Sunday, January 3, 2021

the last book I ever read (Anne Applebaum's Twilight of Democracy, excerpt two)

from Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism by Anne Applebaum:

But theorists often leave out another crucial element in the decline of democracy and the construction of autocracy. The mere existence of people who admire demagogues or feel more comfortable in dictatorships does not fully explain why demagogues win. The dictator wants to rule, but how does he reach that part of the public that feels the same? The illiberal politician wants to undermine courts in order to give himself more power, but how does he persuade voters to accept those changes? In ancient Rome, Caesar had sculptors make multiple versions of his image. No contemporary authoritarian can succeed without the modern equivalent: the writers, intellectuals, pamphleteers, bloggers, spin doctors, producers of television programs, and creators of memes who can sell his image to the public. Authoritarians need the people who will promote the riot or launch the coup. But they also need the people who can use sophisticated legal language, people who can argue that breaking the constitution or twisting the law is the right thing to do. They need people who will give voice to grievances, manipulate discontent, channel anger and fear, and imagine a different future. They need members or the intellectual and educated elite, in other words, who will help them launch a war on the rest of the intellectual and educated elite, even if that includes their university classmates, their colleagues, and their friends.

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