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Why Americans Don’t Understand Dictatorships

August 14, 2023 at 9:30 pm - 11:00 pm BST

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We’ll investigate what movies, TV series, and books from the West get so wrong about dictatorships, and whether this political naivety is a weakness or a superpower when it comes to real-life events. Hosted by Interintellect founder Anna Gát.

Interintellect founder Anna Gát has long observed how modern Western depictions of dictatorial systems – A Handmaid’s Tale, HBO’s Chernobyl, The Death of Stalin – don’t exactly match up either with her personal experiences of late Communism in Eastern Europe, or the local writings, documents, or research materials.

In Chernobyl, smart scientist fight for facts to be made known. When in reality, we know, communication and cooperation between scientists were near-impossible in the USSR’s world of all-pervasive “alternative facts”.

A Handmaid’s Tale depicts heroes and villains in a world of clean Good and Bad. But in dictatorships the truth itself is twisted and with it our moral compass and certainties: you do good and the people you love will suffer. You do bad, and they will flourish – but you will hate them for it. It’s a system in which people go insane…

Why is it so hard for people living in Western democracies, even for the most sensitive of artists, to imagine the mindset of people living in the psychological travesty that is a dictatorship? How does this cluelessness show up in popular fiction – and serious politics? And should we be happy the West doesn’t have the “dictatorship knowledge”, or should we be worried about how vulnerable this blindspot makes us? Come and join our discussion!


To read:

1. Overviews

“The Power of the Powerless” – Vaclav Havel

Common Knowledge and Aumann’s Agreement Theorem

Three Prologues to Language – By Anna Gát

2. Fiction

When it works (local)

When it works (Western)

When it does not work (Western)



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August 14, 2023
9:30 pm - 11:00 pm BST
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