That’s autocratic thinking

Ishaan Tharoor on how Trump is like other authoritarian rulers:

Observers such as Russian dissident Garry Kasparov see the grim parallels to overtly authoritarian rulers. Kasparov, a staunch critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has said that Trump reminds him of the demagogic Russian leader. By targeting Obama, Trump is embracing an old tradition.

Trump doesn’t worry about contradictions, of course, because he doesn’t know there is such a thing.

America’s deep political polarization means that millions of people will believe Trump’s tweets over the efforts of scrupulous fact-checkers.

“Conspiracy thinking has been normalized in American politics in a way that almost nobody could have expected a year ago,” wrote American political scientist Paul Musgrave. “Today, it is plausible to think that U.S. politics could soon resemble cultures that most Americans once regarded as conspiratorial or paranoid.”

Like Turkey perhaps?

Mahir Zeynalov, a Turkish journalist and critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wrote last year about the way both Erdogan and Trump successfully bludgeon the press to spin their own message.

“The reason why the fact-checking mechanism in these societies does not work is because polarization is so high that no one believes what the other camp is saying,” wrote Zeynalov. “If CNN or the New York Times claims that Trump is lying, they’re immediately branded as dishonest liberal media.”

That has indeed become the default response of the Trump administration in its short time in power. An editorial this past week in German newsweekly Der Spiegel delved into how such tactics eventually lead to a divided and befuddled public: “The effect of all of this is that truth and lies are being blurred, the public is growing disoriented and, exhausted, it is tuning out.”

The editorial also raised the connection to Erdogan’s Turkey: “Erdogan and Trump are positioning themselves as the only ones capable of truly understanding the people and speaking for them. It’s their view that freedom of the press does not protect democracy and that the press isn’t reverent enough to them and is therefore useless,” wrote Der Spiegel. “They believe that the words that come from their mouths as powerful leaders are the truth and that the media, when it strays from them, is telling lies. That’s autocratic thinking — and it is how you sustain a dictatorship.

Emphasis Tharoor’s.

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