Surviving Autocracy

Suzanne Moore in The Guardian:

During the past few years of Donald Trump’s deranged presidency, if there is one writer I turn to it is Masha Gessen, whose piercing clarity is gemlike and refusal to equivocate precious. Their ability – Gessen is non–binary/trans and uses they/them pronouns – is surely to do with their Russian American background. As a journalist, Gessen has covered Russia, Hungary and Israel, so is not experiencing illiberalism for the first time. Instead of a weariness however, what is present in the book is a stunning capacity to connect the dots in a way that few can. Surviving Autocracy is about the Trump phenomenon and how it has transformed US society. It is about what he has learned from Vladimir Putin, among other autocrats he admires. It is also one of the few analytical books to suggest plausible ways he might be stopped. Anti-Trump polemics tend to rely on satire (which has proved useless) or putting the case for ignoring him (impossible), or relying on on some vague essence of American justice to suddenly come charging in. The cavalry never arrived and is not going to.

Wishy-washy Democrat opinion continues to believe that government institutions will somehow save the day, not understanding that the entire presidential apparatus has set out to destroy them. Early in the presidency, Gessen said: “Institutions will not save you.” How right this was. They had seen, after all, the way that Putin would use all catastrophes to his advantage, even atrocities such as the Beslan school siege, which was an excuse to cancel local elections and change federal structures. Putin also felt no need to be consistent, one day saying there were no troops in Crimea, the next month admitting there were. To trust one’s own perception in such a world is lonely. Russians are told their elections are free, but “when something cannot be described it does not become a fact of a shared reality”.

More here.