Texas Senator John Cornyn sowed confusion on Twitter over the weekend when the Republican tweeted a quote from Italian dictator and father of fascism Benito Mussolini, according to Newsweek.
Leaving context by the wayside, Cornyn wrote: “We were the first to assert that the more complicated the forms assumed by civilization, the more restricted the freedom of the individual must become.” Benito Mussolini
Democrats and Republicans alike immediately sought clarification for the senator’s post, with some noting that regardless of his intent, sharing such a quote is simply in bad taste.
Cornyn later tweeted that his use of the Mussolini quote was an attempt to warn of the dangers of socialism, directed toward Democratic Socialists who appear to be picking up steam within the Democratic Party.
As Newsweek noted, Mussolini was Italy’s fascist dictator from 1925 until 1945, when he was killed during World War II, who sided with Adolf Hitler during the conflict.
Initially a revolutionary socialist, History.com notes that Mussolini — referred to as ‘Il Duce’ (the Leader) by his countrymen — “forged the paramilitary fascist movement in 1919,” prior to becoming prime minister in 1922 and then moving on to lead the government.
His split with the Socialist Party came in 1914, after spending time in prison for inciting violence. Upon forming the Fasci Italiani di Combattimento, Mussolini and the party “courted war veterans and encouraged violence against socialists.”
Right Wing Watch reporter Jared Holt noted that Mussolini in fact put together squads known as Black Shirts to terrorize Socialists and Communists, writing: “Senator who quoted Mussolini says he did so to warn against socialism, while neglecting to mention that Mussolini killed off his socialist opponents.”