Episode: The Authoritarian's Playbook: Dividing and Conquering in Poland

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The Authoritarian's Playbook: Dividing and Conquering in Poland

LGBT communities face challenges in all parts of the world. But in Poland, the right-wing populist Law and Justice party spent the last year insisting that pro-LGBT stances were a western import meant to weaken Poland internally. 

They claim that progressive social values have no place in polish identity, and refer to values pertaining to the LGBT community as “LGBT ideology.” Law and Justice leader Jarosław Kaczyński describes it as a battle. 

“The LGBT ideology is an offensive. Look at the traveling circus going through our cities...First they provoke us, and when we react they cry and claim they are the victims. This must be unmasked and rejected. There must be order in our homeland.”

For populist politicians, real or invented enemies are key to creating divisions in society. These divisions help win elections. They mobilize voters to conquer the enemy at the ballot box. 

If the ruling Law and Justice party can convince the people that the so-called LGBT ideology is a threat to Polish identity, and by extension, Poland – it makes it easier for them to rule by the playbook tactic of divide and conquer.

In a six-month reporting project titled Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, GroundTruth reporting fellows in India, Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Poland, Italy and the United States chronicled how seven nationalist leaders in each of these countries seem to be working from the same playbook. It is a playbook that can be pieced together from the speeches and techniques in use by an interconnected web of populist leaders and their strategists as a way to gain power, impose their values and implement their agenda. Scholars on democracy say they seem eager to join China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and other leading authoritarian states in stamping out democratic protections and reshaping the global order.

Democracy Undone: The Authoritarian’s Playbook, A GroundTruth Podcast/Atlantic Magazine Collaboration

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