All over the world, liberal democracy is getting turned upside-down. Autocratic leaders are using populist appeals, the partisan media and the power of their offices to short-circuit thoughtful deliberation and political consensus. They flout the rule of law, unleash the police on their own people, suppress dissent and attack voting rights. So what can you do about it?

Join hosts Will Hitchcock and Siva Vaidhyanathan — along with leading thinkers from around the world — as they put illiberal trends in context and explore ways to turn them around.

Our show is a project of UVA’s Deliberative Media Lab. It’s produced with support from the UVA Democracy Initiative and the College of Arts and Sciences, and syndicated in coordination with WTJU’s Virginia Audio Collective. We’re also a member of The Democracy Group, a podcast network that exposes the cracks and fissures in America’s democracy and equips concerned citizens with the tools to do something about it.

Subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you get your audio.


This Week

S2 10. Tangled-Up Trash


According to Syracuse University media scholar Whitney Phillips, information pathways run as deep and interwoven as the roots of redwood trees, and when they’re contaminated it threatens the whole forest. Read more >

S2 E9. The Wild Web

In the mid-1990s, the U.S. Congress moved to regulate internet content and gave tech companies wide latitude, setting the stage for a Wild West of data flow — along with abuses of privacy. UVA law professor Danielle Citron says it’s time to rein in cyberspace. Read more >

S2 E8. People Power

Nonviolent protests have taken down dictators and protected civil rights. But very often they fail instead. Renowned Serbian activist Srdja Popovic outlines the key characteristics of successful movements. Read more >

S2 E7. Growing Pains

Degrowth. In classical economic circles the idea is heretical. For economic anthropologist Jason Hickel, dialing down production in rich countries — and canceling debt for poor countries — is the only path to real democracy and, by the way, saving the planet. Read more >

S2 E6. Census Division

If people aren’t counted in a representative democracy, it’s as if they don’t exist. And for politicians or parties banking on minority rule, that’s just fine. Until they meet Dale Ho — who defends citizens’ voting rights for the American Civil Liberties Union. Read more >

S2 E5. Hard Lessons

Last summer, young people were at the forefront of demonstrations for racial justice in America. In many ways, they were modeling democratic values for their educators. But can their teachers learn from them? UVA president Jim Ryan offers some insight on this and other tough questions. Read more >

S2 E4. Threadbare Country

In a tattered corner of rural Kentucky, Eduardo Porter came upon a puzzle. The New York Times journalist saw that while Harlan County was benefiting more than most places from federal tax dollars, its overwhelmingly white residents distrusted the government and feared minorities. Why? Read more >

S2 E3. The Bane of Brazil

Denying ecological devastation in the Amazon, ridiculing opponents, and playing down the coronavirus pandemic are all part of the Bolsonaro toolkit. Sound familiar? Media studies scholar David Nemer takes us on a haunting tour of his native country’s political landscape. Read more >

S2 E2. Down the Rabbit Hole

Despite new regulations, Facebook groups and Twitter bots are still luring naive users into a world of suspicion, lies and terrorism, says social media researcher Renée DiResta. Read more >

S2 E1. Cults of Personality

Remember Silvio Berlusconi? Sex scandals, shady deals and a cult-like following marked the Italian prime minister’s time in office. NYU historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat breaks down a political playbook with a long history and continued appeal. Read more >

S2 E0. Preview: Season Two

After such a wacky month in America, is there any question democracy is still in danger? Yeah, we didn’t think so either. Will and Siva are back with Season Two and a whole new lineup of guests.

Special Episode. Insurrection

Much as the nation was stunned by the violence and mayhem at the U.S. Capitol in January, the assault was not unprecedented or unpredictable. Siva and Will — together with their University of Virginia students — reflect on what happened. Read more >

Archive: Season One

We were worried.

Really worried.

Relive why. After all, those demons are all still with us.

In the works

Coming up on Democracy in Danger, we’ll have interviews with climate journalist Kendra Pierre-Louis, about environmental justice, and historian Gema Kloppe-Santamaría, on the state of democracy in Mexico and across Latin America. Plus more in production: on India, Burma, Hong Kong and the dark history of citizenship-stripping in the United States.

Want to suggest a topic for a future episode or tell us what you think of the show? Find us on Twitter or email

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