This article originally appeared on VICE Italy
Despite the fact that it's been ages since the official fall of fascism, far-right extremism is still pretty trendy in Italy. Take a quick look at Italian Facebook, where Mussolini .jpgs and regime slogans are racking up thousands of "Likes".
But Instagram is the real internet paradise for Italy's young and fascist. Scrolling through hashtags like #fascistlove, #instafascio (Insta-fascist) and #duxmealux [translation: "Duce (Mussolini) is my light"], I found myself in a world populated by CasaPound militants [CasaPound is a party that charmingly defines itself as "third millennium fascists"], Lazio and Roma FC hooligans, as well as your run-of-the-mill Mussolini fanboys.
These, ladies and gentlemen, are the key tenets of what we in Italy call FascioInstagram:
THE ROMAN SALUTE
The Roman Salute – or Sieg Heil, if you will – is the fascist's arm spasm of choice. Whether it's done in unison by a grinning racist mob or just some lad in a balaclava balancing on the side of his bunk-bed, Instagram loves a good Roman salute.
Here's three lads saluting the fact that they've climbed up on a fence:
So fascist, so happy. Not entirely unlike that ad with the football fans singing that Savage Garden song – just a whole lot more racist.
Football stadiums are the choice arm-stretching venue of Italy's young fascists – in fact, just a couple of weeks ago, a court in Tuscany ruled that giving the Hitler arm at sporting events was completely fine.
In Italy, it's very common for corner-shops and newsagents to sell lighters with Mussolini's face printed on them. I've always wondered who actually buys theese things, but now I know: FascioInstagram fanboys! Just have a look at this emotional Insta-declaration to a Mussolini lighter: "It represents who I am :')" Yep, a Mussolini lighter has driven that poor smiley to tears of happiness.
But why stop at lighters? Your child's bed will remain forever incomplete until it's finally coupled with a fascist baseball bat.
Or how's about a nice bottle of the world's best Mussolini wine? Not into boozing? No bother. You could always go for an apron with Benito's rugged square-jawed mug on it? There's something for everyone.
FascioInstagram is also full of tattoos that are more than a little politically suggestive.
"Duce is my light" and a really cool axe.
SS (società sportiva, or "sports club") is written here with Schutzstaffel lightning bolts. See what he did there?
Fascist art transcends tattoos, of course. It also adorns the street walls and shop facades of Italy as extreme-right graffiti. Because what's more hip-hop than hating minorities?
"Sex, alcohol and gas chambers."
And let's not forget romance:
Yep, #fascistlove exists and it contains all manner of heart-wrenching, heil-inducing images.
"..YOU ARE AS BEAUTIFUL AS MUSSOLINI'S SPEECH AT PIAZZA VENEZIA..." (<3)"
When love isn't sweet enough, there's also fascist gluttony. FascioInstagram has a section entirely dedicated to sweets and right-wing pastries.
Here's CasaPound's leader Gianluca Iannone with a huge fuck-off fascist cake.
What's a caffé latte, if not straight #facistlove?
GENERALLY SHOWING HOW TOUGH YOU ARE
The life of your average fascist 2.0 isn't strictly bound to romanticism, pastries and coffee breaks of course. It's way more than that. In the world of FascioInstagram, young neo-fascists often love to brag about just how bloody tough they are – check out this chap in a rubber Hitler mask and an old Lazio FC jersey, for instance.
It's of course really fascist to flaunt even the most minor of injuries. The fact that these bloody knuckles are tagged #fascistlove raises a few questions.
But why merely punch your enemy, when God went and invented knives for you? FascioInstagram is equally obsessed with menacing cutlery.
Overall, FascioInstagram is a perfect way to see just how deep this whole pop culture understanding of fascism has gone, and how this sort of imagery is still captivating youngsters across Italy.
According to Tom Stevens and Peter Neumann, researchers at King's College in London, Internet and social networks enable political extremists to create "a new social environment" in which "otherwise unacceptable views and behaviours are normalised".
In their paper Countering Online Radicalisation – A Strategy for Action, they go on to say that when people are "surrounded by other radicals, the internet becomes a virtual 'echo chamber' in which the most extreme ideas and suggestions receive the most encouragement and support".
That's exactly the point I want to make here: even though it can garner you a few Likes, Sieg-heiling in front of the Altar of the Fatherland in Rome, and sharing it on Instagram is far from normal behaviour.
Follow Leonardo on Twitter: @captblicero