AUDIO: A Must-Listen Survivor’s Guide To Tyranny


By Christopher Lydon
Open Source/ WBUR (3/28/17)

Yale historian Timothy Snyder has 20 pills he wants us to take, and keep taking, perhaps to save our country. The stark premise that he laid out for us a month ago is that the real project of Donald Trump and Company is “regime change.” When they mock the legal restraints of “so-called judges” and call journalism “the opposition,” we should understand that they’re test-marketing their contempt for the rule of law and the constitutional protection of critical freedom. So Tim Snyder has written out his pocket-size get-real manual, called: On Tyranny, Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century.

These are warnings Europe didn’t hear in the 1930s, that grate on American ears today, but try them out:

  • Take responsibility for the face of the world.
  • Make eye contact and small talk.
  • Hinder the one-party state.
  • Investigate.
  • Be calm when the unthinkable arrives, and more…

The sidelight that fascinates here is on President Trump’s Russia-gate. Snyder is not much worried that Vladimir Putin’s hacking tipped our presidential race. But steeped in the horrible history of 1930s Europe, Snyder is alarmed about every tolerant gesture President Trump makes toward Putin and his Russia. “The way the Russian system has worked,” Snyder says, “since Putin’s elevation to power in 1999, is that… episodes of terrorism have been used at every step to do away with democratic and liberal institutions and to replace them with an ever harsher and more effective authoritarian regime.” When Donald Trump sweet-talks Vladimir Putin, Tim Snyder is telling us, we should be seeing his Russia as “a possible negative future for the United States.”

P.S. – Timothy Snyder’s call-to-action manual is back in the news this week, with On Tyranny’s Amazon page being hacked. As reported in The Guardian, Snyder responded, “The hack basically confirms several of the lessons in On Tyranny, such as [No] 14, on the importance of digital privacy.”

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  • Fascism Will Be On Our Doorstep In One Year If We Don’t Act Immediately! – How close is President Donald Trump to following the path blazed by last century’s tyrants? Could American democracy be replaced with totalitarian rule? There’s enough resemblance that Yale historian Timothy Snyder, who studies fascist and communist regime change and totalitarian rule, has written a book warning about the threat and offering lessons for resistance and survival. The author of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century talked to AlterNet’s Steven Rosenfeld. … Read the Rest


Timothy Snyder’s 20 Pills Against Tyranny Based Upon The History Of The 20th Century

By Timothy Snyder’s Facebook (11/15/16)

Americans 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. Now is a good time to do so. Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.
1. Do not obey in advance. Much 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 start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.

2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.
3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.
4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.
5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.
6. 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 is saying. (Don’t use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.
7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.
8. 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.
9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Learn about sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.
10. 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.
11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.
12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. 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.
13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.
14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.
15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. 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. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.
16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.
17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.
18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)

19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.
20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not [This was written November 15, 2016. – Ed.]. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.

–Timothy Snyder, Housum Professor of History, Yale University,
15 November 2016.

(PS: If this is useful to you, please print it out and pass it around!
1 December 2016)
(PPS: I removed a reference to a website, which as friends have pointed out is too context-specific for what has become a public and widely-read list. 2 December 2016)

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Russia Blamed For Amazon Listing Of Timothy Snyder’s Anti-Trump Book

By Danuta Kean
The Guardian (3/29/17)

Publishers believe that Russian individuals are behind the creation of an fake book parodying a self-styled manual for resisting US president Donald Trump and other populist leaders, with the author, historian Timothy Snyder, claiming the listing to be the latest attack in a series of efforts by Russians to undermine his work.

A non-existent colouring book by “Timothy Strauss” appeared as a listing on with the same title as Snyder’s On Tyranny. The blurb for Strauss’s book said it contained “lessons to Make World Great Again” [sic] – a slogan used on pro-Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin posters that have appeared across the Russian Federation.

Snyder, a Yale professor who specialises in European history and the Holocaust, said: “The idea of making the world great again appears, to my knowledge, only in Russian on pro-Trump posters in the Russian Federation.” He added: “The attack basically confirms several of the lessons in On Tyranny, such as [No] 14, on the importance of digital privacy.”

Historian Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny, which offers lessons on resisting repressive rule, provokes fake book listing that repeats slogan seen on pro-Putin posters.

Snyder’s book is a distillation of insights he has gleaned from 20th-century history about how tyrants can be resisted and presents practical actions to take against repressive regimes. This week, his UK publisher Vintage marked the launch of the book with a poster installation in a London street featuring the entire book. It is believed to be the first time a book has been promoted in such a way.

A No 1 bestseller on Amazon, the professor said he thought the listing was inspired by publicity for the book, which has proved popular on both sides of the Atlantic – coupled with a bad week for Trump, whose attempts to quash Obamacare were defeated in Congress.

 “Russia has shown a tendency to jump in to help him at such times,” he said. Pointing to the fight for the White House last October, when Russian diplomacy criticised opposition to Trump’s pro-torture position, he added: “Perhaps someone who supports Mr Trump construed my book’s No 1 ranking on Amazon as a small part of his bad week.”

Snyder claimed there had been a pattern of Russian action to undermine another of his previous books – Bloodlands – which tackled Hitler and Stalin. “The Russian foreign ministry, in an annual list, claimed that the existence of Bloodlands somehow constituted a human rights violation – odd for a book … whose subject was the violation of human rights,” he said.

A Russian company also bought the rights to publish the book Bloodlands in Russian, Snyder said, but the translation never appeared. …

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Choice Between Two Visions: Time To Wake Up, Liberals!

By Mark L. Taylor
The Commoner Call (4/20/17)

One of the worst things a political movement can do is to underestimate the power of the opposition. While the democratic party and their rank-and-file liberals have raised this dubious skill to a veritable art form, it is essential for citizens to not make the same mistake.

An article in the April 2017 edition of the New Republic reviewing historian Timothy Snyder’s newest book On Tyranny pretty much falls into the old liberal pattern of a wish-and-a-hope that has led to the rise of what is now a very dangerous – and powerful – right wing movement in this country as embodied by Donald Trump and sharpened by a growing street thug element of fascists. As much as we may wish it weren’t so, these dark forces have control of all the branches of government.

In his effort to reassure, Heer ignores one important difference between those past ‘thens’ and now: Donald Trump is actually in the White House. 

In his article Horrible Histories: The Perils of Comparing Trump to Twentieth-Century Dictators New Republic senior editor Jeet Heer poo-poohs comparisons of Trump to the great dictators. Instead, he argues, Trump is but the latest manifestation of the primitive, bullying nativism that periodically arises from time-to-time in American history as embodied in the bullying careers of a George Wallace, Barry Goldwater or Wisconsin’s own Sen. Joseph McCarthy. In his effort to reassure, Heer ignores one important difference between those past ‘thens’ and now: Donald Trump is actually in the White House.

There is also, a massive corporate-funded political infrastructure, right wing religious Christian jihad movement and fully militarized domestic law enforcement and surveillance state for Trump to draw upon. In addition, Trump’s lack of intellect or moral or even political center make him particularly susceptible to the likes of Steve Bannon and the Goldman Sachs bankers populating his cabinet and staff or, even, his totally unqualified daughter and son-in-law. Given the bumbling, tawdry arc of his first couple months in office it is not much of a stretch to say we are in whole new territory here and Mr. Heer’s reassurances may well prove to be dangerously naive.

Mr. Heer doesn’t really consider the trip wire of some national emergency (real or manufactured) that could send us skittering down a greased chute to fascist free fall that demands the suspension of the Bill of Rights, habeas corpus and government censorship and control of the media, and preemptive detention, all in the name, we will be assured, of national security. The trap has been set and the possibility of a modern day Reichstag Fire is not to be minimized. (See Snyder’s Point Number Five: Be Calm When the Unthinkable Arrives.)

All one need do is look at the recent manipulated election in Turkey to see just how fast a shaky democracy can be overthrown in favor of the mythical charms of a strong man.

Given what we are facing and the tiny, well-oiled pivot point we are balancing upon, I chose to put my belief in Snyder’s admittedly dark assessment of our current situation. This is one time it is far better to be safe than later caught sorry and unaware.