On Tyranny

On Tyranny

Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century

Book - 2017
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Random House, Inc.
#1 New York Times Bestseller

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.

Publisher: New York : Tim Duggan Books, [2017]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780804190114
Branch Call Number: 321.6 Sn92o
Characteristics: 126 pages ; 16 cm


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Feb 21, 2018

So I picked up this book after seeing a (too) short interview that The National did with him. I found it rather interesting. It is certainly thought provoking; he has packed a lot into a few pages on each of the twenty lessons. Because of this, I am curious to read some of his other works where I suspect the details leading to him to his conclusions are expanded.

It is not time-consuming to read, but because of the the essence of each distilled lesson, there is lots to think about, discuss, and consider. Even when he is drawing comparisons or mentions a few books that he feels are worth reading (some of which I probably would never pick up), it was interesting to realize how some of the same points play out in the fictional worlds of books and movies (the rise of Palpatine in Star Wars came to mind).

Whether you agree with him or not, it is a booklet that can challenge you to understand the influences that want to shape your opinion and compliance. If you read it, perhaps you will be inspired to examine what your stances and beliefs are founded on and solidify that foundation.

Jan 30, 2018

Just one word: WOW!

Jan 18, 2018

This cautionary book is in the form of a little handbook. The title of each of the 20 short chapters is an instruction for protecting against one aspect of approaching tyranny. The chapter then cites historical examples from the 20th century (Stalin, Hitler and Putin) of the consequences of ignoring these warnings.

The book is obviously a response to the success of Donald Trump in achieving the presidency. While many of us have observed Trump’s obvious tendencies towards nationalism and tyranny and the parallels with Nazism, fascism and communism, this book explores the subject in well-informed, well-organized and easily-digestible detail.

Anyone who thinks “it can’t happen here” needs to read this book and take its admonishments seriously. It is an excellent handbook for thoughtful and vigilant citizenship in a democracy.

5 stars.

AL_LESLEY Jan 16, 2018

I got to start 2018 with a 5 star book! A wonderfully simple and strikingly spot on little book about what we can and should do to defend ourselves from tyranny. People tend to believe that Nazism, Franco, Stalin, Milosevic etc were a long time ago but it wasn't at all and democracy is never a forgone conclusion. This should be required reading for adulthood.

Jan 10, 2018

One commentator said "nothing new here." This isn't a book about presenting new information. This is a concise handbook helping the reader understand and watch out for policies and behaviours that help a tyranny form in a society. Snyder has studied how tyrants and oppressive regimes took root in the 20th century and wants everyone to be on the lookout for these signs now that Trump has been elected. It is a very good, important quick read. It reminds us that we cannot be complacent and cannot take our freedoms for granted. Any society and time is susceptible to knowingly and unknowingly handing over power to a tyrant. Snyder is thoughtful and concerned. It is a good book. Read it.

Dec 31, 2017

This is a thoughtful, thought-provoking set of aphorisms and reflections. As much as I enjoyed it – and believe that I benefited from reading it three times – I have to ask if the author would have written it had Hillary Clinton been elected president.

Snyder’s thesis is that Donald Trump represents a new fascism. Snyder includes aspects of communism and Nazism, as well, acknowledging that all three are variants of the same collectivism of the early 20th century. A couple of warnings do apply to Democrat Party politicians; and at least one nice nod went to the unnamed George H. W. Bush for his “thousand points of light.” But Snyder’s target is Donald Trump. And I have to agree, if only because Trump is the President, and, whatever her foibles, Clinton is not.

None of the quotations or citations are referenced; the book has no footnotes or end notes. However, the writing is unassailable with nice segues across the chapters. Snyder counsels us to be our own investigative reporters, to check stories, rather than just accepting what we want to view and believe. Snyder also warns us to be wary of sound-bites out of context. He then commits both errors near the end of the book.

Explaining why Donald Trump is a nationalist, but not a patriot (which I accept), Snyder writes that Trump wants to return to the economic chaos of the 1930s:
"The president himself has described a regime change in the style of the 1930s as the solution to the problems of the present: “You know what solves it? When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell and everything is a disaster.” What we need, he thinks, are “riots to go back to where we used to be when we were great.” (page 123)

So, I googled the statement, and found that it was made on February 10, 2014 about 6:36 AM on "Fox & Friends." Then, I found a plausible interpretation from Snopes. I checked four other claims Snyder made, and all of them were true. In any case, the quote above was unreferenced and taken out of context

About the liberal teleology of inevitable history he writes: “Yet they portray the present simply as a step toward a future that we already know, one of expanding globalization, deepening reason, and growing prosperity. This is what is called teleology: a narration of time that leads toward a certain, usually desirable, goal. Communism also offered a teleology, promising an inevitable socialist utopia. When that story was shattered a quarter century ago, we drew the wrong conclusion: Rather than rejecting teleologies, we imagined that our own story was true.” (119)

About the conservatives and 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.” (121)

This is a book to carry around and read when you have a moment. More to the point, it is a book to discuss with your friends.

Dec 08, 2017

A good manifesto against tyranny.

The book mainly draws lessons from WWII and Nazi atrocities against Jews, and projects this in an explicit anti-Trump theme (This is its major flaw). However, the lessons drawn could be applicable to any tyranny, whether existing or in the making.

This book is fast, short and concise, however the ideas are rich and challenging to the mind. A good read for practical political advise to guard against tyranny.

Not bad, but pretty goofy. It's a preachy book, so if you don't like that, this book is not for you. Preachy books are okay, as long as there's something else in there that makes it all worthwhile, like tons of valid info or a funny style. This book has neither, unfortunately. Too many times he presents information that he’s pulled directly from his backside. A lot of his material is logically sound, but it’s not new. A reasonably “edumacated” liberal already knows the stuff presented in this book. So, it becomes preaching to the choir, or worse, YAWN.

He rails against criticisms of the “main stream media”—which is actually the corporate media. And I know why: The establishment, corporate media adores him. The New York Times, and its cocktail crowd, lavishes kudos upon him. That’s why he sounds older than me—yet, he’s younger than moi. The establishment is old and boorish—and he’s proud to be a part of it. And they can’t stand people like Noam Chomsky—which, for me, is many times the scholar Snyder will ever be.

But he really goes off the rails when he talks about the “internets.” The printed word is so much more valuable and honest when compared to words on a screen. Yeah, he essentially says that! Ugh.

Enjoy your next, elite cocktail party, Mr. Snyder. Cheerio!

Aug 22, 2017

Pathetic book! From a professor at the 'Skull and Bones' headquarters, Yale.

For starters, no mention of how the CIA rescued and recruited countless Nazis, or the American businessmen, like Prescott Bush, who financed Hitler's rise to power. No mention of the fact that the CIA, in partnership with the School of Assassins, has interfered with elections and installed dictators in every foreign country to secure the interests of corporations, which is what U.S. "national security" really stands for. No mention of the "weapons of mass destruction in Iraq" lie of 2003 repeated by the same corporate-owned media who are now trying to rally hatred against Russia.

And which part of "no" do these elitist Hillary supporters still not understand? Yet, we're all expected to believe that the most unpopular candidate in history, who committed blatant election fraud in the DNC primary, is really a victim of Russian interference in the general election? Really? Simultaneously screaming at us Hillary-refusers for being "republican" while ignoring our main complaint about the Clintons and Obama is that they do a better job expanding the ugliest policies of the corporate elites than their republican counterparts Bush Jr and Sr could ever get away with?

Not to mention that 'patriotism' and fascism' have the same definition in the dictionary-- "love of country/nation," neither of which democracy has any use for...

Don't waste your time with this trite crap from Yale.

Read Eric Lichtblau's 2014 research on the CIA's recruitment of Nazis instead. Or read James Douglass's 2006 book on JFK and the Unspeakable. Or look at SOAWatch dot org to see the seemless transition from Bush Sr to Clinton to Bush Jr to Obama to Trump on U.S. training of mercenaries to torture and kill dissidents who dare to speak out against our CIA-installed dictators... or check out globalresearch dot ca to see how Russia is literally the only defense most of the world has against the unspeakable atrocities committed by the US/Saudi/Israeli coalition.

quite handy, and portable. "In the Soviet Union under the rule of Joseph Stalin, prosperous farmers were portayed on propaganda posters as pigs..A neighbor portrayed as a pig was someone whose property you could take. But those who followed the symbolic logic became victims in their turn."

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Apr 18, 2018

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.

Apr 18, 2018

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 to a fair trial, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Do not fall for it.

Apr 18, 2018

People who assure you that you can only gain security at the price of liberty usually want to deny you both.

Apr 18, 2018

Our appetite for the secret, thought [political writer Hannah] Arendt, is dangerously political. Totalitarianism removes the difference between private and public not just to make individuals unfree, but also to draw the whole society away from normal politics and toward conspiracy theories. Rather than defining facts or generating interpretations, we are seduced by the notion of hidden realities and dark conspiracies that explain everything.

Apr 18, 2018

Protest can be organized through social media, but nothing is real that does not end on the streets. If tyrants feel no consequences for their actions in the three-dimensional world, nothing will change.

Apr 18, 2018

Post-truth is pre-fascism.

Apr 18, 2018

"Professions can create forms of ethical conversation that are impossible between a lonely individual and a distant government. [...] Professional ethics must guide us precisely when we are told that the situation is exceptional. Then there is no such thing as 'just following orders'."

Jul 21, 2017

The mistake is to assume that rulers who come to power through institutions cannot change or destroy those very institutions.


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MichaelECasey Apr 25, 2017

MichaelECasey thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


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Jul 21, 2017

In On Tyranny, Yale History professor Timothy Snyder offers twenty principles for resisting authoritarian government, drawing cautionary examples from twentieth century European history. It grew out of a Facebook post Snyder made in the aftermath of America’s 2016 election. In it, he attempts to bring his wide knowledge of European history, and the collapse of democracies, to bear on the current political moment.


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