cover image Dictatorship: It’s Easier Than You Think!

Dictatorship: It’s Easier Than You Think!

Sarah Kendzior, Andrea Chalupa, and Kasia Babis. First Second, $28.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-2507-8100-0

The joke underpinning this dead-serious yet seriously funny graphic how-to is that dictators don’t need a guidebook: There have been so many successful tyrants, up-and-comers can just follow suit. Gaslit Nation podcast hosts Kendzior (They Knew) and Chalupa (Orwell and the Refugees) set a cheeky tone with a narrator—one of the “behind-the-scenes mad men” who sells fascism to the masses—rattling off the basic tenets of dictatorship. Recurring themes, such as “fake populism” and “scapegoating,” are drawn with choice historical anecdotes: Stalin represents how paranoid purges and recruiting “useful idiots” can extend a dictator’s lifespan, while Mussolini and North Korea’s Kim Il Sung exemplify the mastery of all-encompassing propaganda machines. The creators don’t shy from recent (or looming future) examples, going for the jugular with a page pairing Ivanka Trump and Mein Kampf quotes and arguing that Henry Kissinger abetted dictators such as Chile’s Augusto Pinochet. A running theme about dictators gaining power with the acquiescence of a divided, distracted populace heightens the timeliness of their message in a polarized era. The bouncy art by Polish political activist and cartoonist Babis (Re: Constitutions) meshes well with the half-trenchant, half-goofball satire. This alarming guide to how democracies are lost is deceptively entertaining. (June)