Sir Salman Rushdie has said that we live in an age of “offendedness” and “outrage identity,” warning that society faces the “old enemy of authoritarianism”.
The controversial author, 76, who was stabbed last year whilst preparing to give a talk in New York, was talking about the rise in anti-democratic political movements.
Appearing by video during the National Constitution Centre’s First Amendment Summit, Rushdie said: “I think there’s a real rise in authoritarian movements around the world.
“Populist authoritarian demagoguery and coupled with that a willingness amongst, at least some parts of the population to cease to value the democratic values enshrined in the first amendment.
“So I think the problem is, I would now say, political more than primarily religious.”
Sir Salman warned about America’s alleged tendency towards authoritarianism: “I find it (attitudes in America) bewildering, and I think it has to do with two kinds of attack that have been unleashed. Not unsuccessfully in recent years. One is on the idea of education itself.”
He added that the other attack has been on the truth and said: “One of the preconditions for the rise of authoritarian strongmen is that people cease to believe in the truth.
“People are told so often that what everything they’ve been told is a lie that they begin to internalise that, and at that point, the demagogue, the authoritarians can rise to speak and can say, ‘I am the truth. Believe me, because I am the truth.’
“That’s how dictatorships start. That’s how tyrannies rise and we’re seeing phenomenon like that in this country, but around the world as well.
“Those two attacks on the value of education and on the absolute value of the truth. Unfortunately, have been to some degree successful.”
Recently, Rushdie said that he was still processing the attempt one his life by an extremist, which left him blind in one eye.
“I have a very good therapist who has a lot of work to do,” said the novelist. “I have crazy dreams.”
Sir Salman said he was in “two minds” about whether to face his alleged attacker in court.
And he remains unsure if he will ever appear at a public event that isn’t invitation-only and “controllable”.
The injuries resulted in damage to his liver, lost vision in one eye and a paralysed hand caused by nerve damage to his arm. The multiple prize-winning author said “the human body has an amazing capacity to heal. And so I’m fortunate to be well on that way”.