Surviving Autocracy
A review of

Surviving Autocracy

Masha GessenRiverhead • 2020

Language and Democracy

by David Meyer

National Book Award-winning author Masha Geesen offers a perceptive appraisal of Donald Trump’s perversion of language in his bid for authoritarian power.

In this revelatory work, New Yorker staff writer Masha Gessen (whose pronouns are they/them) deconstructs the lies and contradictions of Donald Trump’s administration – which, they contend, upended the typical language of US politics. Gessen, the National Book Award-winning author of The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, argues that this calculated, deliberate perversion of meaning served the Trump administration’s aims. Whether you agree or disagree with Gessen’s political views, you’ll find their informed assessment of how autocrats use language to shape reality riveting.

The New York Times said, “When Gessen speaks about autocracy, you listen.” Interview called this “a reckoning with what has been lost in the past few years and a map forward with our beliefs intact.” The Guardian wrote that Gessen’s “clarity is gemlike and refusal to equivocate, precious.”

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