Masha Gessen and Sarah Kendzior: Similarities between Trump and Putin, Defending Truth, Surviving Autocracy

Masha Gessen and Sarah Kendzior discuss defending truth. Gessen opens with nine similarities between Tump and Putin.

  1. The way they lie. They lie in order to assert power. I have the right to say whatever I want whenever I want.
  2. They govern by gesture. It’s a way of promoting the brand. It’s not continuous. It’s not part of a policy strategy.
  3. They have interests rather than priorities.
  4. Disdain for government. They think government is rotten to the core, needs to be dismantled, needs to be destroyed. Blaming the predecessor is blaming the entire system they’re here to destroy. It’s why Trump continues to campaign. He’s campaigning against the government.
  5. Disdain for public sphere. Anything that is not transactional should not exist.
  6. Disdain for the media. They view the media as a mirror. Putin has been watching Putin TV for 16 years. Trump found a bubble he wants to live in. There’s a fairly healthy public sphere from about the center right to about the center left. That’s not a bubble. Breitbart is a bubble.
  7. Disdain for moral authority. It’s something autocrats can’t capture. Moral authority can organize by speaking. Ex: John Lewis.
  8. Disdain for excellence. Basic lack of understanding of how government works and the expertise needed to keep it running.
  9. Belief that they are chosen ones. They come to believe they have a mission, that they’re special. This belief blurs the boundaries between their individual selves and the government. When they are criticized, they believe they are being criticized by the enemies of the people.

Kendzior then joins to discuss #TrumpRussia, truth, and their experiences observing autocracy.

On defending truth:

  • Don’t tolerate squishy reality or squishy language.
  • Language is the only thing we have for protecting truth and communicating our shared reality.
  • Call lies lies.
  • The more precise we are with language, the better our chances are of holding onto reality.
  • Follow Merriam-Webster and their commitment to reality and precise language.

They mention Gessen’s piece on surviving autocracy.

  1. Believe the autocrat.
  2. Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
  3. Institutions will not save you.
  4. Be outraged.
  5. Don’t make compromises.
  6. Remember the future.

Source: Autocracy: Rules for Survival | by Masha Gessen | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

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