Protect Democracy launches guide for media: The Authoritarian Playbook

Read the report here

Authoritarianism and the threat posed by antidemocratic politics look different than they did in previous decades. Democracies today tend to erode gradually and in ways that mimic typical politics or jockeying for power, rather than by explosive, easy-to-spot attacks.

The vigilance required to identify and respond to incremental decline means that the press has never been more essential in ensuring the health of democracy.

Protect Democracy’s The Authoritarian Playbook draws on guidance from leading experts on democracy to help journalists discern, contextualize, and cover the tactics regularly used by would-be autocrats to amass and entrench power.

“Because democracies die in more subtle ways today, it is not always easy to tell when it is happening — much less explain it to readers,” said Harvard University Professor Steven Levitsky. “Because many contemporary assaults on democracy take forms that are legal or constitutional, they are easy to confuse with the bruising battles of normal day-to-day politics. But they are not normal. There are real and consequential differences, to which we must pay close attention.”

As part of a framework to differentiate between politics-as-usual and something more dangerous to democracy, the Playbook outlines the seven fundamental tactics used by aspiring authoritarians, including:

    Attempting to politicize independent institutions; Spreading disinformation; Aggrandizing executive power at the expense of checks and balances; Quashing criticism and dissent; Specifically targeting vulnerable or marginalized communities; Working to corrupt elections; and Stoking violence.

For inquiries, please email [email protected].

For the full report, visit The Authoritarian Playbook project page here.

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