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Aug 23, 2021

In this episode, I speak with Professor Jessica Hooten Wilson about her writing and research on literature and totalitarianism. We discuss how both violence and entertainment and distraction are used a tools of state control. We discuss Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, some of the writings of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and Julia Alvarez's novel, In the Time of Butterflies, about life under the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. We also discuss Victor Frankl, Josef Pieper, Michael O'Brien, Tocqueville's idea of "soft despotism", and Neil Postman's argument in In Amusing Ourselves to Death about Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's 1984. Wilson notes that these novelists take evil seriously, but are also careful not simply villainize the opposition so as to increase our understanding and self-awareness, and help prevent us from falling into the trap of another ideology.

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