Louis Menand asks what happened to the power of the press? He argues that the culprit is simple: the breakdown of a white, liberal, internationalist mainstream ideology that united the government and the press for decades in the 20th century.
Jonathan Rauch tells the story of Stephen Richer, the Republican Maricopa County recorder in Arizona. As country recorder, Richer is responsible for registering voters and counting votes. This has put him in the crosshairs of the MAGA movement.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock gave a major foreign policy speech last week in which she began and ended her speech by referencing Hannah Arendt’s idea of “thinking without a banister.”
Hungarian President Viktor Orbán has advocated illiberal democracy. In a recent speech, however, he has gone further and explicitly embraced what is called the “great replacement” theory, the idea that ethnic Europeans are being replaced by non-whites and explicitly Arabs and Jews. An article in Politico showed that European leaders, and even some of Orbán's supporters, are worried that the Hungarian President has gone too far.
This week, Italy's government fell apart and two far-right parties are favored to win upcoming elections. A war of aggression in Europe has upended basic assumptions about the liberal world order. And, in the United States, former President Trump threatens to run again for President even as a Congressional Committee has painstakingly demonstrated his efforts to illegally subvert a democratic election. It is at times like these that we must remember Hannah Arendt's warning: totalitarianism is now an ever-present possibility in our world. In such a world, Arendt argues, the fear of concentration camps and total domination invalidates all political differentiations and serves as "the politically most important yardstick for judging events in our time, namely: whether they serve totalitarian domination or not."
Few books have defined an entire world-historical event as Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Not only has Arendt’s book dominated the reception of Adolf Eichmann and his trial, but also her account of the banality of evil has become a cultural, moral, and legal touchstone, an insight perennially invoked (rightly or wrongly) to explain how and why everyday people engage in genocidal and other evil acts.
Now Yariv Mozer, an Israeli filmmaker, has created and directed a new documentary series The Devils Confession: The Lost Eichmann Tapes that played recently in Israel. Transcripts of the tapes have existed since before the Eichmann trial, and Arendt read many of them. But the actual tapes had long been thought lost. Mozer uses excerpts from these tapes to argue that Eichmann was in fact an ideological Nazi and was hardly banal.
Liberalism is the political system that claims to balance the competing claims of freedom and order on the side of freedom. The demands of order and security are strong everywhere. For that reason, it is important to take stock of the way China is using technology to preserve public order; China’s innovations will be seductive in Hobbesian liberal democracies as well. Paul Mozur, Muyi Xiao, and John Liu write about the efforts in China to employ big data and technology in surveillance and prevention of crimes. Increasingly, China is at the world leader in promoting technology as a way forward towards a secure society. The elevation of security over freedom, however, raises profound questions for a free society.
Mars Hill was an evangelical church founded by a charismatic figure Mark Driscoll that was based in Seattle. Driscoll proved a controversial figure, at once a brilliant evangelical leader and a bullying leader also accused of plagiarism and fraud. Mike Cosper tells this story in his podcast The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. The podcast speaks to our present moment, whether or not one is interested in Christianity or in megachurches. It is an extraordinary example of how to tell a story of our time through an in-depth exploration of one exemplary cultural catastrophe. I had the pleasure of speaking with Cosper and Yuval Levin- who will also be speaking at our Fall Conference -on the most recent episode of Cosper's podcast.