In the latest episode of Chris Hayes's Why Is This Happening? podcast, Rachel Maddow summarizes the strategy that authoritarians use to undermine democracy (video clip here). They erode trust in institutions and established sources of facts such as journalism, science, and experts. They promote the idea that there is no objective truth and that official sources of knowledge are not to be trusted. Instead, people are encouraged to trust their instincts, which can be easily manipulated by authoritative figures.
The authoritarian project, says Maddow, is "to turn us against each other to make us believe that democracy doesn't work, that there's no knowable truth… One of the things they do is they tell you 'Don't believe journalism. Don't believe science. Don't believe experts. Don't believe history. It's all fake. It's all designed to bamboozle you. None of these so-called sources of expertise are real. The only knowable truth is something that you feel in your gut. And let me tell you what to feel in your gut.'"
She explains the impact of this strategy: "Separating us from the idea of knowable truth means we don't recognize real practical problems in the world. We don't recognize real practical solutions to those problems, which we should put our government to, and it means that you're very susceptible to both conspiracy theories, and you're susceptible to suggestions from the leader who wants you to do things that you probably would not do on your own steam if you had your wits about you and that dislocation from the truth — 'Don't trust the media. Don't trust science. Don't trust experts. Don't trust any political opposition. Don't trust journalism' — That is part of the authoritarian project and it always has been."