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 fascism 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 2016-2017 she predicted that Trump would imitate Putin’s personality cult and follow the authoritarian playbook once in office. In essays in The Washington Post and The Atlantic and her monthly column for CNN.com, she’s analyzed Trump’s use of Twitter as a visual as well as verbal means of communication and how he uses trial balloons as warnings of his anti-democratic intentions.
Here are her latest interviews on Trump’s authoritarian inclinations in Huffington Post and the Washington Post 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 and violence to stay in power. Why do so many people admire these rulers and stay loyal to them no matter what they say or do? How does the strongman leverage his masculinity to present himself as the nation’s ideal leader, what are his weaknesses, and how can be resisted and removed from power