What happens when autocrats gain control?

Shadows of Tyranny: Stay tuned to see the Real Cover

What happened last century when authoritarians gained control of leading democracies? History doesn’t repeat but, as the saying goes, sometimes it rhymes. Bestselling historian and author Ken McGoogan delves into dictatorships of the twentieth century to sound the alarm about the possibility of democratic collapse in the US and what that might mean for Canada.

Twentieth-century novels such as George Orwell’s 1984 and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale produced visions of future dystopia that rang with echoes of past tyrannies. Always implied was a warning that history’s worst chapters are never truly closed, and that we must not fail—as many of our forebears did—to recognize that the threat of totalitarianism cannot simply be wished away.

In Shadows of Tyranny, an alarming and engrossing work of non-fiction, McGoogan explores how figures like Donald Trump replay many aspects of the authoritarianism that spread in the 1930s and ’40s. Calling not only on Orwell and Atwood, but also on H.G. Wells, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Philip Roth, and Hannah Arendt, he traces the ways democracy succumbed to paranoia, polarization, scapegoating, and demagoguery. These same forces, he argues, are now driving a far-right movement in the United States that seems devoted to using Trump’s warped charisma as a “wrecking ball” to clear the way for an autocracy closely resembling the dictatorships that stoked the Second World War.

With this prospect, McGoogan’s central questions become all the more pressing: How should Canadians respond, officially and individually, to the possibility of democratic collapse in our powerful neighbour to the south? Is talk of manifest destiny from American firebrands like Tucker Carlson just chatter in search of notoriety? Or is it a hint of the expansionist urges that so often lie at the heart of authoritarianism, and that may one day point the American military machine in our direction on the pretext of “liberating” us?

In the cautionary spirit of earlier visionary works, Shadows of Tyranny offers a galvanizing image of a dark possible future, as well as an urgent call to act in the belief that we still have the time and ability to ward it off.

(Release date in Canada: Aug. 24. You can preorder now at amazon or independent bookstores like these (scroll down).

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