Are the Bad Guys REALLY Winning?

Jan 20, 2022

Listen as Anne Applebaum discusses how this new world(dis) order might evolve. What does she mean by “the 21st century is, so far, a story of the reverse”? 

Anne Applebaum is a journalist, a prize-winning historian, a staff writer for The Atlantic and a senior fellow at the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University, where she co-leads a project on 21st century disinformation and co-teaches a course on democracy. Her books include Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine; Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956; and Gulag: A History, which won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction. Her most recent book is the New York Times bestseller, Twilight of Democracy, an essay on democracy and authoritarianism. She was a Washington Post columnist for fifteen years and a member of the editorial board; she has also been the deputy editor of the Spectator and a columnist for several British newspapers. Her writing has appeared in the New York Review of Books, The New Republic, the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy, among many other publications. 

Whether we like it or not, global politics today is defined by confrontation—which could lead to conflict—between autocracies and democracies. However, unlike the great geopolitical divisions of the past, the new dividing lines are not ideological or ethnic or religious or economic. Rather, the two camps are defined by how their leaders come to and maintain themselves in power. The autocracies seem to have figured out they have much in common, including fear of democracy, and translate that understanding into effective mutual support. Ironically, the democracies spend considerable energy criticizing each other, emphasizing their different approaches to issues like immigration, climate, trade, etc.

Not surprisingly, as historian and journalist Anne Applebaum wrote in the Atlantic in November: “The Bad Guys are Winning.” As she put it, “If the 20th century was the story of slow, uneven progress toward the victory of liberal democracy over other ideologies—communism, fascism, virulent nationalism—the 21st century is, so far, a story of the reverse.”

With Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s border, Belarus dumping Middle East migrants in Poland and Lithuania, China threatening Taiwan (as well as countries like Lithuania and Australia who dare to disagree with Beijing) these are potentially life and death issues. Listen as Applebaum discusses how this new world (dis) order might evolve.

What do you think? Comment below.

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  1. Dr. Jacques Drolet

    Of course, I agree with the essence of what you say Anne, but “criticizing each other” is part of the process, not the problem. The same applies to science which needs constant critics/reconsideration, etc. According to my humble self, what is missing is the feeling/acknowledgment of responsibility. Actions and decisions need to be explained, based on the life context (which is imperfect). Political communication on COVID is a great example. No decision and when pushed by life, decisions were taken and presented as the ultimate truth. Yet, we never have the ultimate answer(s). This fact in itself is not a problem unless it is used to avoid responsibility. That is what we live on too often. We have a similar problem with the rule of law which has lost much of its functionality. Democracy will win over oppression only if we apply at all levels a path of patient responsibility with all the explanations and the limitations that comes with it. I argue that this transformation is not so difficult through swarmship. Treated with respect and like adults, people will be less frustrated and find solutions instead of being slaves of their desperation which leads too often to violence or its equivalent, self-destruction.

    • João José

      autocracies and democracies are leading the world to the same direction where rich people reaches unprecedented levels of wealth and poor people is loosing their basic rights to live
      maybe China is showing new and sustainable ways of life with dignity

      • Krzysztof Wiewiorowski

        God have mercy upon you, “China showing new and sustainable ways of life with dignity”? Is that all you are able to come up with in answer to a rather lofty but knowledgeable comment by Dr Drolet? Pray tall me where is human dignity in total surveillance, treatment of Uyghurs and not respecting the independence of Taywan or obrutal subjugation of Hongkong? In time China will certainly come with “new ways” but they will most certainly have nothing to do with human dignity. Or any other kind of dignity for that matter. Not in forseeable future anyway. It’s yet another autocracy, just more clever and thinking long term.


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