The Toxic Strongmen Who Are Gods of Their Own Religions
Heidi Siegmund Cuda on the lessons we can learn from Ruth Ben-Ghiat's vitally instructive history of fascism
Author and historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat will join Byline Supplement’s News Meeting on Wednesday 8 November at 5 pm UK time. Paid subscribers can register to attend for free below.
“Many autocrats have gone after their own families — it's them or nothing, because they are fanatics. They are in their own way fundamentalists — political fundamentalists — and they are the church. They are the gods of their own religions.”—Ruth Ben-Ghiat
In weekly meetings with New York University Professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat for members of her Lucid substack, I asked her what lessons from her book Strongmen — Mussolini to the Present does she consider most critical to the current temperature of the world.
Without blinking, she said: “Never appease autocrats, shut them down.”
At that moment, an embarrassing and dangerous spectacle was playing out in the US Congress. Those of us who report on these times are aware there are pro-Kremlin, MAGA Republicans engaging in a massive criminal cover up for their roles in the January 6 Insurrection.
What appears to be chaos and incompetence — a messy affair to elect a Speaker of the House — is actually an obfuscation of sedition and an intentional weakening of America — a pleasing of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.
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