Lithuanian political philosopher Leonidas Donskis on populism, fear, and courage. I publish here a fragment from the first chapter of a book of dialogues we were writing together when he suddenly passed away. I received it on September 6, 2016. Leonidas died on September 21. One can read it as this critical intellectual’s testament: “The question arises as to fear of what? The answer is quite simple: It is fear of someone who comes as personification of our own insecurities a…nd uncertainties, who get their first and last names of facial features due to excessive sensationalist media coverages, tabloid editorials, and conspiracy theories. Fear of Islam and Muslims, fear of immigrants, fear of gays and lesbians, fear of godless pinkos, fear of new Jewish world conspiracies, fear of Jews and Banderovites – that is, fascists in the way in which the Kremlin propaganda depicts them – in Ukraine.
Together with privacy exposed in the public, fear has become most precious political commodity. At the same time, it serves as the key to success for every tabloid. For we live in a world of self-generating and self-sustaining fear, panic-mongering, fake images and information, compulsive self-exposure, constant attention-seeking, conspiracy theories, suspicion, hatred, and bullying conflated with critique.
This is not to say that courage bid farewell to this world. Ukraine could serve here as the best proof of courage, bravery, sacrifice, willpower, and magnanimity without which the country would never have had the strength to mobilize and defend itself against Russia’s aggression and political terrorism.
And it becomes the reminder of what it means no to succumb to panic and fear both being the most desirable outcome for the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin. To find the strength to resist nuclear blackmail, toxic lies, and hate crimes committed inside and outside Russia means to be on the winning side nowadays. The more fear we generate in our media, the more success we bring to the Kremlin.”