STITCH BY STITCH: A BOOK

$44,481 of $60,000 goal

Raised by 660 people in 33 months
Claire Berlinski
The election of Donald Trump has shaken Americans to their roots. Many are now thinking deeply about politics for the first time in their lives. Others are questioning everything they thought they knew.

Claire Berlinski, a historian by training, has been a foreign correspondent for thirty years. In Stitch by Stitch, she places the breaking news that flashes and flickers incessantly over our cellphone screens in a wider historical and global context. This context is often absent from our discussion of the news, but without it, we cannot make sense of it.

From this context we can see that events that seem to us new are not. They recapitulate distinct, recurrent patterns, and from these patterns we can discern, step by step, what is likely to happen to us next.

What many Americans see as a uniquely American crisis is no such thing. Since the end of the Cold War, liberal democracy has come under threat the world around. It is now in particular danger—and in some places dead—in Europe. The rise of antiliberal political movements and regimes in Europe is a more direct threat to Americans than they realize, and it is closely connected to their own recent political experiences. Europe’s past and its recent history suggest lessons to Americans who are struggling to respond intelligently to Trumpism.

Stich by Stich argues that threat to liberal democracy comes in the form of a distinct, rival ideology that is at once historically familiar and genuinely novel: the New Caesarism, or illiberal democracy—a hollow form of democracy that spreads mimetically and consolidates itself through the new technologies of the 21st century. When American pundits and journalists call the Trump presidency “unprecedented,” they do their audience a disservice. There are countless recent precedents abroad, and they are often eerily similar. The idea that our experience has no precedent and no analogue is bound up in a particular notion of American exceptionalism, one that has persuaded us we exist outside of time, history, and the world—an idea that is not only wrong, but harmful. It deprives us of the ability to learn from the experience of other countries and from historical evidence that is not only abundant, but relevant to us.

The author is intimately familiar with the recent precedents she describes. She has lived through every stage of the new Caesarism: She watched it arrive in Turkey, where she spent a decade reporting on the rise and consolidation of the regime of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Millions of others have lived through a similar chain of events in in a long list of countries from Hungary to the Philippines. Most importantly, they have lived through them in Russia. Russia is the pioneer, and the chief global exporter, of this empty form of democracy, as well as the ideology upon which it rests and its techniques of control.

 The new Caesars are learning from each other. Above all, they’ve learned the recipe for creating an illiberal democracy from Vladimir Putin, the ur-Caesar. The steps are distinct and predictable. First, rewrite history. Then foster nostalgia for an authoritarian past. Exploit ethnic, racial, religious, and class divisions. Magnify fear of foreigners and outsiders. Enter Caesar—the voice of the “real people” in their struggle against a nebulous class of “elites.” Conflate entertainment and politics. Create chaos, confusion, and a sense of permanent emergency. Destroy confidence in the idea of objective truth. Humiliate or destroy the people who are better fit to be leaders. Gain control of the media to starve adversaries of access to the public. Discredit what media you cannot control. Reward loyalists with government tenders. Punish the disloyal with punitive taxes and lawsuits. Stack the courts. Jigger the constitution so that opponents have no hope of coming to power through democratic means. Erode critical civil rights and freedoms, stitch by stitch—until elections still happen, but denuded of everything that makes elections meaningful.

If we fail to understand how and why liberal democracy around the world is collapsing, we have scant hope of preserving ours. If we fail to understand why the West, in particular, has come under attack, we have no hope of responding intelligently or organizing ourselves to defend it. Stitch by Stitch shows that Europe—the other half of the West, from which we have been deliberately and systematically alienated—is now the central battlefield in the war for liberal democracy. The crisis in Europe has become so acute that its long postwar peace, the basis of the postwar global order, is under threat.

To survive, illiberal democracies—and Putin’s regime in particular—must undermine liberal democracies. Successful liberal democracies are an inherent threat to these regimes. Their existence refutes the story the Caesars tell their citizens about the world. This is why Russia is working assiduously to discredit liberal democracies and replace them with illiberal regimes sympathetic to the Kremlin. To do this, he must alienate the United States from Europe, and alienate European nations from each other. This is precisely what is happening, putting our security and the world’s at risk.              
Claire Berlinski is an essayist, literary critic, novelist, travel writer, and biographer. She brings thirty years of personal experience with the new Caesarism to vivid life, showing readers exactly what it is like to live in the kind of society we are now on the path to becoming. The result is a book that falls under no conventional category: It is a work of scholarship that is informed by her background as a historian and the academic literature about this regime type. But it is also riveting journalism, a memoir, a warning, and a step-by-step guide to escaping the trap.

If you would like to read this book, please contribute: It is, so far, wholely crowdfunded.
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Update 60
Posted by Claire Berlinski
27 days ago
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And one last thing: Here's a link to a podcast in which I discuss the events in France. https://ricochet.com/podcast/ricochet-podcast/cast-iron-skillets-and-a-world-in-flames/ And a video that you may have seen, of the nude Mariannes facing down the cops -- but you may not have realized what the video reveals at the end. And that's all you'll hear from me for today. Thank you to all of you: your contributions let me work on this for three weeks straight--until I was sure I understood it.
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Update 59
Posted by Claire Berlinski
27 days ago
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Finally, here are all the episodes of La Comédie Humaine to date. Another one coming out tomorrow, stay tuned!


https://popula.com/author/claire-berlinski/
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Update 58
Posted by Claire Berlinski
27 days ago
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I also wrote this, although I was so unhappy with the number of typos in the final copy -- and with the headlines and captions, which sensationalized only one half of the story (the far-left has also covered itself in disgrace) -- that I've been ambivalent about posting it. This will get cleaned up in the final draft, when it's under my control. For now, it may interest you as draft material. https://haaretz.com/world-news/.premium-how-putin-and-the-far-right-played-the-paris-yellow-vests-protests-1.6743555
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Update 57
Posted by Claire Berlinski
27 days ago
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You may find these articles about the unrest in Paris interesting. Together, they form one of the chapters in my book. I was very pleased when one of my readers who saw a preview wrote, "Hi Claire—just wanted to say thanks for your outstanding analysis on the riots in Paris. Your writing reads like some of the best military analyses I’ve ever read, and makes for a very digestible narrative on some very complex events. Please keep bringing it!" If you read them in the order below, they should all hang together. (I wrote too much for any single journal to publish ... and still have more to say, but it will have to wait.)

https://www.city-journal.org/police-handling-of-paris-riots
http://braveoldworld2016.blogspot.com/2018/12/the-battle-of-etoile.html
https://www.the-american-interest.com/2018/12/13/france-doesnt-have-enough-cops/
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Read a Previous Update
JV DeLong
13 months ago
5
5

Your vision is acute, but oddly distorted. The Trump phenomenon, like the Tea Party before it, is a reaction to the growing Caesarism of American politics, not a cause. Were I, as a long-time libertarian-leaning conservative, to set out to describe the Progressive playbook, I could not better your description: “Conflate entertainment and politics. Create chaos, confusion, and a sense of permanent emergency. Destroy confidence in the idea of objective truth. Humiliate or destroy the people who are better fit to be leaders. Gain control of the media to starve adversaries of access to the public. Discredit what media you cannot control. Reward loyalists with government tenders. Punish the disloyal with punitive taxes and lawsuits. Stack the courts. Jigger the constitution so that opponents have no hope of coming to power through democratic means. Erode critical civil rights and freedoms, stitch by stitch—until elections still happen, but denuded of everything that makes elections meaningful.” Only in the New York Times can these trends be attributed to Trump, or to conservatives. The real threat to the liberal political order is the combination of crony capitalism, public employee political activity, massive government subsidies for leftist causes, relentless lawfare, and celebration of victimhood as the highest form of human achievement. I confess to being puzzled by the gap between the brilliance of your Warlock essay and what I regard as a strange and skewed view of current U.S. political forces. I think you need some better reference points for anti-Progressive thinking. I will suggest just one, Manhattan Contrarian, which is my personal favorite for consistently shrewd analysis of the Progressive state. [See http://manhattancontrarian.com]

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Robert Burke
33 months ago
2
2

All Europe needs to do is defund their Global Progressive Agenda worldview from education in K-12, university, law and journalism schools and replace it with Western Enlightenment. This is the sword that cuts the Gordian knot. However Europe won't do this thing. See Jer. 6:16. By the way, the other countries should. That would be Kenya, the USA, the U.K., Canada, Mexico, Japan, Russia... all of them. Will they? (It a fight: Tribal Control vs. Prog Control vs. Tragic Liberty.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrkN5Pqh5ok

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Eric Blair
13 months ago
1
1

I am ALSO "puzzled by the gap between the brilliance of your Warlock essay and what I regard as a strange and skewed view of current U.S. political forces." For a start read Peggy Noonan's 2016 piece on 'the unprotected' voting for Trump. Whether it is NATO, global warming, or immigration just follow the money. Who benefits? Who is harmed? Seven of the nine richest counties in the US border DC. What happens to anyone even threatening to disturb this? Why is Trump's threat to NOT invade or meddle in every country's affairs such a bad thing? I do not understand.

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Linda Smith
22 months ago
1
1

Hi Claire, Coming up on one year since you started this journey. I was getting updates regularly on Ricochet and through Facebook. I enjoyed the podcasts and initial involvement, but have lost touch with the whole project. Wondering how its going and if you plan to share your project going forward through the same avenues? If not, where can we follow the book's progress? Best wishes.

+ Read More
Brad Miner
25 months ago
1
1

I prefer "Europe in the Age of ISIS" for two reasons: 1) It's more accurate, in that Trump is new to the scene, and nothing he has done (yet) has had any effect on the European recovery of backbone; and 2) by putting Trump's name in the subtitle you're somewhat tying the book's fortunes to his. Yes, he won the election, but now he must govern. If his presidency doesn't go well . . . And are you a Trumpista?

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Clifford R Krieger
30 months ago
1
1

Have you read _Christ stopped at Eboli_? Maybe not much has changed since the 1930s. Closing for "Perterno" seemed pretty regular even North of Naples in the 1970s.

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James Madison
5 months ago

It is a hard argument to prove the US decrepit. It is uncertain of what to do next. Post WWII liberalism is mostly done and the impact has not always been kind to Americans - at least they feel this way. Russia and China are better, but adversaries. Russia is still feared after almost 2 centuries since the Congress of Vienna attempted to construct alliances to restrain them. But Russia fears as much as it is feared. A threat at the margin, not at the inflection. Likewise, once the richest nation in the world, China remains large and lacking enough resources, unable to project real power to secure them. The Chinese still are mistrusted - and for obvious reasons. The world is not coming to an end, though the US has lacked a grand strategy for almost 30 years. We have fought many times since then and become distracted or conflicted, but we have no clear strategy. Until a real enemy emerges, we will continue to lurch. And remember, as divided as Americans appear, this is not the first time a nation without clear adversaries has taken advantage of peace to embroil itself in rabid democracy. All is not over.

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Hank Bradley
6 months ago

JV DeLong has his finger on some important items in his quote below. To which could be added, the European paucity of NATO defense spending is the flip side of its decades of reliance on US military spending on their behalf while their own went to sumptuous social welfare programs. Small wonder Trump berated them - he doesn't feel the US should face Russia unsupported, and bluntly says so.

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Anthony Stone
6 months ago

I will reserve judgment until the book appears, by which time the West will presumably have unraveled. I have a feeling that we shall agree on the effect and disagree on the cause. I shall gallantly give you the advantage by declaring my hand straight away. The West IS unraveling, but US policy is not to blame. There are two destructive tendencies working in parallel. The first is a rise in populism coupled with the decline of the nation-state. The second is the substitution of Islamic values for Christian values, particularly in Europe. The other piece of knitting which is unraveling stitch by stitch is the Democratic Party of the US.

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Jay Strong
12 months ago

You know there is a book in there somewhere in the pile of ideas. The problem is the premise. Trump is a bit of an oddity - like Teddy Roosevelt, a celebrity. But he is not Putin. The real book premise worth pursuing is the slide into authoritarian/oligarchic capitalism similar to what China promotes or what Russia, Iran, Venezuela, etc. promote. In fact, to the extent the US is oligarchy (and it may be becoming that) that is the issue that spawns Trump, or in the UK Brexit, and challenges conventional climate, social justice, immigration, income equality, etc. policies when promoted by Davos Man to the masses.

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Matthew
12 months ago

what a complete load of crap. MAGA

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Michael Mills
13 months ago

Your essay "The Warlock Hunt" is one of the most honest, intelligent and insightful essays I have read in a long time. On the strength of that alone, I gratefully make a contribution to your book. In fact, I encourage you to consider a book-length version of "The Warlock Hunt." PS -- Friendly suggestion: evolutionary psychology has much to offer -- certainly moreso that Freudianism.

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Norm Hapke Jr.
17 months ago

claire, best wishes in your efforts. we really live in interesting times, and i don't know how you concentrate on this with all that is happening in the world. Just the turkish part is unsettling. Remember however, things have been a lot worse in times past, and there is a lot of ruin in a country.

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Raised by 660 people in 33 months
Created April 2, 2016
Claire Berlinski
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RW
$25
Russell Whiting
6 days ago

Haven't been participating in any of the various discussions you have been, were and are attempting to promote as I have not see many of your posts on Facebook recently. All well and good. Hope that this correspondence finds you and "the cool cats" in good health and at peace. Happy New Year. Finally, I enjoyed your take on the Laos experience, as you recorded it, as I feel that we have something in common in this regard as I served in the Peace Corps in Northeast Thailand during the time period 1973-1976. I visited Laos, Vientiane and Luang Prabang during that time and although the country was very much at war then, there was a fragile truce of sorts in place during the time of my visit. Lots of amazing personalities afoot then, Tony Poe, Pop Buell, Jerry Daniels and Mac Thompson to name a few. So much for old reminiscences. It was quite a time that's for sure. My best, Russ Whiting

SW
$25
Steven Wilson
26 days ago

I'm eager to see what comes of this. And also I want to get my total up to $50 so I might see a thank you note written by cats. It's hard to believe 32 months have passed since my last donation.

JS
$50
Jerome Sternstein
27 days ago

Your take on what's happening in -- or to -- the West is much needed today.

$50
Tray Hunley
27 days ago

I enjoy reading and hearing Claire's insights.

RM
$200
ROBERT MORRIS
27 days ago
PJ
$300
paul janos
27 days ago

Dr. B's work progresses the Enlightenment.

DM
$15
Dan Mcnamee
27 days ago
$100
Anonymous
1 month ago
$50
Anonymous
1 month ago
$50
Anonymous
1 month ago
JV DeLong
13 months ago
5
5

Your vision is acute, but oddly distorted. The Trump phenomenon, like the Tea Party before it, is a reaction to the growing Caesarism of American politics, not a cause. Were I, as a long-time libertarian-leaning conservative, to set out to describe the Progressive playbook, I could not better your description: “Conflate entertainment and politics. Create chaos, confusion, and a sense of permanent emergency. Destroy confidence in the idea of objective truth. Humiliate or destroy the people who are better fit to be leaders. Gain control of the media to starve adversaries of access to the public. Discredit what media you cannot control. Reward loyalists with government tenders. Punish the disloyal with punitive taxes and lawsuits. Stack the courts. Jigger the constitution so that opponents have no hope of coming to power through democratic means. Erode critical civil rights and freedoms, stitch by stitch—until elections still happen, but denuded of everything that makes elections meaningful.” Only in the New York Times can these trends be attributed to Trump, or to conservatives. The real threat to the liberal political order is the combination of crony capitalism, public employee political activity, massive government subsidies for leftist causes, relentless lawfare, and celebration of victimhood as the highest form of human achievement. I confess to being puzzled by the gap between the brilliance of your Warlock essay and what I regard as a strange and skewed view of current U.S. political forces. I think you need some better reference points for anti-Progressive thinking. I will suggest just one, Manhattan Contrarian, which is my personal favorite for consistently shrewd analysis of the Progressive state. [See http://manhattancontrarian.com]

+ Read More
Robert Burke
33 months ago
2
2

All Europe needs to do is defund their Global Progressive Agenda worldview from education in K-12, university, law and journalism schools and replace it with Western Enlightenment. This is the sword that cuts the Gordian knot. However Europe won't do this thing. See Jer. 6:16. By the way, the other countries should. That would be Kenya, the USA, the U.K., Canada, Mexico, Japan, Russia... all of them. Will they? (It a fight: Tribal Control vs. Prog Control vs. Tragic Liberty.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrkN5Pqh5ok

+ Read More
Eric Blair
13 months ago
1
1

I am ALSO "puzzled by the gap between the brilliance of your Warlock essay and what I regard as a strange and skewed view of current U.S. political forces." For a start read Peggy Noonan's 2016 piece on 'the unprotected' voting for Trump. Whether it is NATO, global warming, or immigration just follow the money. Who benefits? Who is harmed? Seven of the nine richest counties in the US border DC. What happens to anyone even threatening to disturb this? Why is Trump's threat to NOT invade or meddle in every country's affairs such a bad thing? I do not understand.

+ Read More
Linda Smith
22 months ago
1
1

Hi Claire, Coming up on one year since you started this journey. I was getting updates regularly on Ricochet and through Facebook. I enjoyed the podcasts and initial involvement, but have lost touch with the whole project. Wondering how its going and if you plan to share your project going forward through the same avenues? If not, where can we follow the book's progress? Best wishes.

+ Read More
Brad Miner
25 months ago
1
1

I prefer "Europe in the Age of ISIS" for two reasons: 1) It's more accurate, in that Trump is new to the scene, and nothing he has done (yet) has had any effect on the European recovery of backbone; and 2) by putting Trump's name in the subtitle you're somewhat tying the book's fortunes to his. Yes, he won the election, but now he must govern. If his presidency doesn't go well . . . And are you a Trumpista?

+ Read More
Clifford R Krieger
30 months ago
1
1

Have you read _Christ stopped at Eboli_? Maybe not much has changed since the 1930s. Closing for "Perterno" seemed pretty regular even North of Naples in the 1970s.

+ Read More
James Madison
5 months ago

It is a hard argument to prove the US decrepit. It is uncertain of what to do next. Post WWII liberalism is mostly done and the impact has not always been kind to Americans - at least they feel this way. Russia and China are better, but adversaries. Russia is still feared after almost 2 centuries since the Congress of Vienna attempted to construct alliances to restrain them. But Russia fears as much as it is feared. A threat at the margin, not at the inflection. Likewise, once the richest nation in the world, China remains large and lacking enough resources, unable to project real power to secure them. The Chinese still are mistrusted - and for obvious reasons. The world is not coming to an end, though the US has lacked a grand strategy for almost 30 years. We have fought many times since then and become distracted or conflicted, but we have no clear strategy. Until a real enemy emerges, we will continue to lurch. And remember, as divided as Americans appear, this is not the first time a nation without clear adversaries has taken advantage of peace to embroil itself in rabid democracy. All is not over.

+ Read More
Hank Bradley
6 months ago

JV DeLong has his finger on some important items in his quote below. To which could be added, the European paucity of NATO defense spending is the flip side of its decades of reliance on US military spending on their behalf while their own went to sumptuous social welfare programs. Small wonder Trump berated them - he doesn't feel the US should face Russia unsupported, and bluntly says so.

+ Read More
Anthony Stone
6 months ago

I will reserve judgment until the book appears, by which time the West will presumably have unraveled. I have a feeling that we shall agree on the effect and disagree on the cause. I shall gallantly give you the advantage by declaring my hand straight away. The West IS unraveling, but US policy is not to blame. There are two destructive tendencies working in parallel. The first is a rise in populism coupled with the decline of the nation-state. The second is the substitution of Islamic values for Christian values, particularly in Europe. The other piece of knitting which is unraveling stitch by stitch is the Democratic Party of the US.

+ Read More
Jay Strong
12 months ago

You know there is a book in there somewhere in the pile of ideas. The problem is the premise. Trump is a bit of an oddity - like Teddy Roosevelt, a celebrity. But he is not Putin. The real book premise worth pursuing is the slide into authoritarian/oligarchic capitalism similar to what China promotes or what Russia, Iran, Venezuela, etc. promote. In fact, to the extent the US is oligarchy (and it may be becoming that) that is the issue that spawns Trump, or in the UK Brexit, and challenges conventional climate, social justice, immigration, income equality, etc. policies when promoted by Davos Man to the masses.

+ Read More
Matthew
12 months ago

what a complete load of crap. MAGA

+ Read More
Michael Mills
13 months ago

Your essay "The Warlock Hunt" is one of the most honest, intelligent and insightful essays I have read in a long time. On the strength of that alone, I gratefully make a contribution to your book. In fact, I encourage you to consider a book-length version of "The Warlock Hunt." PS -- Friendly suggestion: evolutionary psychology has much to offer -- certainly moreso that Freudianism.

+ Read More
Norm Hapke Jr.
17 months ago

claire, best wishes in your efforts. we really live in interesting times, and i don't know how you concentrate on this with all that is happening in the world. Just the turkish part is unsettling. Remember however, things have been a lot worse in times past, and there is a lot of ruin in a country.

+ Read More
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