Totalitarianism is on the rise around the world. Our partners here at WGBH, The GroundTruth Project, are out Thursday with a new season of their podcast. The new episodes report on countries where totalitarianism seems to be creeping in. Charlie Sennott is the founder and editor of the Ground Truth Project. Sennott spoke with WGBH All Things Considered anchor Arun Rath about the new season. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Arun Rath: So, first off, could you rattle off the list of the countries that you're looking at?

Charlie Sennott: We begin in Brazil, and that's the first episode of the podcast, and that's about weaponizing fear. So President [Jair] Bolsonaro in Brazil is really looking at how the police are an extension of his power, and they have used fear as a tool. And then if you kind of go around the world, you see these similar playbooks. We're also in Hungary, where there's control of the media, we’re in Poland, where there's a real alienation of minorities, in this case, the LGBT community. In India, there's the manipulation of religion, where we see President Modi really going after the Muslim minority in the Hindu-majority nation and saying, India is a Hindu nation. And I'm really sad to report that one of the seven countries we're focusing on is the United States. We have a president in the White House who has consistently lied and not told the truth and manipulated facts. And this is something that we're seeing as a pattern around the world as well. It's a dark joke, but we were joking that it's almost fitting this is running on Halloween, because this is scary stuff.

Rath: One of the things that's really disturbing about all of this, to point out the obvious, is that we're talking largely about some of the great democracies of the world that have freely elected people. You think about India, for example — you mentioned that Modi talks about it being a Hindu nation. That kind of idea is antithetical to the idea of modern India, to the Indian constitution even. How is this happening?

Sennott: It's a great question. So the idea here is that when we think of authoritarianism, we think of, you know, a military coup, and then someone comes in and takes power and people are subjugated under that government. That's not what we're seeing. It's a theme to watch that sometimes democracies, even great ones, can erode the very democracies that people are elected to lead. I think we're all aware as the impeachment proceedings begin to take shape, we see that our country has really been confronted with a challenge, with a sense of, Are we in a moment where are our constitution and our democratic norms are under attack? And I think we're all aware of this. But what we wanted to do with this series, and what I hope we achieve, is some really great reporting that takes you on a tour through the whole world to look at where that theme is resonating elsewhere. And it might help us understand a little bit more the moment we're in here in the United States.

Rath: Well, let's get a sense of that from this first episode, which is about Brazil, which is kind of remarkable. You talked about one of the things that is in this playbook is undermining institutions like the press. And I want to play this amazing moment where your reporter gets pulled into this. Could you set this up first? Tell us who the reporter is.

Sennott: The reporter is Leticia Duarte, a really gifted reporter. She's strong. She's confident. And as your listeners will hear, she was really under a blistering attack by someone who is often compared to the Steve Bannon of Brazil. He's described by Bannon himself as a great intellect and a real intellectual force behind a new movement in Brazil. And I'll let people hear for themselves how he conducts himself in an interview that he knew was recorded and that he agreed to.

"Leticia Duarte: I asked why he kept pointing his finger at me. Then he lost his temper, pounding his fist …

Olavo de Carvalho: It's you who are pointing at me. You're a slut. You are the one insulting me. You come to my house with this cynical smile. You're worth nothing, woman.

Leticia Duarte: I realized I was not just reporting on his playbook, I was in his playbook. I was part of the strategy.”

Sennott: To be clear, the gentleman who is pounding his fist on the table and who's waving his finger at our reporter, his name is Olavo de Carvalho. He's a sort of Bannon from afar, who many people say is one of the architects of Bolsonaro’s real revolution going on in Brazil, and in a movement that we would say is dangerously authoritarian.

Rath: With all this happening in all these places around the world, is this unprecedented or has the world gone through times like this before? I'm kind of looking for some hope here.

Sennott: I don't know if I can provide much hope there, because I do think there are historical moments where we have seen so tragically in our history that authoritarianism crept forward. And I think what we're seeing now is a different kind of authoritarianism that's emerging out of democracies. We're not suggesting that we are living under authoritarian rule in the United States yet. We're saying, let's be really careful. Let's watch this global trend.