Propaganda and Modern Authoritarianism through Criminal Injustice

Professors Sergei Guriev and Daniel Treisman recently produced a paper entitled, “How Modern Dictators Survive: Co-optation, Censorship, Propaganda, and Repression.” We believe that this paper contains important ideas, but understands them too narrowly. We sent the professors the following email.

Dear Professors Guriev and Treisman,

In considering the relationship between propaganda and the new authoritarianism, we urge you to consider developments in U.S. criminal justice. Since about 1980, U.S. incarceration prevalence has increased greatly. The U.S. incarceration prevalence is now five times greater than in the rest of the world. U.S. incarceration prevalence now is five times greater than in England and Wales. Here’s some analysis, with links to full supporting data:

rise of mass incarceration in the U.S. since 1980

Widely disseminated domestic violence propaganda plausibly contributed significantly to the massive increase in U.S. incarceration prevalence. Here’s some analysis, with links to full supporting data:

domestic violence polices associated with rise in mass incarceration

Your paper on propaganda and dictators concludes:

As education and information spread to a broader segment of the population, it becomes harder to control how this informed elite communicates with the masses — either through co-optation or through censorship.

A comparative analysis of the dissemination of domestic violence propaganda provides no support for that claim. Here’s that analysis, with links to full supporting data:

domestic violence propaganda across different fields of public discourse

We encourage you to incorporate in your analysis of the dissemination of propaganda better understanding of evolved human nature, including sex differences.

Dictatorships create justified, wide-spread fear of arbitrary punishment. Dictatorship is not necessary, however, to generate such fear. Arbitrary, corrupt criminal justice and mass incarceration are sufficient to generate fear like that under dictators.


Communicating with Prisoners Collective

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