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Mon Dec 3, 2018, 07:35 PM

The Cowardly Face of Authoritarianism

By Timothy Snyder

First we see the face. The face of America’s Donald Trump, or Hungary’s Viktor Orban, or Russia’s Vladimir Putin, or Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the face of men who wish to transform democracies into personality cults.

The face is the oldest mark of leadership, the mark that works for clan or tribe. If we see only the face, we are not thinking about policies or politics; instead, we are accepting the new regime and its rules. However, a democracy is about the people, not a single mythicized person.

People need truth, which a cult of personality destroys. Theories of democracy, from the ancient Greeks through the Enlightenment to today, take for granted that the world around us yields to understanding. We pursue the facts alongside our fellow citizens. But in a cult of personality, truth is replaced by belief, and we believe what the leader wishes us to believe. The face replaces the mind.

The transition from democracy to personality cult begins with a leader who is willing to lie all the time, in order to discredit the truth as such. The transition is complete when people can no longer distinguish between truth and feeling.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/03/opinion/authoritarian-leaders-trump-putin-orban.html

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