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Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Marconi the Fascist

For obvious reasons Marconi stories pop up in my news feeds.  This morning an article  from Wales reminded me of a very dark and disheartening aspect of Marconi's life:  his fascism and his participation in the persecution of Jews. 

There have been at least 14 stories in SolderSmoke extolling the technological virtues of Marconi.  I even met his daughter Elettra while in Rome and wrote it up for the blog.  But it is just wrong to sing Marconi's praises while ignoring his fascist involvement. 

His fascism wasn't even separated from his radio work.  He won fascist honors and he won his appointment to Mussolini's  Academy of Italy  because of his radio work.   Take a look at this quote: 

He became President of Mussolini's Academy of Italy -- and it was in that position that he participated in the persecution of Jews.  He was a member of the Fascist Grand Council.

If you have doubts about this, just take a look at the short clip (above) from Marconi's 1937 funeral procession.  Note the fascist salutes, note Mussolini himself marching in the procession. 

The article from Wales: 

1 comment:

  1. Always they have feet of clay--our heroes, that is. They're good to have when one is young, but not so much later. In youth, heroes help to triangulate a life, to give it purpose and to offer examples of what's possible for humankind. With growing maturity, though, it's the *impossible* that looms ever larger, and one learns how things *really* are: a heterogeneous and maddening blend of good and evil. The actual lives of heroes are like sausage: if you knew what went into making them you'd lose your appetite.

    I've gone through my share of heroes. I once thought Ayn Rand was a brilliant intellectual and I read all her novels many times over. Then I turned sixteen, only to discover she was a crackpot driven to extremes by her White-Russian bitterness and irreligious social theories. Thomas Edison was one of my heroes, and so were Ansel Adams, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Walt Disney. Eventually I discovered that, aside from a few early personal inventions, Edison lived off the work of his employees and was the great-godfather of the patent troll. Adams was a distant husband and father while he made "jewels out of jewels," as one photography critic has put it. Wright was an impractical dreamer who sponged off friends and wealthy benefactors rather than earn a real living in architecture, and even Disney had his dark side as he eagerly served as J. Edgar Hoover's and HUAC's on-going informer during Hollywood's communist-blacklisting era. All those feet, all that clay.

    For me, Marconi joins the list of radio, electronics, and technology heroes I've lost a taste for as I learned more about them and, interestingly enough, about myself. In these fields, it often seems the fatal flaw of these heroes is *grandiosity* coupled with an inability to work in concert with others. Nicola Tesla, Howard Armstrong, and William Shockley fit into this category. The first two wasted their brilliance fighting to get what they thought was coming to them (Tesla dying pennyless and Armstrong committing suicide), and Shockley was such a self-regarding jerk few could tolerate him. He also became an avid eugenics advocate who believed Africans (and their American descendants) were biologically inferior and ought to be sterilized. In the meantime, his one-time and thoroughly-disgusted employees, Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, split off to found Intel.

    Today, we have our modern-day heroes who capture people's imagination and sit at the nexus of personality cults: Musk, Bezos, and Trump. Most recently, Depp and the Kardashians. Isn't it time we grew out of this sort of hero worship?


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