Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University, is a political commentator and cultural critic who has received Guggenheim and other fellowships for her work on fascism, war, and visual propaganda. In Fascist Modernities and Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema, she looks at what happens to societies when authoritarian governments take hold and why they appealed to so many. Her New Yorker article on the normalization of Fascist monuments at a time of resurgent right-wing politics in Italy prompted a national debate about how to consider fascism’s heritage today.
In 2016 and early 2017, she predicted that Trump would imitate Putin’s personality cult and follow the authoritarian playbook including the use of shock events to disorient the public. In essays in The Atlantic and in her monthly columns for CNN.com and the Washington Post, she’s analyzed Trump’s language games and communication strategies (his use of Twitter, trial balloons and threatening speech) and how to push back against his propaganda machine
Here are her latest quotes and interviews in Newsweek Salon Ian Masters KPFK CNN Guardian and Washington Post (on hate speech and Trump’s authoritarian inclinations) and her History Hit podcast with Dan Snow on Mussolini and his inheritors. Look for her in Michael Moore’s new film, Fahrenheit 9/11, talking about how demagogues use and persecute the media.
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Her latest book, Strongmen: How The Rise, Why They Succeed, How They Fall (to be published by W.W. Norton) looks at how strongmen from Mussolini to Trump have used persuasion, corruption, and violence to get to power and stay there, sometimes for decades – and how they can be resisted and removed.