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On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the…

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (original 2017; edition 2017)

by Timothy Snyder (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,951906,504 (4.15)148
The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. from On Tyranny.… (more)
Title:On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
Authors:Timothy Snyder (Author)
Info:Tim Duggan Books (2017), Edition: 1st, 128 pages
Collections:Your library

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On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder (Author) (2017)

  1. 00
    Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder (2wonderY)
    2wonderY: On Tyranny is a short synopsis of the much more extensive and scholarly conclusions recorded in Black Earth.
  2. 01
    The King's Bastard by Rowena Cory Daniells (Sandwich76)
    Sandwich76: A fantasy novel about the slippery slope into tyranny.

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Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
Great nuggets of wisdom to discern methods used by those inclined to be tyrants and how to head it off protecting our fragile democracy, especially in light of Trump's attempted coup d'état on 11/6/2020. ( )
  atdCross | Oct 8, 2021 |
There are excellent parallels to modern issues within these pages, but very little organizing principle. It begins as a warning on general terms and then quickly focuses on the American presidency. Overall the sentiment is good and the read is quick but there's not enough substance to my tastes. ( )
  jamestomasino | Sep 11, 2021 |
Timothy Snyder's "On Tyranny" is a short proscriptive book which looks at how people have lost their freedom in different Countries in the 20th Century (chiefly in Nazi Germany or Communist Russia), and offers twenty simple cautions we should follow to avoid a similar fate in the future. The "lessons" he offers are: (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 arises; (19) be a patriot; and (20) be as courageous as you can. He gives brief explanations of each, reasons for the recommendation, and examples of how failure to follow these steps may have led to the rise of tyrannical states in the past.

It seems clear that his motivation for writing this short book related to the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election in the U.S. But if Mr. Snyder is concerned about President Trump being, or becoming a tyrannical leader, others in the conservative camp had similar feelings about our previous president. Barack Obama had been accused of acting more like a dictator than a president, and being a dictatorial tyrant for the last eight years. So if both sides in our polarized country fear tyranny from the other side, perhaps the steps Mr. Snyder recommends can be accepted by both sides.

Many if not most of the recommendations seem logical and straight forward. For example, Snyder recommends that we separate from the internet, and read more. Politicians feed cliches to the TV, and we become entrapped in the trance of TV. Repeating the same words heard on television or on websites is no substitute for thinking and verifying.

Snyder is especially critical of blindly accepting political lies. He considers the abandonment of facts as an abandoning of freedom. You submit to tyranny when you renounce the difference between what you want to hear and what is actually true.

He writes that truth dies in four modes:
(1) Open hostility to verifiable reality (or presenting lies as if they're verifiable facts).
(2) Endless repetition designed to make the fiction plausible (his examples include the chants of "lock her up" and "build the wall" during the 2016 Trump campaign).
(3) Magical thinking - or the open embrace of contradiction (his examples include politicians making mutually contradictory promises on the campaign trail, like reducing taxes and increasing spending, while reducing the national debt).
(4) Misplaced faith (leaders making self-deifying claims, e.g., "only I can defeat ISIS").

He notes that fascists of the past despised the small truths of daily experiences, loved slogans, and preferred creative myths to history or good journalism. They also used new media (then the radio) to create a drumbeat of propaganda that aroused feelings before people had time to ascertain facts.

Another strong recommendation is found in his point #11, "investigate". He suggests that we subscribe to print media rather than reading blogs on the internet. Spending time with long newspaper or magazine articles makes one think and understand more clearly. He cautions that the leader who dislikes the investigator is a potential tyrant. Banning reporters, or turning the public away from journalism is a red flag. These leaders consider any statements of facts not to his liking as a lie, and repeats that again and again until his followers begin to believe it too.

All of the recommendations in the book are easy to understand, as is the rational behind them. And for a book which is so short and easy to read, there are lessons in the book for all.
( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
Read this book. It won't take long. It's a short tract the size of a prayer book, which is appropriate from an author who studies the Holocaust. Snyder gives us a lot for meditation regarding our current political situation and its totalitarian parallels. One section, quoted at length here, posits that Germans in 1932 did not understand that they were voting in the last meaningfully free election they'd see for some time. Our next election may not be our last, but Snyder would like you to give the notion some thought. Whether you're getting resistance fatigue or hoping to make America great again, this book asks you to rethink what patriotism means.
  rynk | Jul 11, 2021 |
Snyder's eloquence, accessibility, and academic authority shows how comfortably the current state of US affairs rests in parallel to the fascist regimes in Germany, Russia, Czechoslovakia, and other countries of the 20th century. His message is highly quotable and motivating. This is a warning; this is fodder for your resistance, your conversations with supporters of our current government and those who urge banalities such as "This will pass," or "It's only four years," or "But at least we have a system of checks and balances firmly in place" (a complacency that Snyder succinctly censures). As many others are echoing, I, too, read this in a sitting, and I also read it within the context of the peaceful protests in my own city of St. Louis of the brutal disregard of and unchecked police violence against black people being met with unchecked police violence and a controversially-elected mayor who is as yet refusing to take a firm stance against this violence. I think the parallels here are convincing as well.

With this in mind, what I think is maybe most effective in this book is its focus on Nazi Germany. In my conversations with people who don't understand "what all the fuss is about," it seems like they (who aren't out-and-out Klan sympathizers and/or neo Nazis) all agree that Hitler was bad. A lot of headway I've seemed to make in talking with complacent ones has been in discussing these historic traumas that have been subsequently romanticized by white, Christian Americans and relating them to current events and the suppression of other marginalized peoples. Snyder will help you formulate your discussions.

This text strikes me as most vital to white folks--we are the ones responsible for the United States as it exists today. For those of us who are already in the streets, who are already having direct conversations with complacent folks, who are donating to and volunteering time with civil liberty charities, who use our professions and personal time to speak out against tyranny--On Tyranny will provide us with more specifics to use in our work and to remind us to keep fighting for justice because there is always more work to do--within ourselves and our communities. For those who have been sitting in complacency, who have been unsure whether or how they should resist, I hope they come away with a comprehensive understanding of the book's message and a more vocal stance. (I become more disillusioned each day that alternative facts assholes will ever be willing to look beyond their own insecurities. They are just fine with tyranny.)

I checked this out from the library and can't wait to return it so that it goes to the next person to spread the word. I desperately want to own a copy and mark it up. And buy another copy. And give it away to someone. And buy another. And give it away. Ad finitum. ( )
  LibroLindsay | Jun 18, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 88 (next | show all)
As social and political winds change, librarians can find themselves in a precarious position depending on the nature of this change. Professional librarians adhere, at least in theory, to the ALA Code of Ethics—a document that outlines our general philosophies on access and censorship with regard to library users. While these guidelines are general, they provide a reasonable framework for handling challenges we are likely to face in the normal service of our jobs. At politically fraught times, however, these guidelines serve as a critical backbone for the ethical practice of our profession. As an example, the passing of the wide-sweeping Patriot Act following the September 11 terrorist attacks created direct practical and ethical dilemmas for librarians across the county by requiring compliance with investigators’ requests for protected documents such as patron borrowing records [Full text of review available through C&RL]
Snyder knows this subject cold...

For such a small book, Snyder invests “On Tyranny” with considerable heft...

Of course, just as I was pondering whether “On Tyranny” exaggerates, Trump tweeted that the press is the enemy of the American people. That sounds awfully pre-fascist to me. So approach this short book the same way you would a medical pamphlet warning about an infectious disease. Read it carefully and be on the lookout for symptoms.

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Snyder, TimothyAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dauzat, Pierre-EmmanuelTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eklöf, MargaretaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Enez, ZeynepTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Galli, ChiccaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garschagen, Donaldson M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kinnunen, MattiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Paassen, Catalien vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pokorný, MartinTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wirthensohn, AndreasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In politics, being deceived is no excuse. -- Leszek Kolakowski
First words
History does not repeat, but it does instruct.
A party emboldened by a favorable election result or motivated by ideology, or both, might change the system from within.
We need paper ballots, because they cannot be tampered with remotely and can always be recounted.
For us, the lesson is that or natural fear and grief must not enable the destruction of our institutions. Courage does not mean not fearing, or not grieving. It does mean recognizing and resisting terror management right away, from the moment of the attack, precisely when it seems most difficult to do so.
Make sure you and your family have passports.
A nationalist will say that "it can't happen here," which is the first step toward a disaster. A patriot says that it could happen here, but that we will stop it.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. from On Tyranny.

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