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They promise law and order, then legitimize lawbreaking. They use masculinity as a symbol of strength and political weapon. They use propaganda, corruption, and violence to stay in power. Ours is the age of authoritarian rulers, says historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat, and modern authoritarian leaders all pull from the same “strongman” playbook.
In this livestreamed presentation, Ben-Ghiat joins us in conversation with journalist Virginia Heffernan to share the expertise that enables her to predict with uncanny accuracy the recent experience in America. With lessons from her book Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present, Ben-Ghiat traces the recent history of authoritarianism: from Vladimir Putin and Mobutu Sese Seko’s kleptocracies, to Augusto Pinochet’s torture sites, from Benito Mussolini and Muammar Gaddafi’s systems of sexual exploitation, to Silvio Berlusconi and Donald Trump’s relenteless misinformation. She submits that no other type of leader is so transparent about prioritizing self-interest over the public good, and how their rule, far from ensuring stability, is marked by destructive chaos. Tune in for this timely analysis with an expert on authoritarian leaders, fascism, and propaganda—and gain insight into how these strongmen can be undone.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat is a historian and political commentator on fascism, authoritarian leaders, and propaganda—and the threats these present to democracies around the world. Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University, she writes frequently for CNN, The Washington Post, and other outlets.
Virginia Heffernan is a journalist and cultural critic. She writes regular columns for the Los Angeles Times, WIRED, and The Economist. She is the host of Slate’s Trumpcast (and its sequel TBD!)
Presented by Town Hall Seattle.