Authoritarians pose as persecuted individuals to justify their violence and crimes.
Trump has built his appeal by casting himself and his supporters as political outsiders and persecuted figures. Trump linked his personal legal troubles to his supporters' political frustrations, claiming: "We are being assaulted… by the FBI and DOJ. Two supporters had already procured "Defund the FBI" T-shirts to wear to the rally." - BBC
Strongman claiming to be victim is an authoritarianism scam. The August FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago, which was prompted by his storage of highly classified state documents in his private residence, has given new life to Trump's version of the con. It’s designed to vindicate his assertions that his enemies (codified as the "Deep State,") are out to get him. - Ruth Ben-Ghiat
Can you spot which Strongman said this? (Hint: They are not Trump nor DeSantis). Answers below.
- I'm the most persecuted man in all of history
- His country was 'stabbed in the back'
- To stop illegal migration, we actually built that wall
- Rogue truth-teller who takes on the world
- He was a victim of a “witch hunt” and "an incredible judicial persecution"
- Uses lawsuits to punish critics
- Told Congresswoman She's 'Not Worthy' of Sexual Assault
- Abortion is murder and must be banned
- Passed law banning LGBT content in schools
- Quotes Jesus to justify violence
Ruth Ben-Ghiat explains Strongmen tactics and how to recognize, resist, and prevent their disastrous rule. "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."
Recognize Strongman tactics
- 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.
- 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
- Hold rallies. 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
- 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
MAGA Republicans follow 'strongman' playbook
- 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." - Republicans Exposed
- Matt Gaetz (R-FL) defiant after saying 'Ugly' Women Protest for Abortion.
- Trump Shrugs Off Rape Accuser as 'Not My Type'. Accuser Natasha Stoynoff Shoots Back: Your 'Type' Is Any Woman in Reach.
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 and her newsletter LUCID.
TakeAway: Don't fall for Strongmen playing the victim card to hide their crimes.
Answers: (1) Berlusconi (2) Hitler (3) Orban (4) Hitler (5) Berlusconi (6) Erdogan (7) Bolsanaro (8) Orban (9) Erdogan (10) Putin
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