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On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

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A 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 Trump 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.

126 pages, Paperback

First published February 28, 2017

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About the author

Timothy Snyder

62 books3,482 followers
Timothy Snyder is Housum Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1997, where he was a British Marshall Scholar. He has held fellowships in Paris, Vienna, and Warsaw, and an Academy Scholarship at Harvard.

His most recent book is Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning, published in September 2015 by Crown Books. He is author also of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (2010), a history of Nazi and Soviet mass killing on the lands between Berlin and Moscow. A New York Times bestseller and a book of the year according to The Atlantic, The Independent, The Financial Times, the Telegraph, and the New Statesman, it has won twelve awards including the Emerson Prize in the Humanities, a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Leipzig Award for European Understanding, and the Hannah Arendt Prize in Political Thought.

His other award-winning publications include Nationalism, Marxism, and Modern Central Europe: A Biography of Kazimierz Kelles-Krauz (1998); The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999 (2003); Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist's Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine (2005); The Red Prince: The Secret Lives of A Habsburg Archduke (2008), and Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (2010).

Snyder helped Tony Judt to compose a thematic history of political ideas and intellectuals in politics, Thinking the Twentieth Century (2012). He is also the co-editor of Stalin and Europe: Terror, War, Domination and Wall Around the West: State Power and Immigration Controls in Europe and North America (2001).

Snyder was the recipient of an inaugural Andrew Carnegie Fellowship in 2015. He is a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and sits on the advisory council of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research Research.

He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in modern East European political history.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,620 reviews
Profile Image for Sarah Jessica Parker.
17 reviews409k followers
June 29, 2018
Some people say this book should be on your person at all times. It's so worth reading and provokes great conversation.
Profile Image for Lisa.
977 reviews3,327 followers
November 12, 2020
“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.

Update in 2020: I wrote this review in a frenzy at the beginning of 2017, just after the book was published, and now, at the point when my inner humanist thought it could take a sigh of relief and put the threat to democracy on a history book shelf for a period of time, it looks like we have to start a new lesson on HOW DEMOCRACIES DIE from within. The most terrifying dictators in history could never have acted alone, they needed truth acrobats to hypnotise the masses of confused and scared people they had set up for their ruthless game. I realise now that I had one shred of naiveté left in me over the past agonising four year. I thought most people in the United States of America (including selfish Republican leaders) loved their democracy more than they love their own power and money. That was a mistake. The show we see each day at the moment couldn't be uglier. Humanity is at a point where nobody can be excused and stay complacent. Don't ask for whom the bell tolls!!

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!
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.5k followers
October 9, 2019

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 to 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 leader, the paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the end has come.
Second, “13. Practice 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.
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,116 reviews3,960 followers
January 20, 2023
This is a very short, well written, clearly structured, powerful warning and call to action, written shortly after Trump was elected. There are punchy and quotable epithets on every page.

Image: The twenty lessons (chapters)

Snyder is a Yale professor, specialising in 20th century history, including the Holocaust. He looks at the rise of Nazism and, to a lesser extent, Communism, to show parallels with 21st century USA, especially Trump: the tactics of leaders and the response of ordinary people.

History does not repeat, but it does instruct.

This was prescient when written. It felt timely as I read it (immediately after the DNC, during the RNC, and less than three months before the 2020 presidential election). But when I finished, it seemed too late, and I didn’t feel I’d learned much.

How to stop a coup, 2020

This article is the natural postscript to Snyder’s book: 10 things you need to know to stop a coup by Daniel Hunter. It is practical and positive, and I hope none of my friends ever need it, but on 2 November 2020, a few US friends are sharing it. The points he elaborates on are:
1. Don’t expect results election night
2. Do call it a coup
3. Know that coups have been stopped by regular folks
4. Be ready to act quickly — and not alone
5. Focus on widely shared democratic values, not on individuals
6. Convince people not to freeze or just go along
7. Commit to actions that represent rule of law, stability and nonviolence
8. Yes, a coup can happen in the United States
9. Center in calm, not fear
10. Prepare to deter a coup before the election

Why read Snyder's book?

The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” George Orwell, 1984

There’s not much new here if you’ve read Orwell's 1984 (review HERE), Orwell's Politics and the English Language (review HERE), and followed people/sites like Amy Siskind since before she started her weekly list of “not normal” steps towards authoritarianism in November 2016. But if you’re struggling to understand the current triumph of populist strongmen, and want historical parallels, this is a quick and insightful primer - regardless of what country you live in.

Image: 12 Early Warning Signs of Fascism, often credited to United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Source.)


• “Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given.

• “Any election can be the last.

• Symbols matter: “What might seem like a gesture of pride can be a source of exclusion.

• Think of Portland (and others). See BBC re Trump's crackdown on Portland and Wiki on Portland protests:
When the pro-leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the end has come.

• “The emotions of rallies and the ideology of exclusion” can challenge, penetrate, and then transform the police and military.

• Nationalism is not the same as patriotism.
A nationalist will say that ‘it can’t happen here’... A patriot says that it could happen here, but that we will stop it.

• “Defend institutions” is the second point/chapter. Back in 2017, who envisaged the USPS being at risk? Less than three months before an election during a pandemic, when postal voting will be vital, the new Postmaster General has been removing and breaking up sorting machines and banning overtime. But there has been a lot of push-back, from individuals, as well as other institutions. Enough? Who knows.

• Listen for dangerous words - extremism, terrorism, emergency, exception - used to justify breaking norms and quashing oversight and opposition.
Citizens trade real freedom for fake safety.

• “To abandon facts is to abandon freedom.” Hence, “Post-truth is pre-fascism.

• Klemperer explained that “truth dies in four modes” (modes, not a sequence):
1. Open hostility to verifiable reality (inauguration crowd size)
2. Shamanistic incantation (“Lock her up”, “Build the wall”, "Witch hunt", "Fake News")
3. Magical thinking ("One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear" - Coronavirus) and open embrace of contradiction
4. Misplaced faith (saying "Only I can fix it")


It’s a warning to the USA, but Snyder only ever refers to “the candidate” and “the president”, even though the examples are clearly specific to Trump. I suppose he wanted to make it more generic, but some of the examples are unique to Trump (describing avoiding HIV in 1980s NYC as his “personal Vietnam” - a war he avoided) and he does name Putin, as well as historical figures.

This doesn’t get bogged down with definitions of and distinctions between terms like fascism, authoritarianism, Nazism, and totalitarianism. In a book this short, I think that’s good.

Synder claims a deceit of the Brexit campaign was a desire for a British nation-state (true, though “sovereignty” was the term used). But he goes on:
Such a thing never existed. There was a British Empire, and then there was Britain as a member of the European Union.
Rubbish. We didn’t join the EEC (as it then was) until 1973, and whatever definition of the British Empire you pick, it was long gone by then. Furthermore, having an empire or not, is not directly related to being a nation state, which can arguably be dated to Acts of Union in 1800, when we did still have an empire.

Personality cults
“Dear Leader” cults of personality are not mentioned. It was visible in 2016, later, at the televised start of cabinet meetings, and even more so now. The GOP didn’t even bother with a detailed agenda for the 2020 election: just a 49-point bullet list that was widely paraphrased as “whatever Trump wants”. It’s lacking in any detail, and includes shamanistic incantation (a whole section titled “Drain the swamp”, with more items than for Education), magical thinking (“Create 10 Million New Jobs in 10 Months”), contradictory (“Pass Congressional Term Limits” from a president who repeatedly “jokes” about having a third term), and the alarming (“Teach American Exceptionalism” is one of only two education policies).

Propaganda techniques
The power of propaganda runs through this book, but it needs something about the techniques, updated to include social media bots and conspiracy sites.

No index
It’s just about short enough (more of an extended essay) for me to forgive, but in general, all non-fiction books should have one. Nor is there a bibliography, though he exhorts readers to step back from the internet and read books (less likely to be distracted by spectacle), mentioning several (fiction and non-fiction).

How it starts?

Image: Audience at Last Night of the Proms, year unspecified, but not 2020 (Source.)

As public life in the UK has become more partisan in the last few years, that is reflected in and amplified by our media. My mother has read The Telegraph all her adult life. It's an intelligent newspaper in many ways, but with a strong conservative and Conservative bias. Some of the stories she reads are deceitfully partisan and stoking culture wars against non-enemies, but they successfully distract from the mishandling of Covid and what will happen with Brexit after 31 December 2020.

There were two such stories in a single day this week. First, was her outrage at the impracticality of making 5-year olds wear masks all day in schools - which absolutely no one is suggesting (though the government has now advised that secondary pupils should wear them where they can’t socially distance). The other was the higher profile story about “cancel culture” and “political correctness gone mad” at the BBC, because at this year’s Last Night of the Proms, Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia would be played by the orchestra, but not sung by the crowd. Some of the words are controversial, but the reason they won’t be sung by the crowd this year is that there will be no crowd in the auditorium!
UPDATE 1: In response to the whipped-up outrage, which drew bombastic criticism from our oft-absent PM, the BBC retreated. There will be a small choir to sing the words.

I can't fully deprogram someone who's 82, especially when it's been a gradual path: it's more that the paper has changed than that she has. But I do challenge individual stories, showing how they undermine her own values and beliefs, or why they’re utter nonsense. Her default is still to believe unquestioningly, but she does at least listen to alternative views, and sometimes accept them.

UPDATE 2: A clear case of Klemperer's "open hostility to verifiable reality" and "magical thinking" from our PM, immediately defended by flunkies (bold is mine):
"Boris Johnson has claimed that 'huge numbers' of people are returning to the office amid a government drive to stop people from working from home, despite a lack of evidence. Pressed on the prime minister's claim on Tuesday afternoon Downing Street said the PM's comments were not based on any hard figures, and that he was in fact expressing more of a wish." (Source)

Do something

Support the work of real journalists, including paying to access their work. The mainstream media is no longer mainstream.
It is derision that is mainstream and easy, and actual journalism that is edgy and difficult.

From Churchill not capitulating in 1940 as Hitler expected to Rosa Parks:
The moment you set an example, the status quo is broken, and others will follow.

The individual who investigates is also the citizen who builds.
The leader who dislikes investigators is a potential tyrant.

You can organise online (and the current pandemic complicates matters)
But nothing is real that does not end on the streets.

Image: Ieshia Evans peacefully protests in Baton Rouge, July 2016 (Source.)
Profile Image for Julie .
4,026 reviews58.9k followers
May 9, 2017
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
Profile Image for Peter Bradley.
895 reviews49 followers
January 20, 2021
Please give my review a helpful vote on Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/review/R3PWF91...

Post-script: January 20, 2020 - The transition from the Trump Administration to the Biden Administration occurred - as I predicted - without the imposition of a dictatorship - as I predicted.

Snyder's book now stands proven by history as an exercise in hysteria.

On the other hand, given the statements by those with power and influence over the new administration about purging, re-education camps and truth commissions and the economic assaults on free speech platforms and Trump supporters, Snyder's hysteria certainly fit in with or channeled the authoritarian tendencies of the left circa 2016-2021.

The book seems timely today, unlike 2016.

A 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, which 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 have 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 the 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 to explain 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 the media was biased in favor the loser. The press has an approval rating lower than that of a cold sore 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 a while. 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 former president may not have seemed like an authoritarian, 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.
Profile Image for Matt.
752 reviews522 followers
March 1, 2017
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.


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Profile Image for Andy.
1,373 reviews464 followers
January 14, 2022
If this is the response to creeping fascism in America, we are in trouble.
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.

Other books of potential interest:
Le Silence de la mer 46 Pages
46 Pages by Liell S Le Silence de la mer by Vercors

See comment stream below for discussion.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,004 reviews36k followers
September 20, 2017
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!!!
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
January 10, 2021
“History does not repeat, but it does instruct”--Snyder

“I love the poorly educated”--Trump

I carried this little book in my back pocket at the recent Chicago march against the incarceration of children and separation of families policy of the current U. S. administration. It’s a pamphlet written by a Holocaust historian to help us look for and mobilize against fascist tendencies. It contains twenty lessons he has gleaned from his historical study about how a well-educated and highly “developed” society such as Germany might have succumbed to fascism.

Here’s the twenty lessons, briefly elaborated on in a little booklet that will take you an hour to read:

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 arrives.
19. Be a patriot.
20. Be as courageous as you can.
Here’s some takeaways I found interesting:

“In founding a democratic republic upon law and establishing a system of checks and balances, the Founding Fathers sought to avoid the evil that they, like the ancient philosophers, called tyranny. They had in mind the usurpation of power by a single individual or group, or the circumvention of law by rulers for their own benefit.”

“Post-truth is pre-fascism: “Re: #10: Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.”

“Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on a screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people.”

“Protest can be organized through social media, but nothing is real that does not end on the streets.”

Things we can do to be proactive:

“We must, among other things, support a multiparty system and election rules. In the European context, several democracies that emerged after the World Wars I and II soon collapsed when a single party assumed power—usually by means of some combination of an election, emergency powers, and a coup d’état.”

READ and educate yourself. Historian Snyder endorses the reading of novels, imaginative constructions of possible scenarios so we can also imagine resistance and reconstruction of democracy. Read 1984, It Can’t Happen Here, The Handmaid’s Tale. Snyder even says: Parents, read with your children the Harry Potter series.

“Re #18. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. 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 political parties, the suspension of freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. DO NOT FALL FOR IT.”

You are entitled to think this is liberal paranoia. I get that, but in every fascist state, a majority of thinking people have not believed the government was doing what it was doing. They were “apolitical.” Or they believed that this drastic disruption of democratic ideals was necessary for radical change. Keep reading the news and read this little book and think for yourself.

At the very least, admit this, that we are not necessarily smarter than those that have been hoodwinked by fascist movements conducted “for our own good”:

“We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism in the last century. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. . .”

On Tyranny is a 128 quarter page-sized book pages, available on Kindle for $3.99. They would make cheap and useful presents for friends.
Profile Image for Michael Perkins.
Author 6 books354 followers
June 5, 2022
Putin, the GOP, and memory laws....



Snyder on Putin...



spot on: fascism is already here....



another article by Timothy Snyder (1/09/2021)...



"The service of a good citizen is never useless: by being heard and seen, by his expression, by his gesture, by his stubbornness and by his very walk, he helps.”

— SENECA: Tranquillity of Mind


I highly recommend this short book to everyone. The author is an expert on Nazi Germany. He susses out social and political traits from authoritarian societies and discusses how they apply today, especially to the U.S.

For each concept, he offers a practical call to action that begins with developing personal habits of seeking out truth and avoiding propaganda. The book was published in 2017. What he cites is even more so today and more urgent to oppose.

Some snippets from the book....

Yes, there is a conspiracy that you can find online: It is the one to keep you online, looking for conspiracies.

Much of the political debate in the United States has concerned the problem of tyranny within American society: over slaves and women.

Local Austrian Nazis captured Jews and forced them to scrub the streets to remove symbols of independent Austria. Crucially, people who were not Nazis looked on with interest and amusement. Nazis who had kept lists of Jewish property stole what they could. Crucially, others who were not Nazis joined in the theft.

The mistake is to assume that rulers who came to power through institutions cannot change or destroy those very institutions—even when that is exactly what they have announced that they will do.

We 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.

Make an effort to separate yourself from the internet. Read books....More than 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. In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953, firemen find and burn books while most citizens watch interactive television.

A German diarist noticed how Hitler’s language rejected legitimate opposition: The people always meant some people and not others (the president uses the word in this way), encounters were always struggles (the president says winning), and any attempt by free people to understand the world in a different way was defamation of the leader (or, as the president puts it, libel)

You submit to tyranny when you renounce the difference between what you want to hear and what is actually the case..... The individual who investigates is also the citizen who builds. The leader who dislikes the investigators is a potential tyrant.

Fascists despised the small truths of daily existence, loved slogans that resonated like a new religion, and preferred creative myths to history or journalism.

The most intelligent of the Nazis, the legal theorist Carl Schmitt [their version of William Barr] explained in clear language the essence of fascist governance. The way to destroy all rules, he explained, was to focus on the idea of the exception. A Nazi leader outmaneuvers his opponents by manufacturing a general conviction that the present moment is exceptional, and then transforming that state of exception into a permanent emergency.

A nationalist is not a true patriot. 'He is endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge,' wrote Orwell, 'and tends to be uninterested in what happens in the real world.

His followers are concerned with the past, but in a self-absorbed way, free of any real concern with facts. Their mood is a longing for past moments that never really happened during epochs that were, in fact, disastrous.

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.



I went back and looked at the author's Epilogue and parsed it more closely. Here's what I figured out...

The author is contrasting two similar social phenomena, coming from different directions.

One he calls “historical inevitability,” the belief that the world we are used to living in will always stay on track, which was good for some people. He points out, however, that this apparent sameness has discouraged young people from taking an interest in history, so as to learn from it. Of course, this all blew up when Trump got elected.

This has been replaced by Trumpkins with a quest for a mythical past that never was. This discourages people from thinking about possible futures. They don’t believe in progress or social justice. Or taking care of the environment.

Instead, some of them have included the religious notion of an eternal struggle. This creates in them a sense of permanent crisis that makes them feel that it’s fruitless to plan for the future. This readily dovetails with the apocalyptic thinking of many of these people.

I think all this easily turns into fatalism. Why worry about Covid when we are all going to die anyway? I already know where I’m going to go when I die. Meanwhile, it’s much easier to turn off my brain, blindly trust Trump, and float downstream.

Snyder podcasts expands on this....




Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,888 reviews1,920 followers
August 14, 2021
Rating: 5* of five

Not for its perfection of style but for its perfection of wisdom and its amazing timeliness. As I write this today, 24 March 2018, I saw the face of our future president in Emma Gonzalez as she stood silent, focused, determined, at a march made by young people to demand their lives be protected from ammosexual assholes. She spoke for six minutes and twenty seconds in total, the same amount of time that it took one piece of shit human being to slaughter seventeen of her classmates.

I believe that her speech...the few words, the long silence...will be the spark of the youth revolution our country so very badly needs. I am hopeful that Emma Gonzalez will be, by her very adamantine sense of self and her charismatic gravitas, the voice that alerts her compatriots to Author Snyder's clarion call to clarity:
The politics of inevitability is a self-induced intellectual coma.

The most unbelievably high stakes are at risk in the November 2018 elections. Buy this book not for yourself but for your hopes of a reasonably happy future for the United States of America, buy it in quantity and give it to everyone you know and/or can find who is under 25, and talk to them about why you're giving them this short, clear, concise, and urgently necessary book.

Your life, my life, the life of a truly great nation, depends on them showing up at the ballot box on 6 November 2018. This is neither hyperbole nor alarmism. It is simply the truth. Looking away from the horrors of the current kakistocracy's rise to any position of power higher than hall monitor at the local middle school will only ensure the brutal and vicious agenda of these lowlife scumbags and their horrifying cadres of disgustingly venal and/or stupid supporters will succeed.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,352 reviews2,412 followers
March 13, 2018
Snyder, a professor of history at Yale University, has written a pamphlet reminiscent of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense which was 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.

Profile Image for Ted.
515 reviews744 followers
January 28, 2019
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: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

For 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 Jena

I'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 Century

Here'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 2014
photo by Nataliya Shestakova

Here 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?

a real spoiler

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 Stevens
Next review: Life from an RNA World The Ancestor Within
Older review: The Really Big One curiously apposite to the current review … a warning

Previous library review: Public Power in the Age of Empire Roy
Next library review: Tales of Hoffman
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews866 followers
January 20, 2021
“The hero of a David Lodge novel says that you don't know, when you make love for the last time, that you are making love for the last time. Voting is like that."

Timothy Snyder on Modern Tyranny

Timothy Snyder's On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century feels unbelievably relevant. Delivered in twenty very short chapters, it's a very quick read that stays with you. While making distinctions between nationalists and patriots, On Tyranny makes clear that democracies are fragile and, like our institutions, need to be defended. Our behavior determines the kind of government and society we live in. We need to be vigilant because authoritarians will use the levers of democracy to install themselves in office and then destroy democracy from the inside. We can't succumb to the fantasy that it can't happen here. The quote about voting really struck with me, but this book is littered with insights that seem both important and timely. And I'm happy to be able to post this as I watch Trump's departure from the White House!

"To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.”

“Defend institutions. 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.”

“Do not obey in advance. Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then offer themselves without being asked. A citizen who adapts in this way is teaching power what it can do.”
Profile Image for باقر هاشمی.
Author 1 book242 followers
July 12, 2018
در حقیقت چهار و نیم ستاره. اون هم برای اینکه بعضی از فصول مختصر بودند. اما کتاب به حق ارزش خوندن رو داشت. و ترجمه هم خوب بود. فقط بعضی جاها به ساختار کتاب که برای عامّه نوشته شده نمی آمد. ولی از واژه سازی های مترجم خوشم آمد.
حتا اگر فکر می کنید به سیاست علاقه مند نیستید هم پیشنهاد می کنم این کتاب رو بخونید. در حین خوندن این کتاب، موقع یادداشت بردای، یادداشتی نوشتم با این مضمون که: آنهایی که باید این مطالب را بدانند و به آن عمل کنند اگر صدها قسم از این نوع کُتُب را هم بخوانند وقتی پای عمل برسد جا می زنند. و کسانی هم که اهل عمل هستند بدون خواندن این قسم کُتُب، پای عمل، انتخابی درست می کنند.
ما از ترس از دست دادنِ رفاه ناچیز شخصی، به افراد مستبد و زورگو اجازه می دهیم تمام عمر از ما سو استفاده کنند در حالی که اگر در همان اولین لحظات جلوی آنها می ایستادیم، دیگر نمی توانستند به زورگویی شان ادامه دهند. افراد مستبد هیچ گاه بدون همکاری زیر دستانشان نمی توانند به زورگویی بپردازند و وقتی کسی از فردی مستبد اطاعت نکند، فرد مستبد دیگر قدرتی نخواهد داشت. اما گویا ذات انسان به گونه ای است که اکثریتِ آدمیان در هنگام معرکه قافیه را می بازند و تسلیم می شوند. و گرنه در تاریخ، نسبت قهرمانان به قهرمان پرستان وارونه می بود.
در قسمتی از کتاب می خونیم:
شکی نیست که سیاست مدارن امروز وقتی از تروریسم حرف می زنند، دارند از خطری واقعی خبر می دهند. ولی وقتی سعی می کنند ما را جوری تعلیم دهند که آزادی را به نام امنیت فرو بگذاریم، باید حواس مان را جمع کنیم تسلیم ایشان نشویم. برای داشتن این دو لزوماً نباید دیگری را فدا کرد. |...| کسانی که با اطمینان به شما می گویند که فقط به بهای از دست دادن آزادی می توانید به امنیت دست یابید معمولاً می خواهند هم آزادی و هم امنیت را از شما سلب کنند.
این کتاب افق های جدیدی از سیاست و تاریخ رو به من نشون داد.
Profile Image for David Rubenstein.
804 reviews2,535 followers
November 17, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Mohammad Hrabal.
270 reviews184 followers
August 24, 2019
با خواندن ریویوی حمید رضایی عزیز ترغیب به خواندن شدم. انصافاً کتاب خوبی بود. بخوانید.
وقتی رهبران سیاسی الگوی نادرست و نامطلوبی هستند، تعهد حرفه‌ای به عمل عادلانه و درست اهمیت بیشتری می‌یابد. برانداختن یک حکومت قانون بدون وکلا، یا برگزاری دادگاه‌های فرمایشی بدون قضات، دشوار است. ص 37 کتاب
وقتی مردان مسلحی که همیشه ادعا کرده‌اند مخالف نظام هستند اونیفرم بر تن می‌کنند و با مشعل و تصاویر یک رهبر رژه می‌روند، یقین کنید نابودی نزدیک است. وقتی شبه نظامی هوادار رهبر و پلیس رسمی و ارتش در هم بیامیزند، نابودی آغاز شده است. ص 41 کتاب
از تکرار جملاتی که همه می‌گویند خودداری کنید. سعی کنید خودتان را از اینترنت دور کنید. کتاب بخوانید. ص 54 کتاب
پس نمایشگرها را از اتاقتان بیرون بیندازید و اطرافتان را پر کنید از کتاب. شخصیت‌های رمان‌های اورول و بردبری دیگر نمی‌توانستند این کار را بکنند- ولی ما هنوز می‌توانیم. می‌پرسید چه کتابی بخوانیم؟ هر رمان خوبی به ما کمک می‌کند وضعیت‌های گنگ را در نظر آوریم و در مورد نیات دیگران داوری کنیم. برادران کارامازوف فئودور داستایفسکی و سبکی تحمل ناپذیر هستی میلان کوندرا ممکن است به کار وضعیت کنونی ما بیایند. رمان محال است این جا پیش بیاید سینکلر لوئیس شاید اثر سترگی نباشد؛ توطئه علیه آمریکای فیلیپ راث بهتر است. یکی از رمان‌هایی که میلیون‌ها جوان آمریکایی آن را خوانده‌اند و حکایت استبداد و مقاومت در برابر استبداد را روایت می‌کند، هری پاتر و قدیسان مرگ جی. کی. رولینگ است. اگر شما با دوستانتان یا فرزندانتان بار اول همچو برداشتی از این رمان نداشته‌اید، بهتر است دست به کار شوید و دوباره بخوانیدش. ص 58 کتاب
هاول نوشته بود: ( اگر ستون اصلی نظام دروغ باشد، پس عجیب نخواهد بود که تهدید اساسی آن راست گویی باشد) ص 70 کتاب
اعتراضات را می‌توان از طریق رسانه‌های اجتماعی سازمان داد. ولی هیچ چیز واقعی نخواهد بود مگر اینکه کارش به خیابان‌ها بکشد. اگر حاکمان مستبد در دنیای سه بعدی با عواقب اقدامات خویش روبه رو نشوند، هیچ چیز تغییر نخواهد کرد. صفحات 75 و 76 کتاب
کسانی که با اطمینان به شما می‌گویند که فقط به بهای از دست دادن آزادی می‌توانید به امنیت دست یابید معمولاً می‌خواهند هم آزادی و هم امنیت را از شما سلب کنند. ص 92 کتاب
اگر هیچ یک از ما حاضر نباشیم در راه آزادی بمیریم، همه زیر پای استبداد خواهیم مرد. ص 105 کتاب
Profile Image for HAMiD.
427 reviews
July 16, 2019
بي گمان كتابي ست خريدني و خواندني و هديه دادني
كتاب كوتاه است اما بسيار گويا و كاربردي ست و مظاهرش جا به جا در ذهن خواننده ي ايراني شبيه سازي مي شود و دائم به فكر فرو مي بردت از درسهايي كه در كتاب هست و تو بهشان دقت نكرده اي. بنابراين در اين احوال خواندنش بي اندازه ارزشمند است
كتاب ترجمه ي پذیرفتنی یی دارد اگرچه مي توانست با ويرايش بهتر هم بشود. برخي جاها مترجم جناب واحدي بيش از اندازه از زبان انگليسي گرته برداري كرده كه به گمان م لحن ترجمه را كمي خشك و غيرفارسي مي كند با اين حال كار ايشان در ترجمه بسيار ارزشمند بوده است و اينكه از نويسنده اجازه ي رسمي دارد برای بازگردان به فارسي كه خب اين هم بسيار عزيز است
Profile Image for Lilo.
131 reviews360 followers
November 1, 2020

With hundreds of reviews* of this little book on Goodreads and 1,800 on Amazon, what can I say that has not already been said before?

Well, first of all, I would like to say: “Thank you, Timothy Snyder, for writing these so very necessary twenty lessons and writing them in an easy-comprehensible way, in a small booklet that can be read in a few hours.”

If I were as filthy rich as You Know Who, I’d buy 100 mio copies of this gem and have them delivered for free to every American household, as these twenty lessons should be read and learned by every American from age 10 to age 100. (And it definitely would not hurt if citizens of other countries on our globe would study them too.)

Please put aside whatever you have lined up for your next read and give this little book priority. It is a must-must-must read and, once you have read it, a must-must-must share.

* Here are a few links to some of the reviews I read and found very informative:







Profile Image for Matt.
3,720 reviews12.8k followers
December 31, 2022
A refreshing re-read to end the year, as I gear up for another two years of rhetoric from a tyrannical American trying to locate a path to steal power back!

“History does not repeat, but it does instruct,” is the opening line of Timothy Snyder’s short work on tyranny. How apt this is and the examples throughout the piece of writing goes on to further explain what the author wishes to convey. Pulling from examples throughout the 20th century, Snyder effectively argues that the situation in America has some loose—perhaps still germinating foreboding—concerns from the rise of authoritarian regimes in history that sat on both sides of the political spectrum in decades past. Snyder warns the reader not to ignore these, as there are times when waiting makes change too late. He also effectively draws parallels between the lulling into complacency that leaders mastered—using false rhetoric and duplicitous nationalism to appear patriotic—and the goings-on at apparent ego rallies when not on Twitter. Snyder has strong examples that fit, things that the layperson will like have heard about in their general knowledge of world history. Can it be stopped? Snyder feels there is the potential, but only by heeding the warning signs now. While the 2020 presidential election is around the corner, the electorate cannot be duped into thinking that this is a nightmare the US Constitution or the other branches of government will rein in. Alas, that only works when the actors in the system agree to the rules and do not supersede them to fit their needs. Thought provoking and a wonderful fill between books, Timothy Snyder’s piece did just what it sought to do; leave me wondering about how the past should be a yardstick for success, not just a bunch of words in a tome that could never happen again. Recommended for those with strong political interests who wish to explore some of the pressing issues of 21st century, as well as the reader with a keen interest in history’s repetitive nature.

This book was slyly passed along to me by a good friend, wanting to see how my politically minded brain might process it. It’s short (even by academic publication standards) and yet packs a major punch. Snyder uses concrete examples, specifically from the national socialism (fascism) found in Nazi Germany and the communist countries of Soviet Russia and Eastern Europe. At first, the parallels with the US Administration were simply presumed, but Snyder blunts his comments when he eventually uses POTUS and America by name, perhaps his way of ensuring the point is not missed. The chapters (points) can be as quick as a few lines, or as length as a couple of pages, but all twenty resonate to the attentive reader who will likely see things as soon as they are pointed out. I know there will be trolls and those who disagree, which is their right, though I would really enjoy someone trying to talk their way out of the case Snyder makes. Then again, what do I know, a mere Canadian?

Kudos, Mr. Snyder, for a sobering look at tyrannical reign in the American republic. Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln (all men POTUS thinks he is like) would roll over in their graves if they saw the republic today!

Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,733 reviews14.1k followers
January 9, 2022
I've had this book for awhile but wasn't yet ready to read. It is a slim book at 126 pages but it's 126 pages that frightened the bejesus right out of me. I kept thinking that I was misreading the signs, anxious maybe about a threat that did not exist. I was wrong,this moment in time, in my country, resembles without doubt Germany's descent into Nazism.

Snyder lays it all out, from a divided people, to the attempt to tear down our institutions, a willingness to resort to violence, word usage such as fake news, alternate facts, words that sway those impressionable enough, or those mad for power, or those that hate, are filled with rage.

He urges us to strengthen our institutions in any way we can. To do due diligence by verifying ideas, words, that are presented and more. It can happen here and the path to autocracy has already started.
Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,559 reviews2,312 followers
August 17, 2017
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!
Profile Image for Steve.
923 reviews135 followers
December 20, 2019
2019 (almost 2020) update: My sense is that most folks who (bothered to read ... or took seriously ... or, even more so,) appreciated this (to my mind, excellent little) book in 2017 should consider, in anticipation of the of the 2020 election, (pre-ordering or) buying (and sharing) Sarah Kendzior's Hiding in Plain Sight - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4.... It's not as succinct or dispassionate as Snyder's book, but ... if you wanted a concise, compelling (and, arguably, scary or disheartening) answer to the question(s): Well, I remember that Timothy Snyder warned us, but, seriously, how bad could things really (be or) get? ... or how quickly could institutions that we take for granted collapse (or lose their credibility)? ... well, um, Kendzior's forthcoming book fills the void.

My original 2017 review follows:

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.
Profile Image for Michael Ferro.
Author 2 books212 followers
January 20, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Amin.
355 reviews323 followers
February 4, 2023
برای مخاطبی دور از فضای انتخابات امریکا، چنین کتابی شاید همچو مانیفستی سیاسی خود را نشان دهد که راهبردهایی کلی اما مفید با خود دارد. نهایت انتظار اما، باید همان پروراندن پستهای وبلاگی باشد و نه اثری تحلیلی و یا حتی با عمق تاریخی. در فضای ملتهبی همچو جو پس از انتخابات هم البته چنین کتبی مخاطب بیشتری دارند تا مثلا کتاب انسانیت از جاناتان گلاوور. گرچه تصویری که از پوتین و روسیه معاصر ترسیم میکند، به مراتب مخوف تر از ترامپ است.

ترجمه بابک واحدی خوب نبود، و برای اثری که متن چندان پیچیده ای ندارد، ضعفها بیشتر به چشم می آیند. مطالعه متن اصلی توصیه میشود.
Profile Image for Jan Rice.
522 reviews444 followers
April 16, 2018
This book at bottom is a version of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,
But the times are out of joint, so I forgot--
It didn't all happen at once. The soil was prepared:
In my time and place--maybe every time and place--confusion was sown,
The way to clear thinking not made straight.
Once we knew, though, that everyone in the class should get a valentine card (if anyone did)
And everyone should be invited to the birthday party--
Black, Muslim, the religious in all their denominations;
Atheists; agnostics;
The Jew who reads the wrong Israeli newspapers;
Even the white guy,
The rich one who seduced, using his power,
(For millennia that's the way it worked).
The rich and poor have this in common:
The LORD is the maker of them all.
With 'speaking truth to power' turned against our fellow,
The authoritarian need not divide and conquer,
Since we are dividing ourselves
With our social media of derision
And our politics of denunciation.
Why not, instead, a smile and kind word
For everyone you pass in the street?
When you give me that cold shoulder and won't look me in the eye,
I've already been disappeared,
For we don't talk to the toxic.
We steer clear of the publicly shamed
Unless we become brave. Be brave!
Knit up the raveled social fabric.
Read and study and peruse the news
But don't stay home alone too long;
Rub shoulders with Others.
(The friends you make may save your life.)
The news to awaken to is
This is real.
The game's afoot,
The chips are down;
Time to put tokhes ahfen tish.

I'm not MLK, nor JFK.
I'm me and have my part to play.
Profile Image for Nika.
134 reviews139 followers
April 24, 2022
"History does not repeat, but it does instruct..."
I almost forced myself not to add "sometimes" to this meaningful quote.

Timothy Snyder offers us twenty lessons that are geared to preventing peoples and countries from falling into a tyranny trap.
These include not obeying in advance, taking responsibility, defending institutions, being calm in the face of the unthinkable, listening for dangerous words, and believing in truth.
Concise chapters are easy to read.
The main goal of the book is to warn the reader against the dangers of tyranny and authoritarianism. Not a single nation is exempt from the risk of falling into the trap of dictatorial rule.
To think otherwise would be not only preposterous but also dangerous.

All the lessons are important, but believing in truth is something on which I would like to expand.
Ionesco, the author of the famous absurdist play Rhinoceros, wrote:
'University professors, students, intellectuals were turning Nazi, becoming Iron Guards, one after the other. At the beginning, certainly they were not Nazis. About fifteen of us would get together to talk and to try to find arguments opposing theirs. It was not easy… From time to time, one of our friends said: “I don’t agree with them, to be sure, but on certain points, nevertheless, I must admit, for example, the Jews…,” etc. And this was a symptom. Three weeks later, this person would become a Nazi. He was caught in the mechanism, he accepted everything, he became a rhinoceros. Towards the end, only three or four of us were still resisting.'

This excerpt highlights how aggressive propaganda can disrupt the mindset of an ordinary human being. A barrage of propaganda is capable of reaching and winning over even very educated people.
Dictatorships aim at preventing people from understanding cause-and-effect relationships. It is no secret that when people fail to see the correct sequence of events, they become more vulnerable to manipulation.
By regularly giving people steady doses of propaganda, you make them hooked on the news spreading by mainstream media outlets.
By mixing truth with lies and injecting some truth into lies, and lies into the truth, brazen lies step by step replace common sense and numb critical thinking.
It happened in the past in different places of the world, it is happening now in some countries, and it may happen anywhere around the globe.

The author underscores that we should always believe that there is a certain truth and attempt to establish it. As he points out, “post-truth is pre-fascism.” If nothing is true, everything is possible.
Denying the existence of truth paves the road to dictatorship. Tyrants of different kinds love ambivalences and deliberately promote deficiencies in clarity. They are ready to make an artificial fog that will hide the disgusting acts that they have committed.
If any interpretation is possible, the opposite of the truth may be presented as the truth.

The author lists certain signs that may point to the fact that democracy is under assault. Autocratic leaders make astute use of human prejudices and fears, such as the population’s fears of terror attacks —" real, questionable, and fake."

Timothy Snyder propounds two antihistorical narratives that lead to the disruption of our understanding of reality and history.
The first antihistorical way of considering the past is the politics of inevitability. It claims that history could move in only one direction - toward liberal democracy, assuming that the rules of the game won't change no matter what. It could be compared to a self-induced intellectual coma.

The second antihistorical narrative is the politics of eternity. It is concerned with the past, but in a self-absorbed way, free of any real concern with facts.
"Its mood is a longing for past moments that never really happened during epochs that were, in fact, disastrous. Eternity politicians bring us the past as a vast misty courtyard of illegible monuments to national victimhood, all of them equally distant from the present, all of them equally accessible for manipulation. Every reference to the past seems to involve an attack by some external enemy upon the purity of the nation."
Populist leaders love the concept. They often refer to the 'glorious' past in their speeches.

The book is well-structured and easy to read. I read it in one sitting which took me no more than an hour.
In conclusion, freedom and human rights require constant work and attention and are not, once acquired, a permanent privilege.
Profile Image for Ioana.
274 reviews348 followers
September 11, 2017
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: https://www.samharris.org/podcast/ite...). 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.
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