20 March 2017

South Africa: Press Freedom in a Time of Rising Authoritarianism

analysis

These are dangerous times and we need to stand up, as clearly and resolutely as we can, against the new authoritarianism in Africa and abroad.

Authoritarian politics, including fascism, does not grow out of one evil individual with inexplicable power. Authoritarianism grows out of consistent work by groups of people (who could well be in the minority, at first) gaining power by stoking the flames of fear and hatred, scapegoating vulnerable minorities, offering alienated young men a sense of power and using fear as a tool to silence people into submission. As Hannah Arendt stressed in her 1951 book The Origins of Totalitarianism, totalitarianism grows out of reactionary movement. It is at its most dangerous when it is a popular project.

A variety of tools are used to create a climate of repression and fear, and to rally people behind authoritarian or fascist politics. The media, often vital to liberatory politics, is always a key target of any authoritarian project. When Hitler came to power in 1933, the Nazi Party only owned 3% of the German media. It immediately began a project to take control of all media spaces, from radio, to live broadcast and print media. The Franz Eher...

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