Strongmen claim to be saviors of the nation while robbing people of truth, treasure, and the protections of democracy.
They promise law and order, then legitimize lawbreaking by financial, sexual, and other predators. They use masculinity as a symbol of strength and a political weapon. Taking what you want, and getting away with it, becomes proof of male authority. They use propaganda, corruption, and violence to stay in power.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat is the expert on the “strongman” playbook employed by authoritarian demagogues from Mussolini to Putin. In Strongmen, she explains their tactics and how to recognize, resist, and prevent their disastrous rule in the future.
“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Sir Winston Churchill. For instance, did you know that the Nazi Lebensborn program made abortions punishable by prison or even death?
Compare Ruth’s descriptions of Strongmen’s stunts against recent events with this infographic.
Political strongmen claim to be victimized
Strongmen claim to be victimized. They see the world through the lens that their ‘superior’ group had its ‘rightful’ land and power (as defined by their mythos) stolen, taken by the corruption and malfeasance of impure bloodlines. Nostalgia for better times is also part of the equation, since the ruler’s vow is to make the country great again. – StackExchange
Collude with big business
“Every authoritarian regime has seen a crucial alliance between big business and the dictator, from Putin and his oligarchs to Hitler and German industrialists and Trump and the Wall Street elite. The German businessman Ernst von Hanfstaengl introduced a “cleaned-up Hitler to the moneyed social circles that mattered” – just as Blackstone chief executive Stephen Schwarzman helped legitimize Trump with tens of millions in campaign contributions to him and his Republican allies.” – Ben-Ghiat
Ben-Ghiat dwells on corruption and self-dealing, arguing that what she calls 21st-century “strongman kleptocracy” frequently involves tyrants’ takeovers of profitable businesses, followed by the laundering of money, often through real estate investments...” – Boston Globe
Rallies were the fascist strongman’s favorite form of political theater and ego gratification. Both Mussolini and Hitler used them as sites of emotional training,” perfect for creating what Hitler called a “violent, lordly, fearless, cruel youth.” – StackExchange
Political strongmen are sexist and homophobic
Fascists are generally sexist and homophobic, for instance, because of that emphasis on bloodlines: women are consigned to reproduction of the race, and gays are a threat to the perception of virility; they control public spaces out of a need to present the romanticized ideal of their mythos as an inescapable truth.
The Nazis encouraged German women to have as many children as possible. The propaganda claimed motherhood was the only true calling of “good” German women. The Lebensborn program was founded in 1935 by Heinrich Himmler, the head of SS to create a superior race through breeding and also kidnapping of children. Himmler expected every SS officer to have at least four children. Legitimate or illegitimate. The Nazis made abortions punishable by prison or even death. Consequently, the women could give birth in the Lebensborn homes to avoid social stigma. The Nazis didn’t care that they destroyed families. They didn’t care they hurt mothers, fathers, and children.” – Medium
Republican war on women
“Republicans are passing Anti-Choice Laws in Every State they control. Republicans want to FORCE women to give birth while taking away Healthcare, Food & Financial Assistance to those who can’t afford to care for the babies they want to force women to have. Every Republican senator voted against advancing the Women’s Health Protection Act, which prohibits government restrictions on abortion. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signed a bill that bans abortions performed after 15 weeks without exceptions for rape, incest or human trafficking. These type of oppressive laws which takes away women’s rights are Republicans TOP Priority.” – Republicans Exposed
Ruth Ben-Ghiat is a historian and commentator on fascism, authoritarian leaders, and propaganda — and the threats these present to democracies. She brings historical perspective to her analyses of current events and the Strongmen playbook.
TakeAway: Understand how Strongmen claim to be saviors of the nation while robbing people of truth, treasure, and the protections of democracy.
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