During the month of May, many important resources have been released on both the rise of authoritarianism and on global polarization. Horizons appreciates the opportunity to learn from across regional contexts and supports deep understanding of how the authoritarian playbook is used to fuel divisions and toxic othering. In “America Needs a Cross-National Approach to Counter Authoritarianism” Yordanos Eyoel provides an overview of the newly released report, “Defending and Strengthening Diverse Democracies” that offers lessons from Brazil, India, South Africa, and the United States. The Institute For Integrated Transitions also published as a part of their global polarization program: First Principles: The Need for Greater Consensus on the Fundamentals of Polarisation. Aditi Juneja makes The Case for Expanding the Landscape of Democracy Work; and People’s Action Institute highlights the need for an organizing revival, in their recent report: The Antidote to Authoritarianism.
Horizons Chief Organizer, Maria Stephan, published a comprehensive piece this month on how the global authoritarian playbook is being executed in Florida and lessons for the pro-democracy movement. A special thanks to all the front-line movement leaders in Florida who contributed to this analysis and who continue such important organizing work under such difficult circumstances.
As we kick off the summer in the US with LGBTQI+ Pride month in June, we recommend the new resources provided by Georgetown University’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy & Protections on Protecting Pride Events from Armed Extremist Activity. Our hope is that we continue to care for each other and find new ways of being and doing across our many difference.
Enjoy some of the other resources that the Horizons’ team has been reading, watching and listening to:
by Alia Braley and Gabriel Lenz, Nature Human Behavior
“Around the world, citizens are voting away the democracies they claim to cherish.” This article summarizes research that shows this behaviour is driven in part by the belief that our opponents will undermine democracy first. The study finds that US partisans are willing to subvert democratic norms to the extent that they believe opposing partisans are willing to do the same. When partisans were exposed to the fact that their opponents are more committed to democratic norms than they thought – they became more committed to upholding democratic norms themselves and less willing to vote for candidates who break these norms. “These findings suggest that aspiring autocrats may instigate democratic backsliding by accusing their opponents of subverting democracy and that we can foster democratic stability by informing partisans about the other side’s commitment to democracy.”
by Kristen Thomason, Baptist News Global
One of the Tennessee Three, Rep. Justin Jones tweeted: “There comes a time when you have to do something out of the ordinary. We occupied the House floor today after repeatedly being silenced from talking about the crisis of mass shootings. We could not go about business as usual as thousands were protesting outside demanding action.” This article connects this action to the reasoning of Martin Luther King Jr. 60 years ago as explained in his famous letter from a Birmingham Jail that sometimes actions out of the ordinary are necessary. “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”
by Thomas Coombes
“Does your approach to social justice depend on showing people that they are wrong (and, therefore, that you are right)?” Our friend The Hope Guy has written a wonderful summary of the insights from four recent books to challenge this all-too-common approach to “being right” and lays out three helpful steps: (1) Recognize when our certainty makes us bad communicators; (2) To change minds, listen; and (3) Make the conversation (not its subject) the story.
“What is Christian nationalism and how does it threaten our democracy? Investigative reporter Katherine Stewart, author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism, Eric K. Ward, executive vice president at Race Forward, and Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, communications director at Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC) and a member of BJC’s Christians Against Christian Nationalism campaign discuss the rise of Christian nationalism, its intersection with antisemitism, racism, and extremism, and why we should be paying attention.” (This is the second program in a four-part series on Exploring Hate.)
Simran Jeet Singh is executive director for the Aspen Institute’s Religion and Society Program and author of “The Light We Give: How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your Life.” Singh shares his Brief But Spectacular take on how by focusing on the positive aspects of our multi-religious, racial and ethnic world, society can disrupt bias and build empathy.
This documentary film by Josh Sabey and Sarah Perkins follows the crimes and trial of John Salvi—and the story of six women, all of them leaders in the pro-life and pro-choice movements, who sought to ensure that it would never happen again. To coincide with the film’s impact campaign, Picture Motion has launched a Screening Tour, providing access to the film and an accompanying Discussion & Action Guide at a sliding fee scale. If you are interested in hosting a film screening, you can contact Picture Motion here.
ICYMI, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently released all the video recordings from their convening “A Time Between Worlds” where a series of inspiring speakers from around the world discussed aspects of imagination infrastructure. Olivia Oldham summarizes various concepts of imagination as a way “of seeing, sensing, thinking, dreaming” that creates the conditions for material interventions in, and political sensibilities of the world. Imagination is thus a transformative practice, which has the capacity to cultivate and foster alternatives to social, political, cultural and economic conditions; it is a prerequisite for changing the world for the better.”
Is this Democracy Podcast
In this interview McGregor discusses her recent article, A Review and Provocation: On Polarization and Platforms and reflects on: “Why do scholars, politicians, journalists, and pundits cling to the idea of “polarization”? [Her] answer lies in the fact that the empirical, normative, and historical inadequacy is not a bug, but a feature of the polarization narrative – it is precisely the fact that is obscures rather than illuminates the actual problem that makes it attractive. The “polarization” concept is useful if you want to lament major problems in American politics, but either don’t see or simply can’t bring yourself to address the fact that the major threat to American democracy is a radicalizing Right, is the threat of rightwing authoritarian minority rule. In this way the concept even provides a rhetoric of rapprochement since it does not require agreement as to what is actually ailing America, only that “polarization” is to the detriment of all.”
Future Hindsight Podcast
Jeff Sharlet discusses his latest book, The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War, reflecting on the democratic decline in the US, and the role of myths and martyrdom within fascist narratives. “On the Far Right, everything is heightened―love into adulation, fear into vengeance, anger into white-hot rage. Here, in the undertow, our forty-fifth president, a vessel of conspiratorial fears and fantasies, continues to rise to sainthood, and the insurrectionist Ashli Babbitt, killed on January 6 at the Capitol, is beatified as a martyr of white womanhood. Framing this dangerous vision, Sharlet remembers and celebrates the courage of those who sing a different song of community, and of an America long dreamt of and yet to be fully born, dedicated to justice and freedom for all.”
Strength & Solidarity Podcast
“The election in 2010, of Hungary’s Prime Minister Victor Orban and his Fidesz party triggered a lurch to the right and authoritarian rule. It brought legal restriction, bureaucratic harassment and public vilification to the country’s civil society and human rights community. Official hostility made it difficult for [non-profits] to survive and made individual rights workers’ lives hell. It would not have been surprising if the net outcome of such targeting were a weakened human rights movement and a profound loss of confidence. And yet, says Stefánia Kapronczay, co-director of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, that is not what has happened. Instead, finding themselves blocked from their former work of advocacy and litigation, human rights workers pivoted to a model of grass roots activism that puts citizens’ needs and their values about rights and justice at the heart of movement-building. It is work they had not been doing enough of, she argues, and it is making the constituency for human rights stronger.”
War Stories Peace Stories Podcast
“The right to peaceful protest is considered fundamental in democracies around the world. Nonviolent protest movements, like the Gandhian movement for independence in India or The Civil Rights Movement in the United States, are celebrated in history books. Yet if you go looking for coverage of nonviolent protest in the news media, most of the time you’ll come up short. In this interview, Horizons’ Chief Organizer, Maria J. Stephan widens the lens on nonviolent resistance and offers tips for how journalists could apply that lens to tell more complete and captivating stories.
by Tod Perry Upworthy
“Sixty-one years ago, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to make it into space and probably the first to experience what scientists now call the “overview effect.” This change occurs when people see the world from far above and notice that it’s a place where borders are invisible, where racial, religious and economic strife are nowhere to be seen.…In a compelling interview with Big Think, astronaut, author and humanitarian Ron Garan explains how if more of us developed this planetary perspective we could fix much of what ails humanity and the planet.”