An Appetite For Demagogues: A Conversation with Ruth Ben-Ghiat


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Hey everyone. I’m traveling this week, but I wanted to share the recording from this past Sunday’s livestream with Ruth Ben-Ghiat, author of STRONGMEN: MUSSOLINI TO THE PRESENT and the essential LUCID Substack. It was a wonderful event, in large part because of your questions.

In this talk, Ruth and I discuss modern politics, including the threat of a Ron DeSantis presidency, but, more importantly, I think, reasons for hope and individual strategies for healing ourselves and the world around us. Within this discussion is an emphasis on why authoritarianism and antidemocratic conspiracy theories gain traction and, relatedly, the beginnings of how we might counteract them. This is something I’m focusing on more and more in my work, this awful trauma that is inflicted on us by this exploitative and oppressive world, but I thought this was also just an excellent beginning to a larger conversation.

I can’t wait to talk with Ruth again in a format like this. Thank you for everyone who attended and I hope you’ll be able to make future presentations if you weren’t able to on Sunday.

Keep the faith. Every day is tinged with weaponized trauma by authoritarians who are hellbent on destroying your hope, but it is also full of reasons to maintain that hope and grow it by the hour. We have this. It isn’t going to be easy, but we’re going to make a better world.

THE MIDNIGHT KINGDOM: A HISTORY OF POWER, PARANOIA, AND THE COMING CRISIS has been called “indispensable” by Sarah Kendzior and said by Wajahat Ali as containing the “righteous fury” necessary for us to “finally rise up and fight back.”

This is the story of how the powerful used white supremacy, conspiracy theories, and religious mythologies to create the modern world for their benefit, and how it now threatens us with an authoritarian future. But it is also the story of how we can begin to defeat these cruelties and create a better future.