Autocracy: Rules for Survival

Masha Gessen, writing for the New York Review of Books:

But Trump is anything but a regular politician and this has been anything but a regular election. Trump will be only the fourth candidate in history and the second in more than a century to win the presidency after losing the popular vote. He is also probably the first candidate in history to win the presidency despite having been shown repeatedly by the national media to be a chronic liar, sexual predator, serial tax-avoider, and race-baiter who has attracted the likes of the Ku Klux Klan. Most important, Trump is the first candidate in memory who ran not for president but for autocrat—and won.

I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect. It might be worth considering them now.

I waited a couple of days to read this piece. It got passed around quickly; at some points, it was obvious that people were just reading the headline and clicking share, continuing to take photographs of the people taking photographs of the people taking photographs of the most photographed barn in America.

The picture that Gessen paints is bleak. Terrifying. But her comparison, overall, of the situation unfolding now in the United States to what was playing out in Weimar Republic-era Germany, and post-Soviet Russia, as well as present-day Poland and Turkey, is absurd. They’re not even remotely the same. She pays lip service to that idea a couple of times, but not much more.

As I’ve been preaching since Tuesday, this is not the time for complacency. It is also not the time for hysteria. I remain steadfast in my belief that what we’re witnessing now is not the beginning of a movement, but instead, is the last gasp of a declining set of beliefs. From a distance, the two can look similar.

For now, save your outrage for the outrageous.