Reviewed by LJ Frank
My perspective on this insightful, brilliant at times, and concise work.
The author, American, naturalized Polish journalist, Anne E. Applebaum, offers a critique that does not leave liberals or conservatives unscathed, regardless of what she is categorized as of today…her thinking strikes me as an intimate yet scholarly probe into the cultural, economic, and media elite quest that was and is in my translation – the authoritarian’s extreme lust for power, his/her avarice, and, to offer meaning to an otherwise perceived and actual pervasive existential meaninglessness.
Volumes have been written about fascism, oligarchy, totalitarianism, autocracy, and authoritarianism. There’s a complex interweave in texture throughout all of them. (See works of Hannah Arendt, etc.). Urban public libraries and university libraries that are worth their name offer an array of substantial amounts of paywall free research and information on the subject matter. The research means nothing if never read.
The author covers the rise of authoritarianism in Hungary, Poland, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States. Though not an in-depth character study it does point out the diverse characteristics and elements leading someone to advocate for an authoritarian response to ever increasingly perceived and actual political, economic, culture, and social upheaval.
Authoritarianism moves beyond traditional government bureaucracy to advocating obedience to one person “I alone” who decides the future of a nation, moving beyond constitutional law, legislation, and individual liberty. An authoritarian is a dictator. And dictator’s vociferous, repeated, and recycled lies can be seductive. Conspiracies are easier to foment than digesting the factual evidence.
The citizen doesn’t have to think deeply about the national and international issues of the day when the lie becomes the truth and the truth a lie. The dictator will decide for the citizen. The conspiracies – from vaccines containing microchips, the hoax of global warming, the need for increased wealth by the rich so they can spread their wealth to the people below them, corruption by the poor, the list is lengthy…all can be handled by one person thereby absolving the citizen from personal and participative responsibility.
The political intrigue and entangled corruption was/is created by the nationalistic fervor pf the dictator and his/her foils to achieve power…the intimate seduction and lure of the dictator’s easy solutions. In the process authoritarian surrogates are enabled to chastise, control, and undermine anyone, media, or individuals, that opposes the autocratic posture.
Though researched years ago this work’s relevancy can be witnessed each day by looking at the world around us and the movements toward populist authoritarians.…the roots of the American problems in my estimation began decades ago when it was formally announced that “government is the problem” in Reagan’s words. Instead of repairing, it was easier to develop a laissez faire strategy leading to the me decade and a renewed burst of greed. The posture wasn’t really about representative democracy, rather it was about making the world safe for an interplay of economics (primarily capitalism), culture, religion, and conquest well beyond the concept of democracy or representative democracy. Fear, paranoia, insecurity, and intimidation are political tools.