21st Century Dictatorships

I am just getting around to posting this one even though it is a few days old. William Dobson makes a pretty clear argument regarding the forms and methods of today’s authoritarian states, which are able to hide behind a narrow sheen of minimal imitations of democracy and rule of law.

Modern strongmen are more sophisticated and cunning then their twentieth-century predecessors.

These savvy authoritarians eschew the most heavy-handed methods — mass executions, disappearances, brutal crackdowns — as an extreme last resort. Instead, subtle forms of coercion are preferred. Rather than have its activists roughed up, a human rights organization is more likely to be shuttered for fire-code violations.

These regimes are fluent in the language of democracy and human rights, and may even establish human rights commissions — despite being the chief perpetrators of any abuses. Laws are written in vague terms and then applied capriciously against those who question the regime’s ways.

And fear is always a potent weapon. “My father used to say that he would rather live in a dictatorship like Cuba,” one Venezuelan activist told me. “At least there you know if you criticized the government, they would put you in prison. Here they rule through uncertainty.”

This post was tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.