Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Ph.D.

Portrait of Ruth Ben-Ghiat
Visiting Scholar, Center for Media at Risk

Ruth Ben-Ghiat is an award-winning historian, author, and political commentator on fascism, authoritarian leadership, propaganda, and threats to democracy past and present. An advisor to Protect Democracy, Ben-Ghiat is Professor of History and Italian Studies at NYU and a Visiting Scholar with the Center for Media at Risk at the Annenberg School in spring 2019.

In her regular columns for CNN.com and the Washington Post, and on radio, podcasts, and television, she offers historically informed analyses of current events and images that make the news. Her look at Trump and Putin’s body language during their Helsinki summit was one of CNN’s 2018’s most popular essays of 2018. She’s a clear communicator of complex ideas to public, corporate, and academic audiences on topics such as “How Strongmen Think – and How to Oppose Them,” “The Global Right’s Endgame,” and “Propaganda and Personality Cults: How They Work.”

She has received Guggenheim and other fellowships for her work on fascism, war, and visual propaganda. In Fascist Modernities and Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema, she looks at what happens to societies when authoritarian governments take hold and why they appealed to so many. Her New Yorker article on the normalization of Fascist monuments at a time of resurgent right-wing politics in Italy prompted a national debate about how to consider fascism’s heritage today. Her 2016 CNN essay arguing that women should register for Selective Service is part of the United States Army’s curriculum.

In 2016 and early 2017, she predicted that Trump would imitate Putin’s personality cult and follow the authoritarian playbook including using shock events to disorient the public. In The Atlantic she foresaw the Trump-GOP authoritarian-enabler relationship. She’s analyzed Trump’s language games (his use of Twitter, trial balloons, and threatening speech) and their relationship to right-wing violence and has advised how to push back against his propaganda machine.

Ben-Ghiat also writes on gender politics and #MeToo, from Trump’s fear of women, to the strongman’s belief that consent is for the weak, to gender harassment in and out of the academy.

Ruth Ben-Ghiat is Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University and a visiting scholar at the Center for Media at Risk.

Ben-Ghiat's Network

  • Culture and Communication
  • Global and Comparative Communication
  • Political Communication
  • Center for Media at Risk