What is Applebaum's central thesis in Twilight of Democracy?

Applebaum's central thesis in Twilight of Democracy is that democracies around the world are turning into populist authoritarian regimes, with the support and encouragement of influential members of the media and professional class.

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The subtitle of Anne Applebaum's Twilight of Democracy is "The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism." These two phrases neatly sum up the two halves of the book's central thesis. On one hand, democracy is in decline throughout the world, while, on the other, it is being replaced by authoritarianism, principally...

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The subtitle of Anne Applebaum's Twilight of Democracy is "The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism." These two phrases neatly sum up the two halves of the book's central thesis. On one hand, democracy is in decline throughout the world, while, on the other, it is being replaced by authoritarianism, principally of a right-wing, populist variety. Applebaum concentrates principally on four countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, Poland, and Hungary. In these states, she argues, the public has largely abandoned any attachment to democracy and freedom in the tradition of nineteenth-century liberalism and has embraced a more hard-line, authoritarian position.

Although Applebaum says that the public supports authoritarian leaders, the demand for authoritarianism is not organic but carefully created with the assistance of an elite media and professional class, whom she calls "clercs." The clercs are mainly members of the right-wing commentariat who have been drifting further towards the right in recent decades and have both the rhetorical skills and the public platform to popularize authoritarian politics. Examples Applebaum gives are Laura Ingraham in the United States and Simon Heffer in the United Kingdom. With the assistance of the clercs and the maintenance of a relatively high standard of material comfort, authoritarian leaders are able to erase many freedoms, checks, and balances without most of the population noticing.

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