What living in a dictatorship feels like, and why it may be too late by the time you notice it

Comics writer G. Willow Wilson, who previously lived in Egypt and wrote for the opposition weekly Cairo Magazine, writes movingly and hauntingly on Twitter about the experience of a living in a state that is transitioning into dictatorship, which does not feel "intrinsically different on a day-to-day basis than a democracy does," but rather is marked by "the steady disappearance of dissent from the public sphere. Anti-regime bloggers disappear. Dissident political parties are declared 'illegal.' Certain books vanish from the libraries."

She goes on to talk about how a dictatorship creates plausible deniability by "the way it carefully titrates justice," allowing "a sound judicial decision or critical op-ed to bubble up" and preserving formal access to human rights while using blacklists and other punishments to ensure that people "begin to fear exercising those rights."

Her point is that dictatorship is gradual and by the time you notice it, it may be too late.

So if you're waiting for the grand moment when the scales tip and we are no longer a functioning democracy, you needn't bother. It'll be much more subtle than that. It'll be more of the president ignoring laws passed by congress. It'll be more demonizing of the press.

So if you're waiting for the grand moment when the scales tip and we are no longer a functioning democracy, you needn't bother. It'll be much more subtle than that. It'll be more of the president ignoring laws passed by congress. It'll be more demonizing of the press.

A sizable proportion of the citizenry will support the postponement. Yes, absolutely, we must postpone elections. The opposition is corrupt! Our leader is just trying to protect us! A dictator is never without supporters.

(via Kottke)

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