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Erdogan in Turkey

"First, I was struck by how carefully Erdogan preserved the apparent structure of Turkish government and society. His style of dictatorship is less about smashing democratic institutions with a sledgehammer, and more about hollowing them out from the inside until they're zombies following his commands while still maintaining a facade of legitimacy.

If Erdogan wants your head, he’ll have a corruption investigator arrest you, bring you to court, charge you with plausible-sounding corruption allegations, give you a trial by jury that seems to observe the proper formalities, and sentence you to death by decapitation. To an outside observer, it will look a lot like how genuine corruption trials work in genuinely democratic nations...

This has made me a lot less optimistic about the kind of dictator-prevention strategy where everyone has lots of guns and then if a dictator comes to power you rush out into the streets shouting FREEEEEDOM!, William-Wallace-style, shooting everything in sight. If there's a military coup or something, this might work. But if every day your institutions are just a tiny bit less legitimate than the day before, when do you rush out into the street? One of the most important steps on the way to Erdogan's total control was his court-packing, accomplished under the guise of EU-bid modernization. But if the Democrats manage to pack the Supreme Court at some point, are the people with guns going to rush out into the street shouting FREEEEEDOM? No - realistically even the people who really hate the Democrats and think they're bad and wrong are going to stop short of armed revolution, because that alone isn't quite Stalin-level obvious evil. Erdogan demonstrates that you can become a dictator through a few dozen things like that chained together, without any obvious single point where everyone wakes up and notices. There is no fire alarm for dictatorship."