For our physical and mental health, it feels important to create some sort of remove between ourselves and what is happening with the advent of the Trump administration. But to fight autocracy, Russian journalist Masha Gessen recommends that everyone keep panicking.
On Wednesday’s episode of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, Gessen destroys every one of Sam Bee’s hopes for the future fight one by one. After leading Gessen to her underground bunker hidden in a Soul Cycle, Bee asks her, “What is the recipe for successfully resisting an autocracy?” Gessen’s response is grim.
“I get asked that a lot,” she says, carefully, “You know I had to flee my country. Most efforts to successfully resist that I know of—failed.”
But wait! There’s more. Bee rallies and asks, “What are your biggest worries about the incoming Trump administration?” Gessen says, “Oh, my biggest worry is a nuclear holocaust.” Same, sister, but that’s not what anyone wants to hear right now. Gessen goes on to list all of Trump’s likely steps as an autocratic ruler, from blocking the press to challenging resistance by turning citizens against each other. When Bee questions the canniness of Trump’s mind and his ability to so cunningly manipulate us, Gessen explains that his tactics are the instinctual act of a bully, who knows that denying your reality robs you of the things you know and believe in, which is how you fight.
After the inevitability of America’s decline is so clearly outlined, Bee wonders if there’s anything we can do to resist. Gessen answers, “The thing I think to do, and this is my recipe, is to actually continue panicking, to be the hysteric in the room who says, ‘This is not normal.’
“Remember why you’re panicking. Write a note to yourself about what you would never do. And when you come to the line, don’t cross it.”