italy. He isn’t on twitter of course, given he was killed by Italian partisans a long time ago. The tweet even came from an account called “ilduce2016” which is the fascist dictator’s title, Il Duce (“The Leader”) the equivalent of Hitler’s better known title of Der Führer). How does Donald, or his social media people, miss such obvious signs that perhaps a tweet should not be retweeted?

And then compounded his sin by defending it to Chuck Todd Sunday on Meet the Press. Watch Trump try to brazen it out:

“It’s okay to know it’s Mussolini. Look, Mussolini was Mussolini. It’s a very good quote, it’s a very interesting quote, and I know it. I saw it. And I know who said it. But what difference does it make whether it’s Mussolini or somebody else? It’s certainly a very interesting quote. That’s probably why I have between Facebook and Twitter 14 million people when other people don’t.”

Yes, Mussolini was Mussolini. If he didn’t send Jews to concentration camps, he did not treat them well: Italian Jews were disenfranchised from 1938 on, forbidden to attend public schools, dismissed from university professorships and banned not only from the military but civil service. And that leaves out entirely Italian brutality against the people of both Libya and Ethiopia. One of Mussolini’s field marshals, Rudolfo Graziani, was called the “Breaker of Natives” for tossing them out of airplanes onto their camps like bombs.

Mussolini was Mussolini alright. And not somebody you should be blithely quoting – let alone defending.

Trump has already told us there is no freedom of the press when it comes to Donald Trump, no matter what the First Amendment may claim. Now it turns out that because he has so many followers on social media that he can say anything he wants, no matter how offensive, a sort of twisted “popularity makes right” approach to morality.

Chuck Todd asked the obvious question: “Do you want to be associated with a fascist?”

“No, I want to be associated with interesting quotes. And people, you know, I have almost 14 million people between Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and all of that. And we do interesting things. And I sent it out. And certainly, hey, it got your attention, didn’t it?”

Well, so would Hitler quotes from your little bedside book of Hitler’s speeches. Is that next? The twitter handle ilduce2016, interestingly, was created by the website Gawker – which sent the tweet to Trump.

Gawker talks all about their little scheme in How We Fooled Donald Trump Into Retweeting Benito Mussolini:

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 Mussolini’s quotes sound plausibly like lines from Trump’s myriad books.) The account, @ilduce2016, was created by Gawker senior writer Ashley Feinberg and Gawker Media Editorial Labs director Adam Pash. It has tweeted solely at Donald Trump, multiple times a day, since December 2015.

What’s funny is that people at Gawker were concerned the twitter handle “ilduce” was too obvious, that it “wouldn’t trick anyone but a complete idiot.”

“Today, Donald Trump proved him—and all of us—right.”

All this suggests a cottage industry in the making.

I’m not suggesting anything. I’m just sayin’.

* Quote attributed in “Duce (1922-42)” in TIME magazine (2 August 1943)