Masha Gessen grew up in the Soviet Union and spent two decades covering the resurgence of totalitarianism in Russia, before being driven from the country by policies targeting LGBT people. Watching Donald Trump win in 2016, Gessen felt like she had seen this movie before. Within forty-eight hours of Trump’s victory, Gessen’s essay “Autocracy: Rules for Survival” had gone viral, including lessons that in hindsight read as prophetic: Believe the autocrat. Do not be taken in by small signs of normality. Institutions will not save you.
Now, Gessen is back with a new book, Surviving Autocracy, that is a collection of ideas they have been building over the course of the Trump presidency. We discuss the inherent fragility of American political institutions, Donald Trump’s autocratic aesthetic, how the language of liberal democracy paradoxically undermines genuine liberal democracy, what lessons Gessen learned from covering the rise of Vladamir Putin, why Gessen believes the US is currently in the first stage of the three part descent to autocracy, whether George W. Bush was a more damaging president than Donald Trump, the counterintuitive roots of Trumpian post-truthism, and much more.
The Post-Communist Mafia State by Balint Magyar
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