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Can Italy’s Five Star Movement turn online passions into real-world policies?

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

If you’ve glanced at the headlines, then you’re already aware of the sprawling mess that is the Italian political landscape in the aftermath of Sunday’s election. You may already have seen the stories about “trouble for Europe” and the “populist victory.” Continue reading “Can Italy’s Five Star Movement turn online passions into real-world policies?”

In Europe, political parties would rather stay out of power

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

“All political careers end in failure,” a British politician once said: Sooner or later everybody gets voted out, overthrown or forgotten. Even knowing that, four months ago nobody would have put Angela Merkel on a list of world leaders most likely to be knifed in the back. Back in September, the German chancellor was elected to a record-breaking fourth term. The formula she had relied on for years — project the image of a safe, frumpy housewife; take decisions slowly and carefully, if at all — defeated all rivals once again. Continue reading “In Europe, political parties would rather stay out of power”

America doesn’t need Russia to ruin democracy. It can do it itself.

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

Enrage the base. Use violent language. Create fear and anxiety. Talk the country down, tell everybody that things are getting worse. Promote division — sort Americans into “us” and “them,” in speech and online. Undermine democracy itself: Hint heavily that the vote is rigged, that the system is broken, that the nation’s ideals are trash. Engage in voter suppression, too: Discourage potential opponents from going to the polls at all. Imply that your rivals are crooks or thieves, and lie about their records. Continue reading “America doesn’t need Russia to ruin democracy. It can do it itself.”

A Russian dissident pulls off a virtuoso trolling of the Putin regime

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

Anyone who wants a glimpse of the information wars that could lie in America’s future should have a look, immediately, at Alexei Navalny’s latest video (it’s got English subtitles). The video so annoyed Oleg Deripaska, the video’s oligarch anti-hero, that he has just persuaded Russia’s media regulator to block it. Navalny, Russia’s best known dissident — he tried to run for president but was blocked — so annoys the Kremlin that Muscovites spray-painted his name on their sidewalks after a recent storm, hoping that would persuade municipal authorities to remove the snow. It worked. Continue reading “A Russian dissident pulls off a virtuoso trolling of the Putin regime”

In Britain, the specter of anti-Semitism returns

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

Anti-Semitism is back. Not just as a nasty little fringe sentiment, and not just in the Breitbart comment sections. Not just in social media either, although anyone who posts or tweets and has a Jewish-sounding surname (and even many who don’t) has had to get used to the fact that social media is a perfect conduit for language that would once have been too filthy to use. Continue reading “In Britain, the specter of anti-Semitism returns”

The stupidity and unenforceability of Poland’s speech law

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

The Streisand effect is one of the curious byproducts of the Internet age. Named for the singer — who tried to suppress a photograph of her Malibu mansion, only to have the picture seen far more widely as a result — it occurs when an attempt to hide, remove or censor something from public view backfires badly. Continue reading “The stupidity and unenforceability of Poland’s speech law”

The Czech election says more about the state of Western democracy than we’d like to admit

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum

He isn’t the country’s most important politician. In the Czech Republic, as in many European countries, the prime minister is far more powerful than the president. Nevertheless, the Czech president represents his country abroad, speaks on its behalf and generally helps set the tone and tenor of public debate, much like the American president does in the United States. And without question, the reelection of Milos Zeman — who is vulgar and sexist (not to mention aggressively pro-Russian, pro-Chinese, anti-European and anti-NATO) and has been accused of public drunkenness — will set the tone and tenor of public life in the Czech Republic. Continue reading “The Czech election says more about the state of Western democracy than we’d like to admit”

‘Since the violence ended’: Peace, even if imperfect, comes to Colombia

  • By
  • Anne Applebaum
  • Cartagena, Columbia

On the journey up the Sierra Nevada to the San Lorenzo ridge, a very few abandoned military posts — forlorn bits of concrete, now green and crumbling — can be glimpsed along the side of the rutted jungle road. But there are no soldiers visible here, in one of the world’s most important bird sanctuaries. The only “uniforms” on display early in the morning are those of the birdwatchers, dressed in green and beige, wearing sensible shoes, carrying notebooks and binoculars. Continue reading “‘Since the violence ended’: Peace, even if imperfect, comes to Colombia”