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Twilight of Democracy: A Conversation with Author and Professor Anne Applebaum

September 23, 2020

Anne Applebaum, Senior Fellow of International Affairs at Johns Hopkins SAIS and Fellow in Residence at SNF Agora Institute

Moderated by Eliot A. Cohen, Dean, Johns Hopkins SAIS

The first installment of the school’s Dean’s Speaker Series featured Anne Applebaum, a Pulitzer prize-winning historian and staff writer for The Atlantic. Applebaum joined Dean Cohen to discuss her latest book “Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism.”

Applebaum started the discussion describing the opening scene of the book, which is a millennium party in Poland held on Dec. 31, 1999. She explained the sense of optimism party-goers felt about Poland overthrowing communism and potentially integrating with the West. To connect the party to current affairs, she detailed how some of its attendees no longer speak to one another due to political divisions related to center-right politics in Poland. Along the same lines, Applebaum highlighted current political differences in the United Kingdom between pro-and anti-Brexiteers, and within the Republican Party in the United States.

As the conversation continued, Applebaum explained the internet’s impact on political discussions globally. She noted that the internet has made rapid polarization possible, leading to more people seeking out sources that reinforce their own views. Applebaum added that the side effect of rapid polarization is a loss of faith in institutions.

Applebaum concluded the event fielding attendee questions ranging from the EU’s handling of Poland and Hungary, shifts in political coalitions, to the debate over regulation of the internet.