The 'Seductive Lure' of Authoritarianism

The Book Review


And Applebaum joins us. Now from London, she is the author of the Pulitzer Prize Winning Gulag History and her new book is called twilight of democracy, the seductive lure of authoritarianism and thank you so much for being here. Thanks for having me, I want to start with a very basic language question because people are throwing around a lot of terms, these days, authoritarianism, dictatorship, demagoguery, autocracy, fascism, and sort of get to an understanding of what we exactly mean and what you need. Europe by authoritarianism. Book is about democracies really and it's about people and political movements in democracies who become dissatisfied with their own political systems and seek to change radically. And I. Agree with you that it's hard to sometimes describe what it is that they want to go towards whether it's a one party state or a liberal democracy or A. Not necessarily dictatorship. In which there's less openness and less competition, and so you know my book is about that. It's about the disappointment that some people feel with democracy and the draw towards more authoritarianism more centralized, less competitive, less open political systems. You're not so much concerned in this book with the specifics of the autocrats of our time, the Erdo ones and Putin's, and Orban's so much as you are with the people who vote for them side with them enable them. Why did you decide to look at it from that angle, but actually it's explicitly. None of book about voters I mean I think the reason why people vote for populist or authoritarian parties are various and I you know that sort of separate subject but you're right. It is a book about journalists spin doctors, intellectuals, and the people who sometimes help create these movements who create the ideas behind them, and then sometimes sell those ideas to the general public. Poorly I read about the because those are people I know not all of them are my close friends, but some of them are people have run into. The World I know and I thought it would be useful therefore for me to try and explain them in an an understand what happened to them over the last twenty years I wanted aired Juan because. About journalists and intellectuals he someone who and I think we could say this. About Putin von and others as well. These are people who have suppressed. The Press Ltd journalists closed down newspapers imprisoned writers who are the people on the other side who are the two of these other journalists and intellectuals who are supporting someone like Oregon. For example, in Turkey, will some of them are people who have become convinced. There's only one form of Turkish patriotism and that it's a nationalist form of patriotism and that anybody who has a different vision of Turkey vision of Turkey this integrated with Europe or a Turkey that secular those people are traders to. The country and their voices don't deserve to be heard. Some of the will have other motives. Some of them will be opportunists. Some of them will see the chance of if you get on the Government's bandwagon and you get on state media than its way to make a career, some of the will like the proximity to power. There's a range of reasons actually that's one of the themes of the book is, is the various different kinds of attractions that these kinds of movements have for people like that. So I'm probably betraying a little bit of my prejudice. As journalists and someone in the book world that the pamphleteer is the bloggers, the spin-doctors, the producer of TV programs in creators of memes. These are people that I can easily see supporting some of these autocrats I. Guess I'm interested in what circumstances in which countries it's writers intellectuals and and what's behind that I mean look they've always been nationalist intellectuals and intellectuals WHO and writers who supported dictatorships. well, into the twentieth century one of the themes of the book one of the kind of threads that I run through it is an analysis that was written in the first half of the twentieth century by French writer Julien Benda called it was called the clerks, the treason of the intellectuals, and it's a book about intellectuals who align themselves politically and who abandoned their search for truth or their object Tivi in order to be part of political movement. So this urge to do that and to be to play a political role or to be the voice sir to provide the ideas for movement is I mean I think it's as old as writing, public speaking itself. Talk about how you've seen that in Poland where you normally spend most of your time. So the book actually the idea for the book came from my reflections about the history of Poland. Over the last thirty years in especially some of the people who I felt aligned with in the nine hundred ninety s there was a kind of center right anticommunist movement that was I mean it wasn't ever cohesive, but it was the people within it certainly spoke to one another in the nineties who all had a similar vision of Poland and who all hoped for Poland it would be part of Europe and part of NATO and would be. Some kind of democracy. And connected world. Some of those people now have acquired a very different vision of Poland and they. Hope to pull, it becomes kind of Catholic nationalist one party state. They've been part of or supporters of a government that has cracked down on independent media and may be doing. So further that uses openly homophobic and anti Semitic slogans in its election campaigns and that I think worse of all really has sought to pack the courts in order to remove the independence of judges and the transformation of those people is one of the subjects of the. First part of the book, and again I think their motives are various I mean some of them are personal. They personally didn't like the political system that emerged in the nineties and two thousands and they they are. They didn't fight until they had a personal role in it. Some people felt police losing something they. They developed a stellar sometimes mythical nostalgia for some other version of the country that they preferred may have existed sometime in the past. Poland's cases to pre-communist past you know some of them felt that Poland was losing its identity as emergency urban there multiple reasons but the the overall impulse is one that I think Americans should be aware of too because the you know the attraction of authoritarianism, the attraction of the one party state or the attraction of liberalism I think can be felt in lots of countries including our own

Coming up next