An honorary plaque for a wannabe killer can never be justified, even if the intended victim was Mussolini
Violet Gibson, who tried to kill Benito Mussolini, is to be honoured with a memorial plaque in Dublin. Celebrating a would-be assassin presents us with an ethical dilemma, as it obliterates the boundaries between right and wrong.
Every day, seemingly, someone from history is judged to have transgressed and their reputation is destroyed.
Statues are pulled down, awards are rescinded and streets are renamed.
There’s no time clause on retrospective action. And context is no excuse for misdemeanor. That’s the liberal message.
But Violet Gibson is bucking that trend. She’s an Irish woman who travelled to Italy and tried to kill fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in 1926 as he walked among crowds in Rome.
Gibson concealed a revolver in her shawl and the first bullet grazed Il Duce’s nose. She then went for the kill, but her gun misfired.
She was also carrying a rock that she intended to use to smash his car window before shooting, if she could get close enough. It was a premeditated attack that took into account various options for assassination.
The police arrested her on the spot and Gibson explained she had done it “to glorify God”.
Mussolini took pity on her and deported her to the UK without charge, which helped soften his image at the time, both in Italy and overseas.
Gibson spent the rest of her life in a psychiatric hospital and died in 1956. Some speculate she was kept there because her family were part of the aristocracy, and the elite wanted to avoid any bad publicity.
Now a plaque commemorating Gibson has been approved and will be installed at her childhood home in Dublin.
The motion proposed to the local council said, “It is now time to bring Violet Gibson into the public eye and give her a rightful place in the history of Irish women and in the history of the Irish nation and its people.”
The concept of honouring a mentally-ill woman who tried to kill a man in cold blood is disturbing. No matter who the target was, tyrant or not, Gibson is being honoured for attempted murder. It’s that simple.
This, surely, is an egregious case of the woke pendulum swinging too far in the wrong direction. We’ve all had to face the uncomfortable reality that in previous decades casual racism was acceptable. The same with sexism. Many attitudes or words that were once used are now deemed socially toxic, and rightly so. But we can’t allow that momentum to overshoot and cause mission creep.
Too often now, individuals become tarred by association. If you were once linked to a racist, then you have to distance yourself for fear of being seen as condoning it. If you can’t create distance from a scandal, you are liable to be cancelled. But it now appears that for some to highlight the horrors of fascism, it’s acceptable to laud attempted assassination. And that is a step too far.
We have to judge people on their own actions, and ultimately Gibson took a gun and tried to end someone’s life. Some of the evidence indicates she had serious mental health issues that spurred her on. It’s abhorrent to pay any sort of homage to that, and it also fetishises a serious medical condition.
This decision by Dublin’s Commemoration and Naming Committee to honour Gibson only proves how topsy-turvy and out of touch it is. ‘Wrong is no longer wrong, if it was done to correct another wrong’ seems to be its logic.
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Its eagerness to be applauded by the Woke Army and desperation to be seen as progressive means it has swept all concepts of acceptable behaviour aside. Creating a memorial plaque for a wannabe killer has no place in civilised society. It’s a basic own goal and only return’s Mussolini’s name to prominence. And why publicise fascism, something that no one wants to see return?
Pulling a gun on someone you don’t agree with is the culmination of a race to the bottom. Taking a step back from violence, taking the moral high ground and setting an example are not clichés; they are what prevents civilized society from slipping into outright barbarism.
We have to hope that Gibson’s memorial isn’t the start of a new woke agenda that sees other crimes of the past celebrated in the belief they were for the greater good. Because bad can never equate to good, no matter the circumstances.
Yes, Gibson may have prevented misery for millions by being more accurate with a gun. But she doesn’t deserve to be feted as a hero.
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