On Tyranny-Twenty Lessons From The Twentieth Century: By Timothy Snyder, published on February 2017.
#1 New York Times Bestseller-A history of fascism offers a guide for surviving and resisting America’s turn towards authoritarianism.
Prologue Summary On History And Tyranny
The Founders of the American republic feared that it would fall to tyrants, as did so many republics before it. Like the Founders, today’s American citizens look to history for guidance when trying to resolve “the problem of tyranny within American society over slaves and women for example” (page 10)
In European history, three major democratic movements have occurred: “after the First World War in 1918, after the second World War in 1945, and after the end of communism in 1989” (page 11). Not all such democracies survive; many fail “in circumstances that in some important respects resemble our own.” (page 11)
A newly global economy increases instability; as a result “European democracies collapsed into right-wing authoritarianism and fascism in the 1920s and 30s” (page 11), while soviet communism also arises. The Fascists “rejected reason in the name of will, denying objective truth in favor of a glorious myth” (page 12), while the communists “rule by a disciplined party elite” that declares a monopoly on reason.” (page 12)
Timothy Snyder; PHD, and is a Professor at Yale University for European history. This book, On Tyranny details the method that demagogues, including Adolf Hitler (as well as Joseph Stalin) have used to degrade and topple democratic institutions. As would-be tyrant will propose that a mythical era of past national greatness can be revived and that only he can achieve it.
Hitler or the authoritarian leader, then relies on the willingness of an otherwise free people to put themselves under his authority. Using lies and distortions, along with ridicule, intimidation, and force against his opponents, the tyrant tightens his grip on the country. Finally, a disaster or emergency provides him with the excuse he needs to take total control of the nation and eradicate personal liberties.
The Threats To Our Democracy Haven’t Ended
Threats to our democracy haven’t ended with the defeat of Hitler or the collapse of Communism. Even in today’s America the danger is real, given the current president’s use of lies (over 20,000 in the past 5 years) denunciations, and threats-behaviors that resemble those used by Hitler and more recently, by Russian President, Vladimir Putin.
For example, the use of hate symbols such as Nazi Swastikas, if tolerated by the populace, soon will change the tenor of society until what they represent becomes acceptable. Also, the use of the confederate flag at Trump rallies, or Trump protesters, etc., has already caused such a divide in our country, that we have not seen since 1968.
Traps That Dictators Set
The traps that dictators set and how people can easily be swayed toward obedience; democratic institutions are the first to be dismantled by a dictator; a single political party can eliminate all others. As well, the use of hate symbols such as Swastikas, if tolerated by the populace, soon it will change the tenor of society until what they represent becomes acceptable.
A dictator can induce professionals to abandon their codes of conduct and aid him in his work, use private troops to push aside or co-opt the official military, and re-purpose local police to commit war crimes.
Vladimir Putin Comes To Power
The current Russian regime under Putin comes to power after a series of terror attacks that become the reason for centralized total political control. Putin then employs undercover soldiers in a terror operation in eastern Ukraine and uses cyber war to try to control an Ukraine election. His operators then take over a French TV Station with a broadcast of a fake version of the Muslim terror group ISIS, hoping the French people would turn to the right in an upcoming vote. Russia also plants a fake story in Germany about a Russian girl raped by Muslims.
The current American President (Donald Trump) agrees with Putin that the number one enemy they should fight together is “international terrorism and extremism” (page 109). This proposal amounts to “terror management: the exploration of real, dubious, and simulated terror attacks to bring down democracies.
Trump And Hitler’s Behaviors
First lets start with Adolf Hitler’s behaviors towards authoritarian government.
Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany in 1933, when he engineers an emergency that seems to require him to enforce a general derogation of civil liberties. His Nazi shock troops intimidate opposing parties into silence; he offers a plan to revive a mythical German greatness, a plan that requires civilians to follow him as an absolute ruler. These results are disastrous for Germany. Hitler’s tactics anticipate these of other, more recent leaders, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin and America’s President, Donald Trump.
Secondly, lets look at the American President, Donald Trump and his acts towards an authoritarian government.
America’s President Donald Trump haunts the pages pf this book. The author contends that Trump’s behaviors-open and repeated lying, ridiculing his opponents with disparaging nicknames, using a private security force, encouraging followers at rallies to remove dissenters, evading taxes, working with foreign leaders for personal benefits, etc.-resemble those used by recent tyrants such as Hitler, Stalin, and Putin to gain power. Trump’s actions represent, then, threats to American democracy and push toward authoritarian rule.
About The Author: Timothy Snyder
Timathy Snyder received his Bachelor of Art degree in history and political science from Brown University and his Doctor of Philosophy degree in modern history in 1995 at the University of Oxford.
Snyder has written five books and co-edited two. One of the latter, Thinking The Twentieth Century (2012) was written with Tony Judt while Judt was in the late stages of his illness with ALS disease.
Snyder’s Views On Vladimir Putin:
“Fascist ideas have come to Russia at a historical moment, three generations after the second World War. When it’s impossible for Russians to think for themselves as fascist. The entire meaning of the war in Soviet education was as an anti-fascist struggle, where the Russians are on the side of the good and the fascists are the enemy. So there’s this odd business which I call in the book “schizo-fascism,” where people who are themselves unambiguously fascists refer to others as fascists.”-This statement made by Snyder was in his book “The Road To Unfreedom.”
“History does not repeat. But it does offer us examples and patterns, and thereby enlarges our imaginations and creates more possibilities for anticipation and resistance.”
The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the European who saw democracy yielded to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.
On Tyranny is a call to arms and a guide to resistance, with invaluable ideas for how we can preserve our freedoms in the uncertain years to come.
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All The Best,