In the 1930s Benito Mussolini was sufficiently offended by the Marx Brothers’ film Duck Soup to ban it in Italy. The film, sometimes viewed as a paean to anarchy, was–given the world scene when it was released in 1933–better understood as a satire against dictators and dictatorship, a point Mussolini fully understood.
Authoritarian governments have not disappeared, and the victories of Islamist parties have raised fears that the “Arab Spring” might produce more of them. The fear is, in part, of regimes that might be democratically elected but would be incapable of dealing with current economic problems, would blame all problems on their predecessors, and would impose Islamist social mores on the populace.
With that in mind it is worth recalling the national anthem of Fredonia, the imaginary country in Duck Soup. “Hail, Hail Fredonia” is sung by Groucho, and here are three verses.
If any form of pleasure is exhibited
Report to me and it will be prohibited
I’ll put my foot down, so shall it be
This is the land of the free
The last man nearly ruined this place
He didn’t know what to do with it
If you think this country’s bad off now,
Just wait ’til I get through with it
The country’s taxes must be fixed
And I know what to do with it
If you think you’re paying too much now
Just wait till I get throught with it
Whether life will imitate art remains to be seen.