Read On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder Online


An historian of fascism offers a guide for surviving and resisting America’s turn towards authoritarianism.On November 9th, millions of Americans woke up to the impossible: the election of Donald Drumpf as president. Against all predictions, one of the most-disliked presidential candidates in history had swept the electoral college, elevating a man with open contempt for dAn historian of fascism offers a guide for surviving and resisting America’s turn towards authoritarianism.On November 9th, millions of Americans woke up to the impossible: the election of Donald Drumpf as president. Against all predictions, one of the most-disliked presidential candidates in history had swept the electoral college, elevating a man with open contempt for democratic norms and institutions to the height of power.Timothy Snyder is one of the most celebrated historians of the Holocaust. In his books Bloodlands and Black Earth, he has carefully dissected the events and values that enabled the rise of Hitler and Stalin and the execution of their catastrophic policies. With Twenty Lessons, Snyder draws from the darkest hours of the twentieth century to provide hope for the twenty-first. As he writes, “Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism and communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.”Twenty Lessons 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....

Title : On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
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ISBN : 34369955
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On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century Reviews

  • Lisa
    2018-11-13 06:34

    “If young people do not begin to make history, politicians of eternity and inevitability will destroy it. And to make history, they need to know some. This is not the end, but a beginning.” The closing lines of this extended essay, divided into twenty lessons on history in its relation to current happenings, speak to me on a personal level. That is what I have been thinking about, and working for, as long as I can remember. Learning from the past is not only a widely neglected subject in school, it is a necessity for democratic society to survive. Step by step, Snyder approaches the various undermining factors of fascist propaganda that have proven successful over and over again in the world. He keeps it short, and simple, and refers to standard books by famous authors, both fiction writers and philosophers, for deeper understanding of the birth and maintenance of tyranny.He also suggests different ways of resisting the political brainwashing tendencies, and of keeping an independent mind in the midst of mob behaviour. One root of fascist success is the general human need to belong, and to conform, and go with the crowd. In a chilling example, he describes the terror that Nazi functionaries were able to create with the help of countless regular people:“Some killed of murderous conviction. But many others who killed were just afraid to stand out. Other forces were at work besides conformism. But without the conformists, the great atrocities would have been impossible.”Hannah Arendt is cited, describing the moment after the Reichstagsbrand, when she realised that you could no longer be a bystander, watching terror and misinformation hypnotise a whole nation.Another important topic, often raised with my students in class, is the dehumanising effect of internet traffic. Inhibitions are cast off, people forget that what they say is extreme, and extremely hurtful. They are feeling strong in a selected collective, and need “an opposition” to fuel their discussions. A simple suggestion is to get out in the real world, make eye contact with real people, and dare engaging in small talk with people outside your comfort zone. This is a vital point, especially in our Swedish environment, where people naturally shy away even from basic forms of polite greetings. The danger of disappearing in an unreal internet community feeding conspiracy fears and distorting reality is omnipresent. My parents, living on the continent for almost 30 years, are shocked whenever they visit their home country and realise the complete isolation from other human beings in Sweden.The tyrannies of the 20th century used the mass media available to them at the time - radio, and later television - to transmit their messages, and now the internet fills that function. We have one enormous advantage (which of course has its negative aspects as well), and that is our active participation in it. Even though the flow of (mis)information is part of the root of the new fascist success in the world, it can also be used by people to gently bring more nuance and knowledge into the debate:“Since in the age of the internet we are all publishers, each of us bears some private responsibility for the public’s sense of truth.”I think that is of massive importance. Think before you write, reflect on consequences, for yourself and others, and be careful not to add to the populist agenda by using the reductionist vocabulary and simplified, nationalist fear tactics to convince people. Snyder’s essay is short, and only scratches the surface of a huge topic, which deserves more reflection than the author can possibly deliver given the format. I nonetheless think it has a valuable place in the current debate for its clear introduction and reference to further literature, as well as for the remarkable historical parallels which make the fault lines of history visible. I can imagine reading it with teenage students as a point of departure for overarching discussions, but also to read it privately as a simple reminder of what a powerless individual can do to intellectually survive in an increasingly poisoned political atmosphere.A good, solid recommendation! Thank you, Matt for encouraging me to read it - I am passing it on to my own teenage son!

  • Julie
    2018-10-28 07:46

    On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder is a 2017 Tim Duggan Books publication. As a Professor of History at Yale University, Professor Snyder uses his expertise to lay out the importance of learning from the mistakes made throughout history, and to warn against a cavalier attitude towards the strength of our own democracy. The author lists habits we need to develop, and continually practice, in order to protect ourselves and our country, from falling prey to tyrannical regimes. He teaches us how to pick up on subtle changes, and how to recognize the signs and symptoms of tyranny and authoritarianism. He also advises us on what to do or not to do if the worst does happen. Naturally, the release of this book begs many people in the United States to make comparisons to our current political climate. But, the trouble isn’t simply one for America. The current trend towards nationalism will remind many of another time when “America First” was a slogan and how the isolationism the world was gripped in was the perfect set up for powerful dictators and of course, we all know how that turned out. Still, we have often believed those days are long over with, and our democracy would never again regress or weaken. Many have used this book to make comparisons between Trump and Hitler, which the author doesn’t discourage out of hand, but, the book was not written solely for that purpose. The book teaches that democracies can fail, and how they fail, and the lessons we should learn from those failures. The lessons outlined here include many habits we should form and stick to, no matter how progressive or peaceful things are in our country or with our relationships with other countries. I personally believe our complacency in taking for granted our democracy is safe, is a dangerous attitude to adopt. I didn’t always agree with everything the author suggested. I’m an extreme introvert, so I doubt I will ever force myself to 'get out there' and 'engage in small talk'. I also enjoy social media, like Goodreads, for example, and I love technologies and the internet, so again, I doubt I will ever deliberately dial back my time spent online. However, many of the other suggestions the author urges the reader to try, are things I already do. I don’t have cable, so mainstream media aren’t constantly infiltrating my head, which keeps those trendy catchphrases out of my vocabulary as well. I read print papers, and read lots of books, which is advice I can get behind. The author does offer up a few suggested fiction and nonfiction titles that tie into his philosophies, and I do intend to read a few of them. I believe the author offers sound advice, no matter which side of the political debate you are on. If you learn the mistakes made by failed democracies, learn your history, make yourself aware, learn to think for yourself, I believe you will have equipped yourself with enough intellect and armor to make informed choices and be prepared for the worst case scenario. “If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die under tyranny” I hope people will not view this book simply as a comparison between Trump and Hitler, because while it may be difficult not to make those parallels right now, this book is one that reminds us that ‘History doesn’t repeat, but it does instruct’. It is a book that will be important, and relevant, not just for the here and now, but for all future eras of time, as well. 4 stars

  • Matt
    2018-11-15 12:50

    History teaches us the tricks of authoritarians. We can’t allow ourselves to fall for them.(from a recent interview with the author; worth reading!)Reading this book is imperative. You may not get another chance.In twenty small lessons Timothy Snyder, history professor at Yale university and specialized in East European history and the holocaust, illustrates how oppressive regimes and authoritarian governments worked in the past and what might be done to avoid and crush them in the present. The book is clearly addressed at the American people, but anyone anywhere with any sense of freedom and security for themselves and for their loved ones now or in the future must read it too. The book has a sense of urgency which can hardly be ignored and which I actually didn’t expect from a historian.This is not a scientific work. It is noticeable that the author has sought a language which is understandable to laymen and I think he found it. Whoever, after reading the book, does not yet understand what hour the clock of the world has struck, can not be helped. The chapter headings correspond to instructions and the text contains reasons why it is important to act on them. And acting now is crucial; before it gets too late. That’s the author’s opinion and that’s the opinion of the reviewer as well.#readingagainsttrumpThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  • Kevin Kelsey
    2018-11-20 14:33

    Probably the most important book you could read this year. Please read it, then give your copy to someone else to read.

  • BillKerwin
    2018-11-04 14:49

    As Duncan Black ("Atrios" at Eschaton) phrased it a few days ago, “I veer from ‘haha Trump's a big dumdum’ to ‘oh shit we're all going to die.’” Is Trump a clown or an autocrat? A buffoon, or a despot-in-training?I can’t give you a definitive answer, but I am sure of one thing: for those worried about totalitarianism in the good ole USA, historian Timothy Snyder’s little book On Tyrrany is an excellent guide to what to do and what to watch out for.Snyder is an excellent source for such advice, for his major works are Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin and Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. Thus he spent a good portion of his academic career cataloging the increments that lead to tyranny and the harbingers that can alert us to its coming.This pocket-sized 125 page book consists of twenty “lessons” Timothy Snyder believes are helpful both for observing and for preserving our republic, and also keeping democracy alive within it. Five I found most helpful were “1. Do not obey in advance” (Don’t be like Austria, anticipating Hitler’s wishes, just to get along), “2. Defend institutions” (Don’t just assume newspapers, courts, and NGO’s are strong enough to survive), “5.Remember professional ethics (if lawyers behave with honor, it will be harder for totalitarianism to take hold), “9. “Be kind of our language” (avoid cant, speak in your own voice, read books), and “14. Establish a private life” (keep off the internet, avoid “hooks” they may use to hang you.”There are two others worth quoting at some length. First, “6. Be wary of paramilitaries”When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching with torches and pictures of a leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-leader paramilitary and the official policed and military intermingle, the end has come. Second, “13. Pracitice corporeal politics”: Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.On Tyranny is a useful little book, both disturbing and strangely comforting. I’m laughing at Trump less since I read it, and I’m less scared of him too.

  • Elyse
    2018-11-16 06:55

    I had read Timothy Snyder before. I still remember that even though much of it was challenging to read - much of it gave me chills to. The book I'm speaking about is "Black Earth":The Holocaust as History and a Warning...published in 2015. And..... here again, Snyder is giving us a warning...and what's even more scary is some of the things he said in "Black Earth" give me more concern for those chills -- because I never thought those warnings would manifest in our country just two years later. This is an incredible worth reading quick read -it's fricken sad it had to be written....Given out current political situation- what stands out for me after reading this is....If we survive as a democracy it will be going against history!A small tidbit of interest that caught my eye in this book - was the section about politicians and television-- It was a reality wake up remember of how we have taken the collective trance to be normal. "More then half a century ago, the classic novels of totalitarianism warned of the domination of screens, the suppression of books, the narrowing of vocabularies, and the associated difficulties of thought."Snyder goes on to mention several worthy books to read....Rat Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, George Orwell's 1984, Philip Roth's The Plot Against America, .....a few others...And one I have not read -- that my goodness -- I actually now see reason to read it:Snyder says....."One novel known by millions of young Americans that offers an account of tyranny and resistance is J.K. Rowling' Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow. If you and your friends or your children did not read it that way the first time, then it bears reading again". Twenty - very common sense lessons are in this small book - it's only $3.99 on Kindle!Highly worth readers time to read it!!!

  • Peter Bradley
    2018-11-20 13:47

    Please give my review a helpful vote on Amazon - sad example of how ideology distorts scholarship.I purchased this expecting a thoughtful discussion about the lessons that an academic can draw from 20th century totalitarianism. I was hopeful about something insight and depth from the author of Bloodlands, which did a really good job of bracketing Nazism and Communism into a coherent narrative. This is not that book. To save those who might not know, author Timothy Snyder's central thesis is that the current Republican President is Literally Hitler. Of course, this should probably not come as a surprise. Every Republican president is Literally Hitler during their tenure, and then they are rehabilitated as the Model of Bipartisanship to be used against the next Republican President who is Literally Hitler. George Bush is now in the middle of rehabilitation as the Model of Bipartisanship, but there are those of us who remember that not so long he was Bushitler.I expected better.I wanted to give Snyder some credit for some his observations. Some of his points about tyranny are classic and memorable.Unfortunately, I have to wonder where he was for the last eight years. During the last eight years, many people of faith have felt that they were under the heels of a tyranny that threatened to divide us from the rest of America and make us give up our freedom of conscience in order to avoid governmental oppression. The 2016 presidential campaign began, let us remember, with the perennial Democrat shill George Stephanopolous asking an off-the-wall question about contraception. Pretty soon, we saw a presidential campaign largely framed around the idea that Catholics were UnAmerican dissenters who irrationally refused to pay for contraception. The Little Sisters of Poor were required to toss a pinch of incense to appease abortion lest they face draconian penalties that would end their historic mission of caring for the poor. Likewise, we saw the government centralize and make a grab for a substantial part of the economy with that mis-named Affordable Health Care Act, that carried with the unprecedented intrusion into personal life and personal decision-making by requiring that Americans divert upwards of 20% of their income into the purchase of health insurance to the enrichment of insurance companies.Although any of this could be described quite easily as "fascist", we heard nothing from Snyder.Likewise, the last eight years has seen an unprecedented normalization of hostility to free-speech, as colleges have instituted speech codes and rules against triggering and have assaulted and intimidated people who didn't adhere to the progressive line.But, again, nothing from Snyder.During the last presidential campaign we saw videos of the loser's side attacking, hitting, punching throwing things at, and assaulting those on the president's side. We've seen riots in the aftermath of an election and attempt to get Electors to violate their oaths.One might have seen in this the image of Brownshirts and the destruction of democracy by ignoring the spirit of the law, but, again, nothing from Snyder.Similarly, we remember that under the former president, the IRS was used in an unprecedented way to harass and target conservatives. One might view this as an unhealthy fascist tendency.But, again, crickets from Snyder.It is an interesting feature of Snyder's slim book - which is easily read in a single sitting - that it is so conservative. For example, Snyder gives teh very good advice that "institutions should be defended." Quite right, but notice this from his book:"It is institutions that help us to preserve decency. They need our help as well. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you make them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions do not protect themselves. They fall one after the other unless each is defended from the beginning. So choose an institution you care about—a court, a newspaper, a law, a labor union—and take its side."That is good advice, but I was amused at what his advice omitted. My amusement stemmed from my lengthy reading into the Kirchenkampfe. Snyder omits "churches." Obviously, churches were a major institution in the resistance against totalitarianism, although Snyder seems to omit this point. In a later section, he manages explains how Polish workers allied with atheist scholars to bring down Polish Communism without mentioning John Paul II or the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church gets one reference here when Snyder observes:"The one example of successful resistance to communism was the Solidarity labor movement in Poland in 1980–81: a coalition of workers and professionals, elements of the Roman Catholic Church, and secular groups.""Elements." As if the Primate of Poland, the Bishops of Poland and the Pope were just "elements." And this is from a history professor.I have to wonder about this. Is it just the case that a Yale professor lives in such a secular bubble that he edits the data to form his arguments? Or is it the case, that he wanted to stay away from the tyranny of the prior eight years? Or is he simply an urban elite entirely out of touch with the country that voted for the president? I found this to be a not very edifying example of scholarship.So, Snyder is strangely quiet about one kind of institution, but he is very conservative in his demand that everyone pay proper deference to the press and support it with money and loyalty. And here again one wonders where Snyder has been for the last sixteen years. It has come to the point where everyone knows that the mainstream press is an arm of one political party, which isn't that of the current president. Even Communist China has pointed out that media was biased in favor the loser. The press has an approval rating lower than that of a cold sore's because people have seen the press blatantly misrepresent facts. The time is long gone when the press can't be fact-checked in real time and stories that were run during the prior administration can't be found by a simple internet search and set against current stories to show the slanting and bias of press coverage.On the other hand, the most independent and professional reporting is often found among amateur bloggers who have real experience, and, while they may have a bias, are not pretending that they don't.Snyder would properly have compared the modern mainstream press to the Gleischaltung version of the press that existed in 1933 Germany if he wanted to make a fair comparison.(Given the revelation through Wiki leaks that there were media members who running their stories past the Clinton campaign, Gleischaltung is not too strong a word.)Here is another example:"17 Listen for dangerous words. Be alert to the use of the words extremism and terrorism. Be alive to the fatal notions of emergency and exception. Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary."How about "racist"? Or homophobe? Or Islamaphobe?Such things do exist, but it seems to me that Snyder is entirely unaware of how "dangerous words" are used by his tribe to stifle speech and mark people as "outcasts."Here is an example where Snyder goes unhinged:"14 Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware on a regular basis. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Tyrants seek the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have hooks."This may be good advice, but Snyder is injecting poison into the body politic by teaching people that they are presently at risk.Of course, those who are not on the left have known this for awhile. Brandon Eich was fired by Mozilla because of a progressive campaign that was manufactured on the outrage that Eich had dared to participate in politics by donating to one side of a California Initiative that was passed. Sadly, we are at a point where private citizens are targeted for things they say on Facebook and the people who target - on both sides - justify their mean-spirited actions by saying that their target was a bad person because the person voted this way or that or violated some piety or other.I was disappointed in some rules that Snyder didn't offer. Here are a few:1. Beware of those occasions when someone you like begins to cut away at the spirit of restraint that previously existed. Hitler might not have been able to get his Enabling Act if Kurt von Schleicher had not led the way with his own efforts to circumvent the Reichstag.Likewise, although Democrats cheered, and the media was silent, when Harry Reid exercised the nuclear option, it did set a precedent now that the Fascists control Congress. Similarly, there was loud cheering for the former president's use of executive decrees, but what precedent did unilaterally changing immigration law set for the new president?At various times during the former president's administration, I was put in mind of the dangerous precedents he was setting, not unlike that of Schleicher. See 2. Beware of the Coordinated Press. The press has to be truly independent. If it becomes a lapdog for one party, it cannot fulfill its job of being a watchdog. A population that has seen it be a lapdog for eight years will probably not pay it much attention when it continues to serve the interest of the party that is out of power.3.Beware of Charismatic Leaders who are called the Lightworker and make vapid claims about "Hope and Change" and being able to stop the rise of the oceans.4. Beware of opponents of federalism and advocates of centralizations. Hitler eliminated the federal states and centralized power, such as coordinating political and economic power, such as creating a centralized health insurance system.Snyder is histrionic. The fomer president may not have seemed like an authoritiarian, but to those who were put to the choice of religious convictions or penalties, the former president was very authoritarian. Nonetheless, only those on the fever-swamp did not believe that the former president was not going to surrender power to his successor. The current president seems to have an authoritarian personality - some might say New Yor personality - but his policies tend away from authoritarianism. Eliminating the ACA is a pro-federalist position. Reducing the size of government is anti-authoritarian.Certainly, the media will be there to expose him. And does any sane person really think that the president will not surrender power to his successor exactly the same way that the former president gave up power?Snyder is doing no one any good with this paranoid fantasy.We survived the former president as a democracy. We will survive the current president as a democracy.

  • Trish
    2018-10-27 07:53

    Snyder, a professor of history at Yale University, has written a pamphlet reminiscent of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, written in 1776, at America’s beginning. Snyder’s pamphlet contains twenty admonitions for us to consider as we pay attention to the political environment we see right now in the United States. The first sentence of Snyder’s Prologue brings us right back to our founding fathers, the Constitution, and the democratic republic they envisioned.It’s a small book, the quarter-page size running slightly more than one hundred pages. I love short books. “Tell me what you’re thinking and let me think about it,” is how I view it. However, in this case, the brevity may leave a few notions unclear. We need to be careful in reading, combing it over until our questions are clarified, calling them out and talking with others about them if not.There is no reason for me to deny I agree with Snyder’s take on the present administration and the henchmen that carry out the damaging policies dreamed up by our thoughtless, fearful leader. For that reason I was all set to clap through a review, stamping it with my approval. Imagine my surprise, then, to find myself slowing down and viewing what Snyder has decided to spotlight with a critical eye.The very first point Snyder makes caused me to back up, circle around, scratch my head until it finally dawned on me that we probably agree. What Snyder says is 1. Do Not Obey in Advance which in my parlance would be, “Do not anticipate your leader’s orders.” The example he gives is“In 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the SS took the initiative to devise the methods of mass killing without orders to do so. They guessed what their superiors wanted and demonstrated what was possible. It was far more than Hitler had thought.” Snyder goes on to say that “anticipatory obedience means adapting instinctively, without reflection.” Yes, I agree that the eagerness to be agreeable can make fools of us. Even if we are in the uniformed services, Snyder argues, we have the responsibility to 7. Be Reflective if You Must Be Armed. “Be ready to say no” and stand up for our values. 19. Be a Patriot. The word patriot has been so bandied about we are no longer sure what it means any more. Snyder tries to help us think critically about this concept. In addition, he exhorts us to remain skeptical and 11. Investigate and still 10. Believe in Truth. The world is changing rapidly and dangers are all around us. We must 17. Listen for Dangerous Words and do not allow words to be hijacked and used against us. We can reclaim our vocabulary and the language of reason, but it requires speech, action, dissent.To give us feel a measure of stability and solidarity in a political world in which we no longer have faith, Snyder suggests we 2. Defend Institutions: we created institutions to protect citizens from changes in attitudes and government. We must defend them now, when they come under attack, so that they continue to be able to protect us when needed.And when Snyder exhorts us to 3. Beware the One-Party State, he means“We believe we have checks and balances [in government], but have rarely faced a situation like the present: when the less popular of the two parties controls every lever of power at the federal level, as well as the majority of statehouses. The party that exercises such control proposes few policies that are popular with the society at large, and several that are generally unpopular—and thus must either fear democracy or weaken it.”We must be strong, 18. Be Calm When the Unthinkable Arrives, and 20. Be As Courageous As You Can. “If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die under tyranny.” When I read these words I thought of the bravery of the man in the white shirt holding grocery bags in each hand who stood in front of rolling tanks during the Tiananmen Incident in China in 1989. It wasn’t just that man who showed extraordinary bravery, but the soldier in the tank whose orders were to reach the square. He stopped, disobeying orders, and for all he knew, would bear the wrath of his superiors. That’s when we know the values hold and the country is not irreparably broken. #Resist

  • David
    2018-10-28 11:00

    This is a marvelous little book about how to avoid allowing one's homeland to sink into tyranny. The book really does contain twenty short lessons, practical ways to recognize tyranny and ways to fight it. This book was written after Donald Trump was elected president. Timothy Snyder, a celebrated historian, shows how Trump's ascendancy is on a slippery slope toward fascism. Snyder is an expert on the Holocaust, and he shows how the administration's policies are increasingly on a parallel course to that of the early Nazi regime.Tyrannies have often begun with lawful elections. For example, both Hitler and Putin were elected lawfully in their respective countries. But then, after such an election, nobody realizes that it was the LAST lawful election to be held; sufficient political power is gained to ensure that future elections will be scams, or even skipped altogether.Snyder writes that history does not repeat itself, but that we can use history to learn lessons for the future. Our democracies of today are no better than those of pre-war Europe. But, with our knowledge of the rise of fascism, we should be better prepared to prevent its rise in the future.What are some of Snyder's lessons? Beware of loyalty slogans and stickers. Make eye contact and small talk with strangers (harder and harder these days, with the popularity of so-called social media). Join institutions, to help protect them--they don't protect themselves. Avoid vapid catch-phrases and party-line slogans. Expose falsehoods when you see them. Don't voluntarily do what you think non-democratic leaders would like you to do. And, very ominously, make sure that everyone in your family has an up-to-date passport.This book is short, concise, and very practical. I highly recommend it to everyone who loves democratic traditions.

  • Ted
    2018-11-19 06:48

    If young people do not begin to make history, politicians of eternity and inevitability will destroy it. And to make history, young Americans will have to know some."The time is out of joint. O cursed spite,That ever I was born to set it right."Thus Hamlet. Yet he concludes,"Nay, come, let's go together." conclusion of Snyder's Epilogue, "History and Liberty"NOTE: This is the review which drew me to the book: a real time source for the previously unthinkable, the "not normal" - to put it mildly - check out comment #3 below.This is a VSB – a Very Small book. It does have 126 pages, so that's not really an indicator of its physical size. The dimensions are: 4 3/8 inches wide by 6 ¼ inches tall (call it 11 x 16 cm). Fits almost anywhere. Not only that, but Amazon currently sells the book for under $5, discounted from its $9 retail price.It packs a punch way beyond the diminutive size. Snyder in 2016 at Imre Kertész Kolleg JenaI'll quote the small author blurb at the end.Timothy Snyder is the Levin Professor of History at Yale University. He is the author of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin and Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. Snyder is a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and a permanent fellow of the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.Well, that's brief too. But it's got the essentials. Snyder is a historian of the first half of the twentieth century, specialties Eastern Europe and the Holocaust. He's also very concerned about what's happening in the United States.Thus he gave this book a subtitle: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth CenturyHere's the last bit from Snyder's Preface:Fascists rejected reason in the name of will, denying objective truth in favor of a glorious myth articulated by leaders who claimed to give voice to the people. They put a face on globalization, arguing that its complex challenges were the result of a conspiracy against the nation. Fascists ruled for a decade or two, leaving behind an intact intellectual legacy that grows more relevant by the day … We might be tempted to think that our democratic heritage automatically protects us from such threats. This is a misguided reflex. In fact, the precedent set by the Founders demands that we examine history to understand the deep sources of tyranny, and to consider the proper responses to it. Americans today are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism in the twentieth century. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so.Snyder in Lviv, Ukraine, September 2014photo by Nataliya ShestakovaHere are the twenty lessons in their abbreviated form, as "chapter" titles.1. Do not obey in advance.2. Defend institutions.3. Beware the one-party state.4. Take responsibility for the face of the world.5. Remember professional ethics.6. Be wary of paramilitaries.7. Be reflective if you must be armed.8. Stand out.9. Be kind to our language.10. Believe in truth.11. Investigate.12. Make eye contact and small talk.13. Practice corporeal politics.14. Establish a private life.15. Contribute to good causes.16. Learn from peers in other countries.17. Listen for dangerous words.18. Be calm when the unthinkable happens.19. Be a patriot.20. Be as courageous as you can.Many of these seem self-explanatory, though Snyder adds much to their meaning that I bet you wouldn't think of. Some of them, too, are rather enigmatic. Snyder gives a very brief summary, fifty words or less, immediately following the "title". This will get you thinking in the right direction. Here's a couple examples:4. Take responsibility for the face of the world.The symbols of today enable the reality of tomorrow. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away, and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.9. Be kind to our language.Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone else is saying. Make an effort to separate yourself from the internet. Read books.14. Establish a private life.Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware on a regular basis. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Tyrants seek the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have hooks.19. Be a Patriot.Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.[And to be clear what he means, "Let us begin with what patriotism is not. It is not patriotic to dodge the draft and to mock war heroes and their families... It is not patriotic to compare one's search for sexual partners in New York with the military service in Vietnam that one has dodged. It is not patriotic to avoid paying taxes, especially when American working families do pay... It is not patriotic to admire foreign dictators. It is not patriotic to cultivate a relationship with Muammar Gaddafi; or to say that Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin are superior leaders. It is not patriotic to call upon Russia to intervene in an American presidential election. It is not patriotic to cite Russian propaganda at rallies. ...The point is not that Russia and America must be enemies. The point is that patriotism involves serving your own country.The president is a nationalist, which is not at all the same thing as a patriot.]Of course the book is crammed with examples of why these rules could have kept individuals safer during the rule of tyranny, and, more important, how recognition of the warning signs could have possibly prevented much of what happened in the twentieth century.The narrative here is hardly impersonal. There are references in a great many of the Lessons to "the president" (see just above). Without ever mentioning a name, Snyder's narrative - by naming actual things that have been caused or been said by "the president" and things that occurred, or were said, during "the president's" campaign – leaves no doubt that he's referring to a specific person.I'll finish this with Snyder's opening words about one more lesson, perhaps the most disturbing.18. Be calm when the unthinkable happens.Modern tyranny is terror management. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that authoritarians exploit such events in order to consolidate power. The sudden disaster that requires the end of checks and balances, the dissolution of opposition parties, the suspension of freedom of expression, the right of a fair trial, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Do not fall for it.Snyder relates in little more than a page how the burning of the Reichstag on February 27, 1933, (it is now unknown who or what caused the fire) was the beginning of the end for Germany. He quotes Hitler as gloating, "There will be no mercy now. Anyone standing in our way will be cut down." The next day a decree suspended the basic rights of all German citizens; on March 5 the Nazis won a decisive victory in parliamentary elections; on March 23 an "enabling act" was passed, allowing Hitler to rule by decree; a state of emergency was declared. this state of emergency remained in effect until the end of the Second World War.So … "when the terrorist attack comes" … will enough citizens not fall for it, will enough citizens resist in whatever way is possible the announced measures to "protect" the country, resist the calling off of elections, the rounding up of dissidents?This book may be the most important you will read in the indefinite future. Read it, think, prepare, do. Snyder has excellent suggestions.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Previous review: Poems of Wallace StevensRandom review: The Really Big One curiously apposite to the current review … a warningNext review: Life from an RNA World The Ancestor WithinPrevious library review: Nations and Nationalism Since 1780Next library review: Tales of Hoffman

  • Andy
    2018-11-15 11:36

    If this is the response to creeping fascism in America, we are in trouble.(Note: for suggested alternatives see comment stream below.) Obviously, Hitler is bad. And some of the advice is unassailable (Contribute to good causes, etc.) But beyond that, the little essays that make up this book seem pretty messy.-Before Hitler comes to power, it makes sense to stand up, speak out, etc. But after, it's more about getting out or going underground. If the author really believes that Trump is Hitler and that Americans have had our last free election, then much of his advice is dangerously counterproductive. -He says to read books, but Mein Kampf was a book, and Trump supporters love to read lots of books. So this is not a differentiating factor between Trump/Hitler and the alternatives.-In the first chapter he talks about the Milgram experiments. The finding there was that about 65% of people will obey evil orders for no good reason. So using this as a rationale for the lesson "Do not obey" is confusing. A more logical lesson would be "Be careful about what you order people to do." -There seems to be a general confusion about what applies to ordinary citizens vs. what is possible for a world leader like Churchill (Ch. 8). -He recommends a bunch of books, but it is hard to see these becoming popular manuals for promoting democracy. The Rebel by Camus, for example, is a lengthy philosophical discussion of why it is so hard to get people to rebel against tyranny. This brings up a question that struck me many times while reading "On Tyranny": what is the audience for this pamphlet?-Ch. 10/11 "Believe in truth, and Investigate" bugged me. You don't need to believe in truth. The truth is true whether you believe in it or not. Reality exists. You can know the truth. This is very difficult and nobody can do this for every issue, but you can do it for something. And if you're not willing or able to do it for anything then you can just shut up and admit ignorance and not be all fanatical about it. Because blindly trusting NPR or FOX or Clinton or Trump is still blindly trusting.

  • Ammar
    2018-10-27 06:46

    Timely read for what is facing the free world in 2017. A Book to show how to be different, read books, find out the truth and don't be a blind follower, because between democracy and tyranny a thin blue line and many are tempted to cross it. Be smart Be a rebel

  • Montzalee Wittmann
    2018-11-18 12:45

    On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder is a masterpiece of what is happening now and this was written before the orange tornado. This book was based on past history and what to expect from tyranny...and boy does it match today perfect. This is one book each and every American needs to read. It is a short but power in its message. Wonderful!

  • Michael Ferro
    2018-11-11 07:57

    It's sad how timely and necessary this book is, but that's modern America. We live in a broken country gone hog wild on greed. A book like this can help change that. No matter your politics, fascism and authoritarianism arise when we're looking another way, distracted, numb to history. The only way to get out in front of and stop a tyrant is to know what we're looking for. A book like this can save our country and unite us toward a common goal of change, of striving for democracy, and protect us from the dangers of our own rotten impulses. If you only read one book in 2018 (and boy, I hope that's not the case), make it this one.

  • Steve
    2018-10-29 08:51

    Something short (but not sweet).Something easy to read (but difficult to stomach).Something worth reading (but not because you'll enjoy reading it).Something scary - in that it could keep you up all night (except that, if you've already decided to read it, you're already up most nights after these long days).Something important, arguably written for a target audience (most of whom will not read it).Something that only a serious intellectual could distill - so eloquently - into bite-sized form for the masses who wouldn't touch the book if it were twice, let alone three or four times as long.And, again, something worth reading... and sharing .... and recommending .... and dwelling on (and thinking about).... and discussing/talking about.... and (as suggested above) passing on ... to a friend or a colleague or a family member.If the book has a simple thesis, it could be anything from: No, it's not a dream, and when you wake up, things won't be better. Or ... Just because everyone said "it's no big deal" doesn't mean they're right... Or ... You can stick your head in the sand, but you shouldn't. ... Or ... Normalization and/or denial may make you feel better, but neither is the right thing to do, and complicity is both dangerous and morally bankrupt .... Or ...There's a fine line between, on the one hand, hysteria and over-reaction and the point of no return, and, sadly, the tipping point won't come with a neon orange label and an ear-splitting siren.... or... And therein lies the rub. If you're someone who reads broadly and thinks critically - and if you're the kind of person who will read this, you're already anxious enough. If you're the kind of person who scoffs at a serious, thoughtful, eye-opening critique of the current state of affairs, the odds are low you'll read this book, let alone be open to its message. So, as short, mainstream non-fiction, written by hard-core academics go, this is pretty unique stuff. As one of my colleagues said: "I appreciate how well [the author] simplified years of learning to make it widely available."The book was worth writing, and it's definitely worth reading. I hope that many (many) read it and share it.

  • abby
    2018-11-20 08:46

    I'm going to go a bit against the grain on this one. This book is like the Tuesdays with Morrie version of political activism. Its message boils down to this: Americans are not special; if we don't actively defend our democracy, we can fall into the same trap of authoritarianism that ensnared 20th century Europe (because apparently the lessons we can learn from the 20th century don't include the likes of Pinochet, Castro or the Khmer Rouge). Author Timothy Snyder lists 20 plans of action to "fight back" against the tide of authoritarianism, most of which are pretty vague and forgettable. While acknowledging the danger of left-wing authoritarianism, he compares most of the modern American political climate to Nazi Germany specifically. It's not that there aren't lessons to be learned there (and I highly recommend Andrew Nagorski's Hitlerland for anyone interested), but, unfortunately, that well has been a bit poisoned from rampant overuse. This book doesn't offer much substance, even taking into account its slim form. It also tips a bit into hysteria. However, it does offer some basics on political involvement and 20th century history that some people may find useful.

  • Cheryl Kennedy
    2018-11-01 09:49

    What is patriotism? From historical examples and the current presidency, Timothy Snyder tells readers what it is not. It is not patriotic to dodge the draft and to mock war heroes and their families. It is not patriotic to avoid paying taxes when American working families do pay.It is not patriotic to admire foreign dictators. It is not patriotic to cultivate a relationship with Gaddafi, or to say that Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin are superior leaders. It is not patriotic to call upon Russia to intervene in an American presidential election.The point is that patriotism involves serving your own country. Democracy failed in Europe in the 20s, 30's, and 40's, and it is failing in many parts of the world today. It is that history and experience that reveals to us the range of our possible futures.We have allowed ourselves to accept the politics of inevitability, the sense that history could move in only one direction: toward liberal democracy.I am consumed by the feeling that the institutions, rhetoric, time itself is out of joint. "O cursed spite,/That ever I was born to set it right!" Thus Hamlet. Yet he concludes: "Nay, come, let's go together."

  • Tom Tabasco
    2018-11-09 13:50

    After seeing it pop up in my feed, with the de rigueur shining reviews, I've decided to read this book, which I find a magnificent ode to American ignorance. "I have a PhD so I can vent off against Trump and let liberals vent whenever they will talk about having read this book"Doesn't any liberal reader here realize that the Trump phenomenon has NOTHING to do with fascism ? I am from Italy and live in CA and I hear Trump being compared to Hitler every single day. I consider that a deeply ignorant statement, offensive towards the victims of nazism. Do people realize what Hitler actually did, starting many years BEFORE coming to power? His cronies made people DISAPPEAR, he was a murderer of political opponents, and a murderer of civilians, like every other fascist or communist dictator. How can anyone who's studied and read history books compare fascist dictators to Donald Trump? Have you people lost your marbles? Now because you don't like your new president's personality and because he is not making John Lennon's "Imagine" his foreign policy like Obama did, he must be a fascist dictator? This book might be very effective for people who like to vent and sound the hysterical alarm that they've been sounding since November ("World is ending!!"), but the reality is already taking shape: liberals seem to care more about getting the "monster" impeached than giving him a chance to do things for the good of the country, because the pendulum has to swing. 
But no. Only tantrums and whining, like this book. You know what the real power is, that is similar to European fascism in today's America? Liberal media (80% of them). THAT is only real dictatorship in the US today, and the danger of that - added to the left bias of 90% of the education industry - cannot be understated. These are today's real dangers.

  • Mohammadreza
    2018-11-11 10:41

    روزهاچشم به اسمارت‌فون‌هایمان دوخته بودیم که تصاویر تظاهرات سراسری مردم ایران را نشان می‌داد؛ تصاویر شعارها، حمله به فرمانداری و بانک و درگیری خیابانی و نیز تصاویر رعب و وحشت مردم از گارد ویژه، کتک خوردن دانشجوها، تیراندازی‌ها و کشته‌شدن‌ها: خیزشی که همه را غافلگیر کرد. هیچ‌کس تصور نمی‌کرد در بین اقشار عمدتاً فقیر جامعه، چنین پتانسیلی از خشم فروخورده و چنین احساسی از نادیده گرفته‌شدن توسط حکومت، وجود داشته باشد و اینطور فوران کند. و همه دیدیم و شنیدیم که سردمداران حکومت چگونه پاسخ کسانی را که چیزی برای ازدست‌دادن نداشتند دادند. و همه شاهدیم چطور، علناً از محدودیت دسترسی آزاد به اطلاعات حمایت می‌شود. اگر پیشتر در لفافه نارضایتی‌ها اعلام می‌شد، حالا علناً از دولت می‌خواهند اینترنت را محدود کنند و کلیدش را در دست خود داشته باشند و همۀ اینها را هم خواستۀ «ملت» می دانند. چه اتفاقی درحال رخ‌دادن است؟ آیا خطری بسیار بزرگتر از آنچه تصور می‌کنیم درحال رخ‌دادن است؟ آیا شباهت‌هایی وجود دارد که لازم است آنها را دقیق‌تر بررسی کنیم؟تیموتی اسنایدر، استاد دانشگاه ییل امریکا و متخصص جنگ جهانی دوم و تاریخ اروپای شرقی و هولوکاست، این کتاب را در 2016 نوشته است تا به مردم امریکا شباهت‌ها را نشان دهد و به آنها گوشزد کند با انتخاب ترامپ به ریاست‌جمهوری امریکا خطر استبداد و فاشسیم آنها را تهدید می‌کند. اسنایدر این تلقی را که دورۀ حکومت‌های مستبد و سرکوبگر قرن بیستم از قبیل کمونیسم شوروی و چکسلواکی یا آلمان نازی یا ایتالیای فاشیست گذشته است سراسر غلط می‌داند و معتقد است اگر حواسمان نباشد ممکن است با انتخاب‌های خود و با اعمالی که پیامد آن‌ها برایمان روشن نیست، بدون اینکه بدانیم فاشیسم یا ناسیونالیسم افراطی را باز هم تجربه کنیم.اسنایدر می‌گوید هیچ‌وقت هیتلر بدون حمایت آگاهانۀ مردمی و بدون همکاری قشر عظیمی از دیوان‌سالاران و نیروهای نظامی که داوطلبانه با حزب نازی همکاری کردند، نمی‌توانست قدرت را در دست بگیرد؛ پس باید آگاه باشیم، حوادث اطراف خود را رصد کنیم و مسئولانه به‌دنبال صحت‌وسقم اخبار باشیم، داوطلبانه تن به خواسته‌های حاکمان مستبد و تمامیت‌خواه ندهیم و درنهایت بدانیم که مسئول رفتار خود و انتخاب های خود هستیم. او به‌واسطۀ احاطۀ خود به تاریخ پرادبار قرن بیستم به ما هشدار می‌دهد که غلطیدن در دام فاشیسم، گاهی بسیار ناخودآگاهانه رخ می‌دهد؛ به‌طوری‌که بی‌آنکه بفهمیم تبدیل به کرگدن می‌شویم. اسنایدر در این رابطه نقل قولی از یونسکو، نویسندۀ نمایشنامۀ «کرگدن» می‌آورد که بسیار هولناک است. رومانی، زادگاه یونسکو، در سال‌های منتهی به جنگ دوم، بدون اینکه با فشار یا تهدیدی روبرو باشد به‌تدریج در دام فاشیسم آلمان افتاد و این بیماری واگیردار به‌تدریج کل کشور یونسکو را دربر گرفت. یونسکو می‌نویسد:«استادان دانشگاه، دانشجویان و روشنفکران همه داشتند نازی می‌شدند، یکی پس از دیگری به گارد آهنین می‌پیوستند. آن‌ها اول کار قطعاً نازی نبودند. ما حدود پانزده نفر بودیم که دور هم جمع می‌شدیم و سعی می‌کردیم استدلال‌هایی در مخالفت با استدلال‌های آنها بیاوریم. کار آسانی نبود... هرازگاهی یکی از دوستانمان می‌گفت: «من با آن‌ها موافق نیستیم، شکی در این نیست، ولی با این همه در بعضی موارد، باید اعتراف کنم که، مثلاً، یهودیان...» و الباقی ماجرا. و این نشانۀ بیماری بود. سه هفته بعد همین آدم نازی می‌شد. سازوکار نظام او را گیر می‌انداخت، همه چیز را قبول می‌کرد، کرگدن می‌شد. اواخر دیگر فقط سه یا چهارنفر مانده بودیم که هنوز داشتیم مقاومت می‌کردیم.»در آخر، فکر می‌کنم خواندن این کتاب در این روزها، که سؤالات بسیاری ذهن همۀ ما را اشغال کرده است، می‌تواند پاسخ‌هایی را فراروی ما بگذارد و کمک کند عمیق‌تر و از زوایای دیگر به حوادث پیرامونمان نگاه کنیم.

  • Ioana
    2018-10-26 09:35

    Once an avid user of GR, it’s now been a while – something creeping up on a year. I’ve been reading some, and recently the pace has increased to pre-The-Traumatic-Event levels; in the weeks to come I’ll be hoping to catch up on both writing my own reviews and catching up with what my dear friends here have been up to and reading.Of all I’ve read recently, I decided to make this one my first review, so as to explain my prolonged absence to those who care to read about it (which I can’t do in the few characters the updates are limited to)… So, my world was shattered last November. I’d always been involved in politics – acting on a local level but also talking about it on the ‘forums’ (disqus/The Hill/Politico/WP/NYT and the like). But I’d managed, to that point, to keep my academic/reading worlds somewhat cloistered off from my activism and politics (which obviously seeped into my reviews and informed my worldview but weren’t always frothing on the surface). Well, then the Traumatic-Event of November happened, and I went into a coma of sorts – specifically, of a personal sort – I stopped being a person, more or less, with interests outside of the creeping fascism in the United States. My life became something like 40% survival – going in to work and tuning in enough not to lose my livelihood, with the rest of the time spent organizing marches, marching, attending meetings with every activist group I could find, organizing, and reading news while fighting in the dungeons of online political forums.Sadly and predictably, I settled into a life post-January 2017, in which each new outrage seemed to make the ones that came before slightly less traumatic (and thusly, humans adjust to extremist regimes). Into a life in which it now doesn’t even seem terribly odd that the President of the United States of America is defending white supremacists (see: Charlottesville) and equating their tactics to some on the left who would fight fascism.And that – the normalization of the previously abnormal in political life- was exactly the topic of Sam Harris’ interview with Timothy Snyder on his podcast when I came across it this past summer. (it may be found here: Touched, and trembling to my core, I picked up this book – without realizing at first it was a short, almost “pocket-size” summary of “twenty lessons” from 20th century dictators (ok ok I should have read the title and maybe the book specs before buying).The book itself is not detailed or terribly profound, and does not do justice, imo, to Snyder’s intellectual depth, but it’s a useful primer for those interested in a series of very brief political ‘devotionals’ (or, pieces of ‘advice’). It’s a bit like those books, “21 days to a happier you” but more along the lines of “3 weeks to a more aware self in the age of rising tyranny.” The advice is sensical but not earth-shattering – “be weary of paramilitaries, defend institutions, do not obey in advance”. The podcast for me was much more enlightening, while the book was not worth the $7.99 cover price. I’d recommend it basically as a stocking stuffer or party favor for your favorite activist, or as a daily 20 day meditation perhaps.Also – if you’d like to chat politics with me, I’ve been doing that mostly through Facebook (have moved off Disqus and the other forums that allow for anonymity since I found the commentary there to be much less civil and vicious). Please PM me on here with your facebook ID/link and I will send you a friend request :-) . I used to keep FB to real life friends only but recently have made hundreds of political friends and would love nothing more than making some political/book friends too! And if you feel you must delete me after reading this review, then so be it. As Timothy Snyder says, “Stand out. Someone has to.” I won’t be shutting up anymore about what’s been happening in my country – not on here or anywhere.

  • Bam
    2018-11-09 13:51

    I put a hold on this new book from our library system when it first came out in March and just finally got my hands on it. Either it is that popular or there are very few copies in the system. I was getting desperate and on the verge of buying it for myself. Now that I've read it, I definitely will buy it and stick copies in family Christmas stockings--I believe it is THAT important for everyone to read. Timothy Snyder is a history teacher at Yale, who has written books on the Nazis and the Holocaust. In this small book with a mighty focus, he has put together twenty lessons on tyranny based on observations of politics and history that are very timely today. He exhorts us to become students of history: "History allows us to see patterns and make judgments."I'm sure he is preaching to the choir here and the only people who will be interested in reading these essays are those who already agree with his opinions of the current administration and the direction our country and democracy seem to be heading. He is following his own advice and speaking out while he still can.

  • Melora
    2018-11-16 06:56

    Mercy. I don't know how to respond to this book without reference to the current U.S. political situation. Oh well. As Alexander Pope would say, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” so on we go!No. Wait. On second thought, let's not be hasty! How 'bout I tell you right now that if you think Trump is doing a bang up job, that if those dingbats in the legislative and judicial branches would just toe the line, our fine leader would have America back on its feet and “Great Again” in no time flat, you are not going to like this book. You are going to find the author's suggestions over-dramatic, his parallels poorly drawn, and his analyses faulty. And you won't like my comments any better. And since it will be easier for you to post a note to me here telling me what an idiot I am than to hunt down Mr. Snyder's address and write to him, that's what you'll do. And I'll read your remarks and fall to worrying about whether I really Am what is standing between my country and the greatness she could reclaim if Only whiny liberals would shut up and mind their own business. That would be sad. If, however, you wake each morning wondering “What will he do today?” or pondering whether the youngster answering your congresswoman's phone really even makes a tick on his tally sheet to note your opinion/outrage when you call, this may be your cup of tea. Anyway, in the comments that follow, I carry on a bit about why the ideas Snyder expresses in his book seem to be relevant.(view spoiler)[So...! With each day that passes and every crazy presidential “Tweet” posted, this little book seems more and more on target. Back in November I was alarmed and dismayed, but inclined to hope that my fears were overblown. Now, in May, with the president acknowledging that he fired the head of the FBI with the intention of ending the investigation into his ties with Russia, threatening to cancel press briefings, threatening the (ex) head of the FBI with secretly recorded “tapes,” referring to the press as the “enemy of the people,” pushing for changes in the way the Senate passes bills, suggesting that he'll “shut down the government” if he doesn't get the legislation he wants, etc, etc., those concerns all seem frighteningly legitimate. And Timothy Snyder's book, which outlines factors involved in the rise of authoritarian governments in the 20th century, does not allay any of those concerns. Over the course of twenty (very) short chapters, Snyder describes actions which citizens can take or behaviors they should avoid in order to preserve our constitutional republic. He illustrates his points by identifying ways that authoritarian governments, both communist and fascist, have seized and held power in various countries over the past century. He points to certain tendencies our new president has shown, and suggests how, unchecked, these may cause serious damage to the liberties we foolishly take for granted. One of the few coherent philosophies of governing discernible in the Trump administration is a belief in the power of a strong executive branch, unchecked in any way by the other branches of government, by tradition, or any other institution or principle (this belief did not apply to previous administrations, which Trump vehemently criticized when he saw them overreaching, but now he seems outraged by any questioning of his authority.)This is not a book that readers pleased with the behaviors of our current chief executive will enjoy, but for those who find cause for concern in his cavalier disregard for precedent, custom, and ethics, and his lack of interest in observing the traditional and Constitutional checks on his power, there is much in the parallels from history which Snyder draws that will justify concerns and, in a general sort of way, suggest constructive responses. Actually, while Snyder references the U.S. president, this might be of interest to the citizens of any modern representative democracy who suspect that their leaders are overfond of power, and who may be tempted to test their claims that “I alone can fix it!”(hide spoiler)]

  • Paul
    2018-11-02 08:43

    "History does not repeat," Timothy Snyder begins his booklet, "but it does instruct." Of course, history instructs best when mediated through capable interlocutors like Snyder, who uses his formidable knowledge on the rise and fall of totalitarianism in mid-century Europe to assess what concerned Americans should do as they see their own democracy taking its first sliding steps backward into potential tyranny.I cannot recommend this work highly enough. It's quite short – no surprise, as its genesis was a Snyder Facebook post gone viral that he expanded and published, and is now riding the best-seller list. I finished it in under an hour. But perhaps no book published in 2017 will pack so much importance into so little space.Snyder is careful not to overstate the case. He isn't arguing that Donald Trump is a fascist; in fact, he never uses the president's name. But he is arguing that Americans should be learning the lessons from when fascism, Nazism and Stalinism overwhelmed previously democratic regimes in the 1930s and '40s, so that the troubling parallels evinced by Trump and his administration over the past year do not advance further down that road. It's a fine line to walk – certainly Trump's supporters will not be happy with the parallels Snyder draws between Trump's statements and actions, and those of early-stage regimes in Italy, Germany, Russsia and Czechoslovakia – but Snyder does it well. There are parallels there, and to act as if there aren't is to engage in some of the very false equivalency that has proven so toxic to the system in the first place. I'll excerpt one passage, a prime example of what I feel is the careful yet emphatic way in which Snyder makes clear the crossroads we as Americans face in the present age:Fascists despised the small truths of daily existence, loved slogans that resonated like a new religion, and preferred creative myths to history or journalism. They used new media, which at the time was radio, to create a drumbeat of propaganda that aroused feelings before people had time to ascertain facts. And now, as then, many people confused faith in a hugely flawed leader with the truth about the world we all share.Post-truth is pre-fascism.Buy this book. Share it with friends. It may be the most important book to be released this year.

  • Barbara (The Bibliophage)
    2018-10-22 11:34

    On Tyranny shook me. It’s supposed to do that. Timothy Snyder offers 20 concrete actions to take that can resist tyrannical behavior. Some of the actions he recommends are internal – such as believe in truth. However, he also takes that thought process and suggests external changes or stands you can take. For example, subscribe and support investigative print journalism.Snyder compares today to a variety of twentieth-century regimes, and the historical parallels are chilling. As you can imagine, Snyder draws extensively from the Third Reich and Holocaust. However, he also references Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, and Putin’s Russia. Each moment in history is directly connected to current events – there’s no mistaking the relevance.For me, one key takeaway was Snyder’s recommendation to get out from behind our computers and make human connections. (Yup, I see the irony of blogging this review!) It’s one thing to hashtag #resist and wholly another to get involved in resistance-oriented conversations and organizations in your local community. He also reminds his readers that totalitarian regimes use personal information against their citizens. Maybe it isn’t such a good thing to post every little event of our lives on social media.In terms of writing style, Snyder’s professorial roots show. But there are no trick questions or hidden meanings, just straight out information that’s beyond important. I found it interesting that Snyder never once uses the current U.S. president’s name. He never capitalizes the word president. He’s making it clear where he stands in the #notmypresident movement, without ever resorting to a hashtag.This is 128 pages we all need to read often in the next four years. Once we read it, taking action is the next and more critical step.Originally published at

  • TheSkepticalReader
    2018-11-01 08:48

    “The president is a nationalist, which is not at all the same thing as a patriot. A nationalist encourages us to be our worst, and then tells us that we are the best. A nationalist, “although endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge,” wrote Orwell, tends to be “uninterested in what happens in the real world.” Nationalism is relativist, since the only truth is the resentment we feel when we contemplate others. As the novelist Danilo Kiš put it, nationalism “has no universal values, aesthetic or ethical.”A patriot, by contrast, wants the nation to live up to its ideals, which means asking us to be our best selves. A patriot must be concerned with the real world, which is the only place where his country can be loved and sustained. A patriot has universal values, standards by which he judges his nation, always wishing it well—and wishing that it would do better.”On Tyranny is your gateway pamphlet to understanding and participating in politics. While it isn’t of much use to me personally, Snyder’s book is important for those unaware of the times we live in. Americans need to read this, and they need to pay attention.What does Snyder tackle? The book is split into short lessons but some of what he advocates for is:- Seperating fact from fiction- Being aware. Paying attention to news.   > Know what happens outside of your boundaries- Learning from history- Using internet wisely - don't spread falsehoods- Standing up against extremists symbols and ideas- Participating in actual, real-world activism- Looking to the future; don’t keep grasping for a mythical past- READING.And lastly:- Don't let fear drive democracy out of our house.

  • Guillermo Fernandez
    2018-11-12 10:57

    Throughout the reading of 'On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the twentieth century' (Timothy Snyder, Vintage Publishing, 2017) the figure of Victor Klemperer resonates strongly. Klemperer was a humanist, philologist, and Professor of Romance Languages and therefore, a man shaped by language, culture, and books. His testimony of the Nazi Germany share many features with other witnesses but his condition of linguist makes Klemperer a sharp observer of the nazi's perversion of language. Klemperer filled his diaries 'I shall bear witness' (1933-1945) with personal impressions, objective or subjective descriptions, from a jewish and no-jewish perspective, what represent an evocative narration of daily life under Nazism picturing the entire trajectory from the first years of Nazism after the elections in 1933 to their defeat of the Germans and the end of the war in 1945. But if there is a trait relevant about Klemperer work is his analysis of how the Nazis appropriated the language and enraptured the entire nation in the process. In 1947 he published 'LTI – Lingua Tertii Imperii: Notizbuch eines Philologen (The language of the Third Reich)', a close study of the language of Nazism and how propaganda helped to form individual and collective identities. Klemperer used the book as a resource to keep himself sane, while he was forced to abandon his classes and start to work in a factory. It is remarkable that most of the words used for the nazis were not new terms but existent words that were adjudged with new meanings like for example New Order. Also ‘Umsiedlung’ (resettle) or ‘Aussiedlung’ (evacuation) words for the killing of Jews, while the gas chambers were called the ‘Badeanstalten’ or bath houses. And of course the biggest of the euphemisms used for the systematic extermination of Jews known as the Final Solution ‘Endlosung’.Before the Nazis, there had been multiple demonstrations of militar genius and destruction power, also numerous men who fought bravely for their countries, and talented statesmen who mastered rhetoric and elaborated brilliant speeches. However, probably the Nazis were the first case in history in which communication became as important as facts, and thus, manipulation, misinformation, propaganda, publicity, fake news, were utilised indiscriminately to create social distress, fear of the other, racism and hatred. The ability to use language as a political tool, as a 'divide and rule' strategy was essential to the first years of Nazism. Nazis created an entire vocabulary that represents the paroxysm of the word euphemism, both before coming into power and also once in power transforming a democracy in a one-party totalitarian system sustained by biased referendums and popular support based on extortion, blackmail, and threats. I find there is also something extremely sad about the present reasons that propel a History professor to rescue and distillate lessons from precisely the most dramatic historical moments of the twenty century, those moments in history that we wish never happened. Timothy Snyder teaches History in Yale and have written numerous book about european totalitarianism both in Nazi Germany and communist Russia, so his motives must be surely respected. And the reason to write the book, among others but probably the main one is Donald Trump's victory in the US elections in November 2016. Although Trump's shadow darkens the book his name is not directly mentioned in it. Probably this is a lesson for the megalomaniac personality of the multimillionaire, who used to name after himself whatever it was within his grasp, buildings, hotels, tv shows, or parking lots. Maybe the absence of a name attempts to highlight the idea that a tyrant is no more than an overinflated balloon representing all our fears and showing the worst side of the citizens. Curiously enough, language becomes the protagonist of the book and hence many of the lessons are about the possibilities of language to resist, to get socially and politically involved, and how what we say, write, and read becomes significant. Politics, language and communication have been always interconnected, from the first registered political events in Rome and Greece. In fact, politics have not essentially changed. One only needs to think about how basic it is the electoral campaign, just listening to men and women explaining ideas and trying to convince us that they are the right choice to take care of the government. Basically, the same old thing for the last two thousand years, with the one who is better at communicating, the most eloquent, the most convincing winning in the end. It is hard to think of Trump as bearer of these qualities so we will assume the answer for his victory is not in him but in us. At the same time, there is something extremely solemn about reading 'On Tyranny', something that makes you take the book to a corner and read it with the phone switched off, taking notes with a pencil on the margins of the book, and often interrupting the read to reflect in an attempt to isolate yourself from the noise and the fury, from that distorted flow of information that inundate us everyday. The same noise that has been echoing during the electoral campaign in the US, and still more intensely the first year of Trump's presidency. The noise has become lately so terribly loud that we cannot hear our own thoughts. The format and the content of the book are perfectly matched, thus, this is a slim book, light, sharp, without unnecessary ornaments. It is a book that fits in your pocket so you can carry it with you, take it out, and read almost anywhere. The structure of the book formed by short entries also facilitates this quick reading with intervals for reflection in between, and invites to re-reading. Snyder goes directly to the grain, as it has to be in an emergency and his language is equally simple, precise, and effective. There is no room for extra luggage, there is no time for circumlocution or tautology. This is a manifesto, a call for steady but forthright action, for intellectual resistance, a search for freedom not outside but inside ourselves.While reading you will find yourself nodding your head in agreement, for most of the lessons or advices are not absurd ideas but on the contrary, democratic common sense, citizenship beginner level, platitudes that we know by heart but we tend too easily to forget or we just contemplate them like sonorous maxims to be carved in façades or statue's pedestals but of no practical use in our lives. Somehow the feeling that evokes is that of reading fable's books in one's childhood such as Aesop and La Fontaine in which one could find wisdom so open, free, and evident that nobody ever ended up making any use of it. Sometimes we seem to forget that the most essential thing about reading books is not the books themselves, but the footprint left in us. We read one book after the other, we enjoy some and suffer others, recommend them, pile them, give them, but we should never forget that maybe in some point we will find ourselves without books, in a 'Fahrenheit 451' (1) sort of thing or in any other form, because of censorship, of political systems, of economic crisis, and what not. Most likely we won't be able to find those books that make a difference, those we really want and need to read, those that someone do not want us to read. This has happened before, banned books, censored books, and burnt books, we can find it already in Don Quixote, and it is happening nowadays in a more subtle and sophisticated way (like everything happens these days) and it may happen again in the future. Quoting Zadie Smith: 'what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay' (2). That's why is so pertinent this book, that's why its lessons must be remembered and applied, discussed, shared, and conveyed. Although ideas are obviously primordial and indispensable they are reduced to empty carcasses without the support of language (and viceversa) which allows us to frame them and articulate our thinking. And this is, I feel, the main lesson to extract from On Tyranny: do not use others language, but create your own, do not repeat, but think, read, and write. Do not follow the herd, but be a political animal, ask uncomfortable questions, speak out, do not only listen to those who think like you do, and if you have to memorise a book perhaps On Tyranny: twenty lessons from the twentieth century would be a good choice.Ani DiFranco said 'every tool is a weapon if you hold it right' (3) we could certainly say the same about language. If you hold it right it turns powerful and otherwise it is just a hindrance. There must be a way that language itself, as an independent entity, turns against a man who explains swollen with pride how he is unable to read an entire book, who uses language to insult, lie, manipulate, and take advantage of those who cannot defend, who is openly sexist, racist, and classist, who knows no other value than making money, whom I still do not understand how someone can vote. The only explanation that I can find is that Trump's victory like Brexit referendum in the UK are the only opportunities that people see in which they can express their democratic concerns, the only opportunities to show reject for a system that has proved to be unjust. The reaction to this may be not rational , but self-harming, like a child's tantrum. Similarly I cannot avoid thinking of 90 million americans who decided that it was not important to vote that day. This indifference and apathy mobilized more people (40% of the electorate) than both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (25% for each of them). Thus, while analyzing the results it is important not to forget that figure that speaks of indifference and lack of faith in the system. As I write these lines Donald Trump is pushing for the expulsion of 800.000 immigrants and trying to ban a book that exposes him without realizing that these kind of measure are the ones that expose what he truly is, a man who represents the worst of our culture all of it combined in a single human being.(1) Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (1953) and Fahrenheit 451, Francois Truffaut (1966), film adaptation.(2) Feel Free, Essays Zadie Smith (2018), Penguin Books UK(3) My IQ, from the album Puddle dive, Ani DiFranco (1993)

  • Book's Calling
    2018-10-27 09:47

    Autor-historik nabízí konkrétní rady a tipy, jak se chovat, abychom v současném světě uchránili demokracii. Čerpá přitom z dějin 20. století. V knize jsou ale také stručné lekce dějepisu, takže se určitě i něco přiučíte (to byl třeba můj případ). Autor několikrát zmiňuje Václava Havla, což mě velmi potěšilo. Myslím, že by se tahle kniha měla stát povinnou četbou na středních školách. Já po ní jistě ještě sáhnu.

  • Lauren
    2018-11-12 15:03

    An hour well spent. A tool-kit for mobilization.Only downside is that he pulls solely from European historical models, but the truth is there and it is playing out right before our eyes.

  • Jeff Dawson
    2018-11-20 14:58

    What a wonderful collection of absurd conclusions and utter hippocratic left wing garbage!I’m not surprised so many liberals are clamoring, “You Must Read this Before it’s TOO Late!” Too late for what? The country being turned around and law and order restored on the streets? Or perhaps attempting to get the deficit under control and the economy back on track. No that’s not what they or the author are talking about. It’s the dismantling of the Electoral College and the ousting of the current President. The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! And not an ounce of proof to substantiate it. Mr. Snyder does his best to compare Trump’s rise to power as the Communists and National Socialists came to power. What he fails to point out is the economic and political unrest in these countries that allowed those groups to grab the reins of power. Russia was bankrupt and the majority of the population were starving. They suffered horrible losses to the Germans in WWI and because of poor leadership and a starving populace, change was inevitable. Germany was in the same position in the twenties. Riots and lawlessness were common place. The Weimar Republic was helpless. The mark was worthless and unemployment was off the charts. And, the Communists, along with other political parties were attempting to fill the vacuum caused by the Versailles Treaty. Now, how is that like the current political and economic mood in the United States? It’s not! Unless you want to take in consideration all the violence that has been perpetuated on law enforcement officials for the last four years. Hmm. Didn’t see the former President trying to call for law and order. He actually condoned these actions. Listen to his failed speech in Dallas, TX. And, since he’s railing about how corrupt Trump and all those are voting for him are deplorable, why no mention of the 5th column of the Democratic Party that formed after the Civil War in the states. That’s right, the KKK. You want to talk about a militant, deplorable, lawless, corrupt organization that enforced the Jim Crow laws, you have no farther to look than at the DNC. Why no mention of the Wasserman fiasco and the sabotaging of Bernie’s run? Well, that would take away from the esteemed author’s ridiculous claims. Doesn’t that smell of tyranny? Make sure you read this with an open mind. Why? Mr. Snyder isn’t going to be at the forefront leading the charge. He’s left more loopholes for himself to be distanced from the anarchy he’s proposing. If it doesn’t turn out his way, he’ll sit around the fireplace with his esteemed colleagues, sipping cognac and discussing how perhaps they need to perform more research while you’re on the street bleeding for a cause you don’t understand. Three stars

  • Haaze
    2018-11-19 10:44

    This timely and brief book by Snyder is interesting, thought-provoking and disturbing. The author focuses on major political events in Europe during the 20th century that led to tyranny, war, loss of human rights and the death and misery of tens of millions of individuals. It is a rallying cry for citizens to consider the importance and fragility of the process and state of democracy in the modern world. The twenty sections hold great wisdom and provide food for thought. This is definitely a book that everybody that cares about democracy should read. The experience is likely to lead to a more active participation in the process of democracy. Unsettling, but highly recommended!