What’s doing in the world of autocrats and autocrat trainees?

It’s unusual when Harper’s Weekly Review has an expansive block of facts on one theme. Today, though, I didn’t have to be too clever to understand what Harper’s is getting at: the behavior of Big and Little Brothers all over the world.

Fortunately, an international group, BRICS*, had a conference during which a display of autocratic behavior was collected for our benefit. And Harper’s was right on top of it.

So get your lessons in how to be an autocrat right here. Or test your sense of dark humor. (I laughed.)

The annual summit of the BRICS group of major emerging economies commenced in Johannesburg, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly refused to get out of his airplane when he was not greeted by a sufficiently senior official upon his arrival. The conference was attended in person by the leaders of each member of the trade bloc with the exception of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who appeared virtually at the request of the host nation, which would have been obligated to arrest him for war crimes. Putin delivered a speech in which he blamed the West for Russia’s war in Ukraine and appeared in a prerecorded video in which his voice was dubbed or altered to sound much lower than usual, drawing comparisons to the soul singer Barry White. The next day, a plane carrying the Wagner mercenary group’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who staged a daylong mutiny against Putin’s forces two months ago, crashed halfway between Moscow and St. Petersburg, killing everyone aboard. The Kremlin denied involvement, and Putin required Wagner soldiers to sign a loyalty oath. “This was a person,” said Putin, “with a complicated fate.” It was reported that Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro, who is under investigation for forging his COVID-19 vaccine records, for allegedly ordering police to pull over his opponent’s supporters on election day, and for his possible involvement in a riot to keep himself in power, was being investigated for accepting proceeds from a jewelry store in a Pennsylvania mall, which bought gifts he had received during his presidency. “My brand is honesty and always will be,” Bolsonaro said.

*Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa

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