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On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
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On Tyranny Quotes Showing 1-30 of 403
“The president is a nationalist, which is not at all the same thing as a patriot. A nationalist encourages us to be our worst, and then tells us that we are the best. A nationalist, “although endlessly brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge,” wrote Orwell, tends to be “uninterested in what happens in the real world.” Nationalism is relativist, since the only truth is the resentment we feel when we contemplate others. As the novelist Danilo Kiš put it, nationalism “has no universal values, aesthetic or ethical.” A patriot, by contrast, wants the nation to live up to its ideals, which means asking us to be our best selves. A patriot must be concerned with the real world, which is the only place where his country can be loved and sustained. A patriot has universal values, standards by which he judges his nation, always wishing it well—and wishing that it would do better. Democracy”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“Post-truth is pre-fascism.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“A nationalist will say that “it can’t happen here,” which is the first step toward disaster. A patriot says that it could happen here, but that we will stop it.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“The odd American idea that giving money to political campaigns is free speech means that the very rich have far more free speech, and so in effect far more voting power, than other citizens.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“What is patriotism? 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 discriminate against active-duty members of the armed forces in one’s companies, or to campaign to keep disabled veterans away from one’s property. 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 ask those working, taxpaying American families to finance one’s own presidential campaign, and then to spend their contributions in one’s own companies. 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. It is not patriotic to share an adviser with Russian oligarchs. It is not patriotic to solicit foreign policy advice from someone who owns shares in a Russian energy company. It is not patriotic to read a foreign policy speech written by someone on the payroll of a Russian energy company. It is not patriotic to appoint a national security adviser who has taken money from a Russian propaganda organ. It is not patriotic to appoint as secretary of state an oilman with Russian financial interests who is the director of a Russian-American energy company and has received the “Order of Friendship” from Putin. The point is not that Russia and America must be enemies. The point is that patriotism involves serving your own country. The”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“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.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“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.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“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.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“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. Some of the Germans who voted for the Nazi Party in 1932 no doubt understood that this might be the last meaningfully free election for some time, but most did not. Some of the Czechs and Slovaks who voted for the Czechoslovak Communist Party in 1946 probably realized that they were voting for the end of democracy, but most assumed they would have another chance. No doubt the Russians who voted in 1990 did not think that this would be the last free and fair election in their country’s history, which (thus far) it has been. Any election can be the last, or at least the last in the lifetime of the person casting the vote.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“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.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“Politicians in our times feed their clichés to television, where even those who wish to disagree repeat them. Television purports to challenge political language by conveying images, but the succession from one frame to another can hinder a sense of resolution. Everything happens fast, but nothing actually happens. Each story on televised news is ”breaking” until it is displaced by the next one. So we are hit by wave upon wave but never see the ocean.

The effort to define the shape and significance of events requires words and concepts that elude us when we are entranced by visual stimuli. Watching televised news is sometimes little more than looking at someone who is also looking at a picture. We take this collective trance to be normal. We have slowly fallen into it.

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. In George Orwell’s 1984, published in 1949, books are banned and television is two-way, allowing the government to observe citizens at all times. In 1984, the language of visual media is highly constrained, to starve the public of the concepts needed to think about the present, remember the past, and consider the future. One of the regime’s projects is to limit the language further by eliminating ever more words with each edition of the official dictionary.

Staring at screens is perhaps unavoidable, but the two-dimensional world makes little sense unless we can draw upon a mental armory that we have developed somewhere else. When we repeat the same words and phrases that appear in the daily media, we accept the absence of a larger framework. To have such a framework requires more concepts, and having more concepts requires reading. So get the screens out of your room and surround yourself with books. The characters in Orwell’s and Bradbury’s books could not do this—but we still can.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“Once truth had become oracular rather than factual, evidence was irrelevant.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“If lawyers had followed the norm of no execution without trial, if doctors had accepted the rule of no surgery without consent, if businessmen had endorsed the prohibition of slavery, if bureaucrats had refused to handle paperwork involving murder, then the Nazi regime would have been much harder pressed to carry out the atrocities by which we remember it. Professions”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“Anticipatory obedience is a political tragedy.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“You submit to tyranny when you renounce the difference between what you want to hear and what is actually the case.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“Victor Klemperer, a literary scholar of Jewish origin, turned his philological training against Nazi propaganda. He 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). Politicians”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“History permits us to be responsible: not for everything, but for something... History gives us the company of those who have done and suffered more than we have.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“You might one day be offered the opportunity to display symbols of loyalty. Make sure that such symbols include your fellow citizens rather than exclude them. Even the history of lapel pins is far from innocent. In Nazi Germany in 1933, people wore lapel pins that said "Yes" during the elections and referendum that confirmed the one-party state. In Austria in 1938, people who had not previously been Nazis began to wear swastika pins. What might seem like a gesture of pride can be a source of exclusion. In the Europe of the 1930s and '40s, some people chose to wear swastikas, and then others had to wear yellow stars.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“Like Hitler, the president used the word lies to mean statements of fact not to his liking, and presented journalism as a campaign against himself. The president was on friendlier terms with the internet, his source for erroneous information that he passed on to millions of people.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“If you once believed that everything always turns out well in the end, you can be persuaded that nothing turns out well in the end. If you once did nothing because you thought progress is inevitable, then you can continue to do nothing because you think time moves in repeating cycles.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“There is no doctrine called extremism. When tyrants speak of extremists, they just mean people who are not in the mainstream—as the tyrants themselves are defining that mainstream at that particular moment. Dissidents of the twentieth century, whether they were resisting fascism or communism, were called extremists. Modern authoritarian regimes, such as Russia, use laws on extremism to punish those who criticize their policies. In this way the notion of extremism comes to mean virtually everything except what is, in fact, extreme: tyranny.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“Everything happens fast, but nothing actually happens. Each story on televised news is “breaking” until it is displaced by the next one. So we are hit by wave upon wave but never see the ocean. The”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“As observers of totalitarianism such as Victor Klemperer noticed, truth dies in four modes, all of which we have just witnessed.

The first mode is the open hostility to verifiable reality, which takes the form of presenting inventions and lies as if they were facts. The president does this at a high rate and at a fast pace. One attempt during the 2016 campaign to track his utterances found that 78 percent of his factual claims were false. This proportion is so high that it makes the correct assertions seem like unintended oversights on the path toward total fiction. Demeaning the world as it is begins the creation of a fictional counterworld.

The second mode is shamanistic incantation. As Klemperer noted, the fascist style depends upon “endless repetition,” designed to make the fictional plausible and the criminal desirable. The systematic use of nicknames such as “Lyin’ Ted” and “Crooked Hillary” displaced certain character traits that might more appropriately have been affixed to the president himself. Yet through blunt repetition over Twitter, our president managed the transformation of individuals into stereotypes that people then spoke aloud. At rallies, the repeated chants of “Build that wall” and “Lock her up” did not describe anything that the president had specific plans to do, but their very grandiosity established a connection between him and his audience.

The next mode is magical thinking, or the open embrace of contradiction. The president’s campaign involved the promises of cutting taxes for everyone, eliminating the national debt, and increasing spending on both social policy and national defense. These promises mutually contradict. It is as if a farmer said he were taking an egg from the henhouse, boiling it whole and serving it to his wife, and also poaching it and serving it to his children, and then returning it to the hen unbroken, and then watching as the chick hatches.

Accepting untruth of this radical kind requires a blatant abandonment of reason. Klemperer’s descriptions of losing friends in Germany in 1933 over the issue of magical thinking ring eerily true today. One of his former students implored him to “abandon yourself to your feelings, and you must always focus on the Führer’s greatness, rather than on the discomfort you are feeling at present.” Twelve years later, after all the atrocities, and at the end of a war that Germany had clearly lost, an amputated soldier told Klemperer that Hitler “has never lied yet. I believe in Hitler.”

The final mode is misplaced faith. It involves the sort of self-deifying claims the president made when he said that “I alone can solve it” or “I am your voice.” When faith descends from heaven to earth in this way, no room remains for the small truths of our individual discernment and experience. What terrified Klemperer was the way that this transition seemed permanent. Once truth had become oracular rather than factual, evidence was irrelevant. At the end of the war a worker told Klemperer that “understanding is useless, you have to have faith. I believe in the Führer.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“Listen for dangerous words.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“History does not repeat, but it does instruct.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“The most intelligent of the Nazis, the legal theorist Carl Schmitt, 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. Citizens then trade real freedom for fake safety. When”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“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.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“What is truth?" Sometimes people ask this question because they wish to do nothing. Generic cynicism makes us feel hip and alternative even as we slip along with our fellow citizens into a morass of indifference. It is your ability to discern facts that makes you an individual, and our collective trust in common knowledge that makes us a society.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“The first mode is the open hostility to verifiable reality, which takes the form of presenting inventions and lies as if they were facts. The president does this at a high rate and at a fast pace. One attempt during the 2016 campaign to track his utterances found that 78 percent of his factual claims were false. This proportion is so high that it makes the correct assertions seem like unintended oversights on the path toward total fiction. Demeaning the world as it is begins the creation of a fictional counterworld. The”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century
“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.”
Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

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