Support us

The Democracy Series: A Conversation with Author Spencer Ackerman

Tue. Nov 02, 2021
6:00 — 7:00 PM CDT

Webinar and ​​Virtual Livestream


Join the University of Chicago Center for Effective Government, the Chicago Center on Democracy, and Seminary Co-op Bookstores for the second installment of ‘The Democracy Series,’ a joint initiative of public events featuring dialogue between book authors and experts on issues related to the state of democracy in the U.S. and abroad.

National security reporter and editor Spencer Ackerman will discuss his book Reign Of Terror: How The 9/11 Era Destabilized America And Produced Trump. The event will feature:

Spencer Ackerman | Author, Reign Of Terror: How The 9/11 Era Destabilized America And Produced Trump

Sadia Sindhu (Remarks) | Executive Director, University of Chicago Center for Effective Government

Will Howell (Moderator) | Director, University of Chicago Center for Effective Government


"An intelligent, persuasive book about events that are all too current." — Kirkus Reviews

An examination of the profound impact that the War on Terror had in pushing American politics and society in an authoritarian direction.

For an entire generation, at home and abroad, the United States has waged an endless conflict known as the War on Terror. In addition to multiple ground wars, it has pioneered drone strikes and industrial-scale digital surveillance, as well as detaining people indefinitely and torturing them. These conflicts have yielded neither peace nor victory, but they have transformed America. What began as the persecution of Muslims and immigrants has become a normalized, paranoid feature of American politics and security, expanding the possibilities for applying similar or worse measures against other targets at home. A politically divided country turned the War on Terror into a cultural and then tribal struggle, first on the ideological fringes and ultimately expanding to conquer the Republican Party, often with the timid acquiescence of the Democratic Party. Today's nativist resurgence walked through a door opened by the 9/11 era.

Reign of Terror will show how these policies created a foundation for American authoritarianism and, though it is not a book about Donald Trump, it will provide a critical explanation of his rise to power and the sources of his political strength. It will show that Barack Obama squandered an opportunity to dismantle the War on Terror after killing Osama bin Laden. That mistake turns out to have been portentous. By the end of his tenure, the war metastasized into a broader and bitter culture struggle in search of a demagogue like Trump to lead it.

A union of journalism and intellectual history, Reign of Terror will be a pathbreaking and definitive book with the power to transform how America understands its national security policies and their catastrophic impact on its civic life.