NEW REPORT: Exposing Authoritarian Narratives in the Battle of Ideas

Washington, D.C. – Autocracies like China and Russia are becoming more explicit in their efforts to normalize authoritarianism as an alternative to democracy, according to a new report from NED’s International Forum for Democratic Studies, “Winning the Battle of Ideas: Exposing Global Authoritarian Narratives and Revitalizing Democratic Principles,” by Dr. Joseph Siegle.

Dr. Siegle, the Director of Research and Strategic Communications at the National Defense University’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies, writes that these authoritarian narratives have the objective of expanding their influence by making democratic government seem less attractive.

“Authoritarian regimes are investing massive resources to push deceptive and corrosive narratives to discredit the values and institutions of democracy,” said Christopher Walker, NED’s Vice President for Studies and Analysis. “Democracies too often stay silent while the autocrats fill the information void. Democratic systems must retake the initiative to emphasize the advantages of democratically accountable governance.”

The report details the principal themes of authoritarian narratives, including threats to sovereignty and exploiting grievances in the global South. The report observes that Moscow and Beijing exploit social media and make huge investments in state-owned broadcasters and partnerships with foreign media to disseminate their preferred narratives. Dr. Siegle argues that democracies need to retake the initiative by actively articulating a positive vision of democratic principles, rather than assuming that the qualities of a democratic model of governance will speak for itself.

NED will host a webinar to launch the report on Thursday, February 8 from 11:00 am – 12:00 pm ET. Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin will moderate a panel discussion on the report’s key findings and implications with Dr. Siegle; Ambassador Jendayi Frazer, co-vice chair of the NED Board of Directors and distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution; Peter Pomerantsev, senior fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s Agora Institute; and Ivan Sigal, executive director of Global Voices. NED President and CEO Damon Wilson will give introductions and opening remarks. Register for the event here.

A recording of the webinar will be available on NED’s YouTube channel.


The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is an independent, nonprofit, grant-making organization dedicated to the development and strengthening of democratic values and institutions around the world. With an annual appropriation from Congress, NED supports democratic advocates in over 100 countries. NED’s program is informed and enhanced by the work of the International Forum for Democratic Studies; the World Movement for Democracy; and the Center for International Media Assistance.


Christine Bednarz,; +1-202-200-6872