With the new president now in now power for almost 30 days, we have gotten used to the idea that even in America, democracy can grow disgusting habits of autocracy. But to America, so used to even their worst presidents having some redeeming qualities, it is hard to respond to an autocracy that we have no history about. France has its round voting, and Germany has its Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. But America as a whole’s last experience of tyranny goes back to 1775. So what should we watch out for?
The image of a dictator we all have, of course, is the one imagined by 1984. Always being watched by a new Gestapo. But if you want a real look at what a 21st century dictatorship looks like, look at Russia, China, and what Poland is turning into today. In Russia and Poland there are elections, and there is no chance that they will ever try to end them. There, for most, politics is not stopped b thought police and telescreens, but by making politics boring, confusing, and a little scary. So people don’t march, and are allowed to complain a little bit. Business continues, but instead of success being from hard work, it is from how many of the leader’s people you can put on your board. Oh sure, a few liberals will attack you. But you can always get the police to attack them, while demonizing them as “not of the people,” Terrorist attacks are not simply horrible, but also an opportunity to crack down on those they dislike as”threatening national security.”
If you want more info on this new model of autocracy, read David Frum’s article in the Atlantic,(https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/03/how-to-build-an-autocracy/513872/) or watch the last third of the movie Hypernormalization.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fny99f8amM) Both are rather dense, and one is rather depressing. But the main lesson of both it to keep alert, and do something when you see something. Don’t rationalize it. It can get worse, unless you stop it.