The Polish government is cracking down on private media — in the name of combating ‘fake news’

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  • Anne Applebaum

If you have become numbed to President Trump’s constant attacks on the media, if you have lost interest in which networks he currently considers to be “fake news,” if you have grown tired of hearing him call journalists “enemies of the people” — well, that’s unfortunate, because plenty of others are still paying attention. Around the world, dictators and would-be authoritarians have picked up his attitude and his terminology. From Syria to Venezuela to Burma, authoritarians now dismiss legitimate criticism as “fake news.” The Libyan government has denounced a CNN report on human trafficking as “fake news”: If the U.S. president disdains the network, why should anybody else listen to them? The president of the Philippines invents stories about his political enemies from whole cloth, just like the president of the United States. And, with Trump at his side, Rodrigo Duterte recently dismissed a gaggle of reporters as “spies.” Continue reading “The Polish government is cracking down on private media — in the name of combating ‘fake news’”

Brexit has brought the Irish problem back

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  • Anne Applebaum

The Northern Ireland “Troubles” — really a low-grade civil war — lasted 30 years. During that period, more than 3,600 people died from car bombs, street violence or skirmishes between Catholic paramilitaries who wanted to join the Irish Republic and Protestant Unionist paramilitaries who wanted to stay in the United Kingdom. Continue reading “Brexit has brought the Irish problem back”

President Trump is now a troll

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  • Anne Applebaum

Though it has a long way to go, the science that underlies the fight against extremism has made a lot of progress in recent years. Psychologists and social media analysts have found that people become radicalized by other members of a group. People seek out the like-minded, then enter online forums, then become more extreme by reading and communicating with others. As the study of history will also tell you, individuals will do things as part of a mob that they would not do alone. Continue reading “President Trump is now a troll”

Ukrainians are unsatisfied with their revolution. Maybe they’re right.

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  • Anne Applebaum

Last Tuesday was the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the demonstration that turned into a revolution in Ukraine. To mark the occasion, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko visited the Maidan, the central square where much of the drama played out back in late 2013 and early 2014. Together with the prime minister and the speaker of parliament, he and his wife laid flowers beside the monument to dozens of people who were murdered by police sharpshooters at the climax of the revolution, just before Poroshenko’s predecessor fled the country. Since then, many thousands more have died in fighting in the east. Continue reading “Ukrainians are unsatisfied with their revolution. Maybe they’re right.”

Zimbabwe’s coup can’t just end with another strongman

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  • Anne Applebaum

“The Beijing Consensus” is an idea that has been hanging around for a while, as a supposed alternative to “the Washington Consensus,” itself an evolving term that has come to mean “free-market economics” or “Western-style economics.” The Beijing consensus is supposed to offer an alternative to the West: state-dominated economics, plus repressive politics. Some of those who espouse it, or some version of it, insist that not only do developing countries need top-down, carefully planned economies, but also they need rulers who stay in power for many years, the better to plan economic development. Continue reading “Zimbabwe’s coup can’t just end with another strongman”

Why neo-fascists are making a shocking surge in Poland

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  • Anne Applebaum

Like every country in Europe — as well as the United States — Poland has long had a far-right, neo-fascist fringe. It also had a tiny eco-warrior fringe, an Esperanto-speaking fringe and quite a few other grouplets. But during the two and a half decades that followed the end of communism in Poland, Polish neo-fascists were never numerous enough to be taken seriously. Even when they began, a few years ago, to march on Nov. 11, Poland’s Independence Day — a day when official ceremonies already include national flags, patriotic songs and even people dressed in World War I uniforms — no one thought much about a few hundred soccer hooligans on the sidelines. Continue reading “Why neo-fascists are making a shocking surge in Poland”

100 years later, Bolshevism is back. And we should be worried.

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  • Anne Applebaum

At the beginning of 1917, on the eve of the Russian revolution, most of the men who would become known to the world as the Bolsheviks had very little to show for their lives. They had been in and out of prison, constantly under police surveillance, rarely employed. Vladimir Lenin spent most of the decade preceding the revolution drifting between Krakow, Zurich and London. Joseph Stalin spent those years in the Caucasus, running protection rackets and robbing banks. Leon Trotsky had escaped from Siberian exile was to be found in Viennese coffee shops; when the revolution broke out, he was showing off his glittering brilliance at socialist meeting halls in New York. Continue reading “100 years later, Bolshevism is back. And we should be worried.”

Totalitarian ideologies never die. Not even in America.

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  • Anne Applebaum

Nothing is ever over. No historic trauma is ever resolved. No historic villain is ever buried, and no historic lessons are permanently learned. Everything and everyone can be revived, and anything can be unlearned — even in the most settled civilizations. Continue reading “Totalitarian ideologies never die. Not even in America.”

Did Russia teach Paul Manafort all its dirty tricks?

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  • Anne Applebaum

Years from now, historians may study the documents indicting Paul Manafort to understand just how the Russification of American public life was accomplished. Manafort is alleged to have laundered money, to have cheated on taxes and to have lied about his clientele. All of this he did in order to “enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States,” according to the indictment. Among other things it is alleged that he spent $1,319,281 of his money, illegally hidden from the U.S. Treasury, to pay a home lighting and entertainment company in Florida; to purchase $934,350 worth of rugs at a shop in Virginia; and to drop $655,500 on a landscaper in the Hamptons. Continue reading “Did Russia teach Paul Manafort all its dirty tricks?”