Photograph of Ruth Ben-Ghiat by Beowulf Sheehan, 2023.

Lucid: Big-Picture Thinking about Threats to Democracy around the World

Democracy is in decline. Over half of the world's population now lives under some form of illiberal rule. Wherever democracy deteriorates, so does support for transparency and accountability. Disinformation about current events thrives, as do versions of history that cover up authoritarian crimes.

I started Lucid in 2021 to separate the signal from the noise in politics and provide big-picture thinking about authoritarianism and threats to democracy in the US and around the world. I use my skills as a historian to identify the patterns and dynamics at work in the news that comes at us every day.

Lucid is a solutions-oriented publication that provides clear analysis about the consequences of democratic erosion and the toll of secrecy and corruption in government, boardrooms, and institutions. It also covers the global resistance to tyranny past and present. With informed awareness and clarity of purpose, Lucid readers have the tools they need to effect change.

Each week, subscribers receive essays and posts by me. Paying subscribers also have access to my popular weekly Q&As, where we think together about the most vital issues of the day.

Lucid is a space of caring and solidarity where we help each other process the losses we suffer due to negligent and repressive governance, racism, misogyny, homophobia, environmental plunder, and gun violence. We need open hearts and transparent communications to recover and rebuild trust, including trust in our collective power to stand up to situations that threaten our dignity and freedoms.

Building bridges, countering polarization, and helping others to emerge from fogs of falsehood and fear is hard work. Together, we can get it done.

Why Become a Paying Subscriber?

A paid subscription ($5/month, $50/year) offers access to extra posts and essays, commenting privileges, and weekly Q&As with special guests. Founding members ($250-500/year) also receive quarterly forecasts on domestic and global affairs and content and private Q&As tailored to their specific interests.

There's an educator/student/alumni rate if you sign up with an email from a US educational institution: $2.50/month, $25/year. Access it here. If you are a non-US student or educator, use this link instead for the same discount.

Your contributions are an investment in a kind of community that is difficult to build on social media, where algorithms, rather than your own interests, increasingly determine what is presented for you to read. Thank you for your support of Lucid.

About Ruth

Photograph of Ruth Ben-Ghiat by Beowulf Sheehan, 2023.

I'm Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University, Advisor to Protect Democracy, and the recipient of Guggenheim and other fellowships. I have been a consultant on historical feature and documentary films and advise governments and corporations (including the U.S. House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol) on autocrats and authoritarian parties and the threats to democracy they pose.

Although I write about grim subjects, I'm an optimist about human nature. I'm inspired by the courage and resolve of those who fight corruption and repression. I tell the stories of some of those individuals in Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present (2020, paperback with new epilogue on Jan. 6, 2021). It looks at how illiberal leaders use propaganda, corruption, violence, and machismo - and how they can be defeated. I've also written on the appeal of Fascism as a new model of modernity and on Fascist film propaganda.

 Lucid also comes out of my work in the media on dangers to democracy. I am an MSNBC columnist and write for CNN, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, and other outlets. I provide regular television commentary for MSNBC and CNN and have given hundreds of interviews to journalists around the world.

My knowledge of the strongman playbook allowed me to forecast that Donald Trump would seek to implement an authoritarian model of governance in America and try to stay in office after his defeat in the November election. I’ve also written about abuses of power that occur in all political contexts, like sexual harassment.

I bring this expertise and vision to Lucid. You can read more about me and access my writing and interviews here. Follow me on Twitter here.

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A newsletter for big-picture thinking about autocracy and threats to democracy around the world


Historian of authoritarians, propaganda, democracy protection. NYU Professor. Book: Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present. MSNBC Columnist and commentator. Consultant for film & TV. Represented by CAA & The Gernert Company.