Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Italian dictator Benito Mussolini made the trains run on time.
Origins: Every political leader — whether he be a democratically elected representative or a usurping tyrant — seeks to gain broad public support, because the greater his support, the greater his power. That power may ultimately be used for good or for bad, but either way it must be obtained before it can be wielded.
One of the best ways to gain the support of the people you want to lead is to do something of benefit to them. Failing that, the next best thing is to convince them that you have done something of benefit to them, even though you really haven't. So it was with Benito Mussolini and the Italian railway system.
After the "march on Rome" (which was itself a myth of fascist propaganda) on
Well, not quite. The Italian railway system had fallen into a rather sad state during World
The myth of Mussolini's punctual trains lives on, albeit with a different slant: rather than serving as a fictitious symbol of the benefits of fascism, it is now offered as a sardonic example that something good can result even from the worst of circumstances. As Montagu and Darling wrote:
Mussolini may have done many brutal and tyrannical things; he may have destroyed human freedom in Italy; he may have murdered and tortured citizens whose only crime was to oppose Mussolini; but 'one had to admit' one thing about the Dictator: he 'made the trains run on time.'No, thanks. I'd rather walk.
Sightings: In an episode of televisions L.A. Law ("Romancing the Drone," originally aired
Last updated: 29 September 2007
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