By Giovanni Tiso
This article was sparked by the jacket that Melania Trump wore as she travelled to a detention camp for migrant children, but my intent isn’t to argue that she or her staff chose that jacket in order to send a coded message to the president’s far-right followers. It is, rather, to highlight some of the historical echoes of that phrase – ‘I don’t care’.
The echoes of which someone ought to have been aware, especially in an administration that includes – to put it mildly – several far-right sympathisers. And also to show that the attitude, the theatrical ‘not caring’, was an explicit character trait of Fascism.
Which, at the very least, seems a troubling coincidence.
Fascism lay its roots in the campaign for Italy’s late entry in the First World War, of which Mussolini was one of the leaders. It was at this time that the phrase ‘me ne frego’ – which at the time was still considered quite vulgar, along the lines of the English ‘I don’t give a fuck’ – was sung by members of the special force known as arditi (literally: ‘the daring ones’) who volunteered for the front, to signify that they didn’t care if they should lose their lives.
The arditi were disbanded after the war, but many of them volunteered in 1919 for an expedition led by the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio to capture the city of Fiume (Rijeka, in present-day Croatia) and claim it for Italy during the vacuum created by the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire. At the time of this occupation, former arditi also formed the backbone of the original Black Squads during the terror campaigns that begun in 1919 and culminated with the ‘March on Rome’ of 1922, which completed Fascism’s swift rise to power.
This lapel pin worn by an original member of the Black Shirts was recently sold on a website devoted to military memorabilia. It is emblazoned with the words ‘Me ne frego’ underneath the original symbol of the arditi and the acronym FERT (which stands for the motto of the Royal Family). The seller calls it ‘bellissimo’.
‘Me ne frego’ was the title of one of the most famous songs of the Fascist era. Its original version, dating around 1920, hails D’Annunzio and Mussolini as the fathers of the fascist movement, recycling the old war song of the arditi as the third stanza.
Me ne frego I don’t care
me ne frego I don’t care
me ne frego è il nostro motto, I don’t care is our motto
me ne frego di morire I don’t care if I should die
per la santa libertà! … For our sacred freedom! …
Later versions removed mentions of D’Annunzio, who faded fairly quickly into the background. In the meantime, Mussolini made the slogan his own, and explicitly elevated it to the philosophy of the regime. …
- Did Melania’s Jacket Hide A Message? And Do “u really care?” — Whaaaaa!?” was the collective reaction to photos of the first lady, Melania Trump, visiting an immigrant child detention centre in Texas on Thursday wearing an oversize army coat from Zara on which the following words were scrawled: “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” And just like that, the Trump presidency found a new motto, taking over from the campaign’s Make America Great Again mantra. “It’s a jacket, there was no hidden message,” the first lady’s communications director, Stephanie Grisham, said. “I hope the media isn’t going to choose to focus on her wardrobe.” That hope has proved to be in vain because, for once, it looked like a White House communications director spoke the plain truth: the message was certainly not hidden, it was literally written across the first lady’s back. … Read the Rest
First Lady’s Offensive Jacket Inspires Protest Outpouring Of Goodness — While Melania Trump’s viral jacket appeared to promote apathy and indifference, response to it raises millions for immigrant rights and child advocacy groups … Read the Rest