Tag Archives: French Revolution

Xi Jinping Is Napoleon

A certain kind of commenter has real problems with videos like this one. It compares the trajectory of current Chinese leader Xi Jinping to a mid 19th century French dictator. Some see the idea of historical comparisons as ineffective, or even racist. To those who say it’s ineffective, I am forced to agree. It’s not like what happened to Napoleon III will predict exactly the path that Xi Jinping’s rule will take. But I never claimed it would. This video only talks about the surprising parallels, it makes no claims for the future. History is a treasure trove of events, processes, and situations. None of it will predict exactly what happens, but aspects are often similar. There’s no harm, and certainly no prophecy in drawing out parallels the way that this video does. Some other commenters, both Chinese and Western, claim that it’s ridiculous to compare China to European history. Both of them hold on to the idea that there’s something intrinsically different about the Chinese, and I’m either being racist, or not racist enough by assuming easy parallels with Europeans. I think that’s just balderdash. Chinese people are people too, and despite the scale and age of their country, it moves in similar ways.

Vague similarity to past situations is all I’m claiming here. I’m not claiming to know how Xi Jinping’s rule will end. But I am trying to make the case that Xi Jinping’s assumption of dictatorial power is something that we’ve seen before in modern history. Many in the US are reacting with panic to the idea of a great power backsliding in this way. They are acting as if it’s somehow unprecedented. It’s not. That’s all this video is saying.

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Video Transcript after the jump…

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Smug Republicans and The French Revolution

Some Republicans are still celebrating Trump’s election. If they knew the history of the French Revolution they wouldn’t be. As tumultuous as the Trump transition has been, it’s going to get much worse. Believe it or not, this really is a honeymoon phase. All the norm breaking and vileness of the Trump presidency will soon be turned on the Republican Party. Trump doesn’t have any other choice if he wants to keep his base with him. Though 18th century France couldn’t be more different from the contemporary United States (debatable), the gyrations of the French Revolution provide an interesting model for what this might look like.

This video owes everything to Mike Duncan and his incredible “Revolutions” podcast. Duncan is working his way through significant revolutions of the modern era. So far he’s covered the English Civil War, and the American, French, and Hatian Revolutions. He’s currently working his way through the Latin American revolutions of the early 19th century. They come out in mostly weekly, breezy, fun and digestible half hour segments. I admire a project that goes on for years like this. He’s working his way towards his beloved Russian Revolution, though I would be surprised if he got there before the 2020s.

Duncan’s work came to my attention about a year and a half ago through his old podcast The History Of Rome. That too was a seriously ambitious project. Over 5 years or so, and 179 episodes, he covered Rome’s history from the founding of the city in the 700s BC (supposedly) to the fall of the Western Empire in 476 AD. I had had the idea that turned into my TEDx talk before finding the History of Rome, but I never would have had the confidence to speak on ancient history, even as an amateur, without this podcast. It’s great stuff. If I can steer you his way, I’ll be doing you a favor, and doing just a bit to re-pay Duncan for his work.

Swimming in history is a great thing. I’m constantly reading it, and thanks to Duncan, I hear about it every day at the gym too. What I try to do with my channel is convey that sense of history, and inject a bit of it into our discussions of politics and current events. Outside of a few issue areas (FATCA, Criminal Justice), I don’t know that much more about politics than your average Washington, DC journalist or academic. But I know a ton more about history, and I think that’s what makes my channel worth watching. Even if the audience finds the comparisons I draw ridiculous (I occasionally do too), the hope is that it’ll get people thinking in new and different ways. One of the things that makes this the best job I’ve ever had is the way that events, my reading, and my somewhat improvisational approach to the weekly topics point me in directions I would not have expected. For example, I now have enough videos on French history to make a playlist. That’s weird.

If you’d like to earn my undying gratitude, please click here to support this project through Patreon. Please do reach out to us through Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, or our e-mail newsletter.

Video Transcript after the jump…

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