Ruth Ben-Ghiat with Virginia Heffernan
They promise law and order, then legitimize lawbreaking. They use masculinity as a symbol of strength and political weapon. They use propaganda, corruption, and violence to stay in power. Ours is the age of authoritarian rulers, says historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat, and modern authoritarian leaders all pull from the same “strongman” playbook. In this livestreamed presentation, Ben-Ghiat joins us in conversation with journalist Virginia Heffernan to share the expertise that enables her to predict with uncanny accuracy the recent experience in America. With lessons from her book Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present (W.W. Norton), Ben-Ghiat traces the recent history of authoritarianism: from Vladimir Putin and Mobutu Sese Seko’s kleptocracies, to Augusto Pinochet’s torture sites, from Benito Mussolini and Muammar Gaddafi’s systems of sexual exploitation, to Silvio Berlusconi and Donald Trump’s relenteless misinformation. Virginia Heffernan is a journalist and cultural critic. She writes regular columns for the Los Angeles Times, WIRED, and The Economist. She is the host of Slate’s Trumpcast (and its sequel TBD!)
“Simultaneously intimate and sweeping in scope, Strongmen brings us in close to dictators and would-be dictators across decades and continents. We are left with a disturbing look in the mirror. Throughout, Ruth Ben-Ghiat’s clear prose rings with a rhythm and cadence that today’s nonfiction too often lacks.” - Sarah Chayes.
Presented by Town Hall Civics in partnership with Elliott Bay Book Company.