Historian, Educator, and Commentator

Ruth Ben-Ghiat

Ruth Ben-Ghiat is Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University. She writes about fascism, authoritarianism, propaganda, and democracy protection. She is the recipient of Guggenheim and other fellowships, an advisor to Protect Democracy, and an MSNBC opinion columnist. She appears frequently on MSNBC, PBS, and other networks.

Her latest book, Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present (2020; paperback with a new epilogue, 2021), examines how illiberal leaders use corruption, violence, propaganda, and machismo to stay in power, and how resistance to them has unfolded over a century.

She is also a consultant for television and film productions, including Guillermo del Toro’s Academy Award-winning 2022 movie Pinocchio, which is set in Fascist Italy.

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Ruth Ben-Ghiat
Strongmen - Ruth Ben-Ghiat

Now Available in paperback, with a new epilogue about Jan 6th.


Mussolini To The Present

Ours is the age of the strongman, of heads of state who damage or destroy democracy, use masculinity as a tool of political legitimacy, and promise law and order rule – and then legitimize lawless behavior by financial, sexual, and other predators. Covering a century of tyranny, this book examines how authoritarians use propaganda, virility, corruption, and violence to stay in power, and how they can be opposed.


Jonathan Capehart, MSNBC, 07/30/23

“The GOP as an Authoritarian Party”
MSNBC GOP Primary Debate, Aug 20, 2023

“Holding Trump Accountable”
Ali Velshi, MSNBC
, 07/20/23

American Voices, MSNBC, 7/1/23

“Culture of Threat:
Judges and Jurors Under Attack”
MSNBC, Aug. 19, 2023

“Exporting Trump’s Playbook:
Bolsonaro’s Jan. 8 Insurrection”
Morning Joe, MSNBC
, 01/10/23

Is There a Master Playbook Trump Follows?
Anthony Davis, The Weekend Show,
Meidas Touch, Aug 6, 2023

Meet the New Autocrats and Their Playbooks

Who are the new autocrats and what’s their playbook?  We are now living in the era of the strongman – and every dictator has built on the accomplishments of his predecessors.

Listen to the podcast here.

Malcolm Turnbull, “Meet the New Autocrats,”
Defending Democracy, 2023

“Trump’s Strongman Personality Cult”
The Aaron Rupar Show, Aug. 24, 2023


  • September 5, 2023
    “The Trump Indictments, the 2024 Elections, and Public Peace,”
    Panel, UCLA School of Law Safeguarding Democracy Project
    Location& Time:
    Online, 12-1PM PT/3-4PM ET, Register here
  • September 13, 2023
    “What Political Trends Will Shape the Future?”
    New America and Arizona State University Future Security Forum 2023
    Location & Time: Online, 12PM – 1PM ET, RSVP here
  • September 21, 2023
    “The Authoritarian Playbook and How to Defeat It,”
    Henry King Stanford Distinguished Professor, University of Miami Center for the Humanities lecture
    Location & Time:
    University of Miami, 7PM ET, no registration required
  • October 4, 2023
    “How Media and Journalism Can Defend Democracy from Fascism,”
    The Media and Democracy Project
    Location & Time: Online, 7PM ET, Watch on YouTube

  • October 15, 2023
    “Fighting Fascism: A Symposium on Jewish Responses From the Interwar Period to the Present Day,”
    Co-hosted by the American Jewish Historical Society and the Center for Jewish History
    Location & Time: Center For Jewish History, NYC, 10AM-5PM ET, Buy tickets here

PAST EVENTS (recordings)

  • September 28, 2022
    “America at a Crossroads,”
    The Community Conversations Series, in conversation with Larry Diamond.
    Watch video
  • October 27, 2020
    Strongmen: Mussolini To The Present
    Museum of Jewish Heritage. Moderated by Jason Stanley, Yale University.
    Watch video

    On Social Media