Friday, April 7, 2017

Snyder "On Tyranny"

ON TYRANNY: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, by Timothy Snyder, 126 pages, Duggan paperback, $7.99

Timothy Snyder is a Yale historian who has immersed himself in the story of eastern Europe during the 20th century, in a series of powerful books (including “Bloodlands,” reviewed at RtO on
Aug. 21, 2016). That was a grim tale, repeated thrice: after 1918, 1945 and 1990, states formed as democracies but soon evolved into fascism, Naziism or communism.

Now in “On Tyranny,” he warns it could happen in America, and is already happening in other countries. His prophylactic is history, his antidote political action. And he is deeply alarmed:

“We can be sure that the elections of 2018, assuming they take place, will be a test of American traditions. So there is much to do in the meantime.” As I type this, the Republicans have just ratified, by the confirmation of Judge Gorsuch,  what they told us a year ago, that they hold American traditions in deep contempt.

So if anyone is going to do anything, it won’t be the Republicans.

I am  mindful of a story a friend of mine told me about her mother. She was born in Berlin in 1920 to a high-status Jewish family. In 1938, alarmed, she abandoned family, status and possessions and fled to the United States. None of her relatives thought things were quite that bad. By 1945, she was the only member of her family alive.

That resonates with Snyder’s Lesson 20: Be as courageous as you can.

He elucidates: “If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die under tyranny.”

In tone, and standing alone, that sounds more like a line from “The Turner Diaries”  than the work of a respected academic, but the difference is that Snyder knows what he is talking about.

Yet, if countering the dictatorial goals of Trump depends upon Americans understanding history — and especially if it means understanding the history of other people — then I am more pessimistic than Snyder. The motto of the Trumpeters, the Tea Partiers, the rightwing generally is the one adopted by the antisemite, antidemocrat Henry Ford: “History is more or less bunk.”

It is worth remembering that Ford had a private army that he used against workers. The thing about private armies is that only the very rich have them.

If you were, say, a Polish college professor, it did not matter much, during the past century or so,  whether the tyranny you faced was Nazi, communist, or, for that matter, tsarist. All were about equally ominous for you personally. And Snyder does not make practical distinctions between fascism and communism.

However, his historical examples of what to watch out for are weighted more toward Nazism than Bolshevism. This is, I think, an obvious reaction toward the Trump style, which is more Hitlerian than Leninist or Stalinist. RtO has noticed numerous examples (especially "Frenzy," Feb. 3, 2017), which are more an example of what evolutionary theorists call convergent similarity than direct descent.

To call Trump a neonazi is not to say he embraces National Socialist ideology. He is a nationalist but not a German nationalist.

Almost all aspirants to unlimited personal power have to adopt similar approaches. One that has become evident since the last time RtO listed the neonazi aspects of Trumpery is the reliance on family. This is not one of the 20 lessons in Snyder’s book and, in fact, is not associated with Hitlerism or Stalinism — neither had much family; but it is a very common aspect of most despots. Think Castro or Napoleon. Most despots don’t trust outsiders, and many have discovered that trusting family was a mistake, too.

But I do not propose that Jared Kushner will eventually strangle Trump and Pence and declare himself leader.

Our tyranny, when it comes, is more likely to assume a corporate or bureaucratic cloak.

Some of Snyder’s 20 lessons are more immediately pertinent than others. These  are:

1. Do not obey in advance

2. Defend institutions

9. Be kind to our language

10. Believe in truth

17. Listen for dangerous words



 









29 comments:

  1. And not a word about Mao-lings, who have provided plenty examples of violent assaults on intellectual freedom.

    Funny how you miss the fascists on your side.

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  2. Funny how the ground ax whines. Snyder -- the subject of this post -- works with eastern European fascists and communists.

    If I wanted to write a post about intellectual freedom -- and I might, I have spent some time thinking about it -- I would start in the obvious place, where these assaults have had real, practical substance: the fundie theological schools.

    I would avoid squabbles in academia unless they had real consequences, as they did in the McCarthy era.

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  3. Nope, no consequences here.

    Nor any appreciation that the Mao-lings are indeed attempting to impose tyranny, by deciding for others what they may hear. Nor any inkling about how the leftist fascists are attacking the ideals of the institutions they attend, nor their abuse of language, or complete ignorance of facts, or how rife their guttural spew is with dangerous words.

    It is already happening, and the Republicans have nothing to do with it.

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  4. No consequences as regards tyrannical government.

    Those people have no money, no party, no organization and direct no institutions.

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  5. Lesson No. 16: "Learn from people in other countries:

    . . . the present difficulties in the /united States are an element of a larger trend."

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/10/world/europe/france-marine-le-pen-jews-national-front.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

    The syndrome is tyranny but the vector is fascism.

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  6. Those people have no money, no party, no organization and direct no institutions.

    So the people who are actually doing all the tyrannical things mentioned in your post, who seem to have a strangle hold on every humanities department in every university in the US, all of whom indoctrinate their students (both of my children, one graduated last December, the next in a few weeks, have given me many examples of thoroughgoing indoctrination) have no institutions? They have no organization? Yet somehow are able to get away scot-free despite the most glaring violations of what their institutions allegedly stand for?

    You are a perfect example of why people find the press, and universities, so revolting. If you reported all the aspects of a story to the level of abstraction appropriate to the story, and applied the same judgment to identical actions, no matter who was responsible, then you would be able to make a claim to some degree of objectivity.

    You have completely failed. You make wild accusations based not on what has happened, but what you are certain will happen, while simultaneously suspending judgment on what has happened, simply because the perpetrators are leftist fascists just as you are.

    It is absolutely certain that had Trump supporters pulled the same utterly repellant Mao-ling crap that has been the rule in campuses across the country, you would be -- justifiably -- in high dudgeon.

    Yet, when it is collectivist totalitarians, just like you, there's not a peep to be heard.

    Lesson No 16 ...

    Denial is more than just a river in Egypt. She's an idiot for saying that.

    Just as you are a complete tool for giving Mao-lings a pass.

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  7. I think it's hilarious that, against Mr. Eager's somewhat overwrought, but nonetheless genuine concern over the direction being taken in the U.S. government and in other important institutions across the country (law enforcement, etc.), you want to place humanities departments at universities. If this is the extent of liberal indoctrination, it's a miracle we've come as far as we have.

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  8. M:

    Harry has gotten the vapors over something that hasn't happened, and shows no signs of happening, while completely ignoring that which has.

    Compare the severity and number of times Trump supporters have attacked people, with leftist-fascists attacking Trump supporters.

    Compare the number of riots involving Trump supporters vs. fascist-leftists.

    Compare the number of times Trump supporters have exercised very real tyranny in imposing their view on what others should be allowed to hear vs. fascist-leftists.

    The US gov't has taken no direction in the direction of tyranny -- and Harry can't point one out. Instead, he makes fatuous charges, and scarpers when asked to back them up.

    All the while completely ignoring leftist-fascism, because he is a leftist-fascist.

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  9. The US gov't has taken no direction in the direction of tyranny'

    You really should read Snyder, Skipper; at least 4 of the 20 lessons read as if they were written as responses to your comments.

    As for what the government has done, Lesson 2 is 'defend institutions.'

    "Revolutionaries sometimes do intend to destroy institutions all at once. This was the approach of the Russian Bolsheviks. Sometimes institutions are deprived of vitality and function, turned into a simulacrum of what they once were, so that they gird the new order rather than resisting it. This is what the Nazis called Gleichschaltung."

    Trump's attacks on judges are the worst, but not the only, examples of his would-be despotism.

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  10. You really should read Snyder, Skipper; at least 4 of the 20 lessons read as if they were written as responses to your comments.

    Would they include spying on political opponents? Weaponizing the IRS? Attacking judges over Citizens United? Repeatedly, grossly, lying about the ACA?

    Hmmm. Doesn't sound like appointing a constructionist judge to the SCOTUS fits. Speaking of defending institutions.

    What little Trump has done -- beyond words, nothing -- pales in comparison to the Obama administration.

    But that doesn't matter, because leftists can't be tyrants. No matter how many times they start riots, beat up Trump supporters, and demolish free speech.

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  11. 'She's an idiot for saying that.'

    No, she's a nazi.

    Lesson 9: Be kind to our language

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  12. Skipper,

    ---
    Would they include spying on political opponents?
    ---

    Be careful, least someone may think you are a conspiratorial fool...

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  13. [Harry:] No, she's a nazi.

    Lesson 9: Be kind to our language


    You repeatedly use that word, yet will not supply a definition when asked, and you stand on "Be kind to our language?"

    You are beyond parody.

    [Clovis:] Be careful, least someone may think you are a conspiratorial fool...

    It should go without saying -- on account of it is blindingly obvious -- that spying on political opponents happens all the time. Have you not heard the term "oppo research"?

    What is different here is that a politician used the power of the state to spy on opponents of his political party, just like that same politician weaponized the IRS.

    There is no need to resort to vapid (i.e., fact free) conspiracy theories here, since the facts are not in dispute. Rice unmasked (and lied out it) by-catch conversations; Obama ensured that the unmasked conversations got spread as widely as possible, so that no one could be tagged as a leaker.

    Just as Obama administration weaponized the IRS.

    And Harry thinks we are on the road to nazi (whatever that means) totalitarianism because Trump said a judge would be prejudiced against him because of his comments about Mexican immigration.

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  14. Skipper,

    ---
    What is different here is that a politician used the power of the state to spy on opponents of his political party, just like that same politician weaponized the IRS.
    ---
    And you got any proof on that?

    ---
    There is no need to resort to vapid (i.e., fact free) conspiracy theories here, since the facts are not in dispute.
    ---
    Right, they aren't. There is a general agreement that the FISA warrant was justified.

    And that Nunes is your favorite conspirational fool.

    But setting aside all the points above, you are in a bind: either I am a fool for believing the US has been deploying powerful tools to spy and influence other countries - incidentally, using it on itself - or you are a fool to believe the US would use those tool on itself, but not on other countries.

    Which is which?


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  15. The IRS appropriately vetted the applications of a group, theretofore known only as a political pressure group, before granting tax exemptions. When my friends applied for an exemption for their long-established home for abused children, they had to provide extensive justification and it required nearly three years.

    Skipper's claims about the IRS are baloney; ditto the /NSA review of -- wait for it -- security issues.

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  16. [Clovis:] Right, they aren't. There is a general agreement that the FISA warrant was justified.

    Elsewhere, I challenged Harry on exactly that point. How many FISA warrant applications have there been, how many have been refused, and of the remainder, how many resulted in any criminal charges?

    Given those numbers -- you can look them up yourself, but the former is in the thousands, the latter two don't reach the larger part of single digits -- who the heck constitutes "a general agreement" that these warrants were justified?

    I'm certain you can point to facts -- the reasons for the warrants, the evidence underlying those reasons, and the criminal charges that came about as a consequence.

    You can, right?

    [Harry:] Skipper's claims about the IRS are baloney ...

    Harry, don't be such an obvious tool. Lois Lerner herself admitted the IRS targeted conservative groups:

    On May 10, 2013, in advance of a public release of the audit findings, Lerner answered what was later revealed to be a planted question at a meeting of the American Bar Association (ABA) by stating that the IRS was "apologetic" for what she termed "absolutely inappropriate" actions. Lerner said that the extra scrutiny had not been centrally planned and had been done by low-level "front-line people" in the Cincinnati office. The Washington Post subsequently reported that documents showed that "IRS officials at the agency’s Washington headquarters sent queries to conservative groups asking about their donors and other aspects of their operations, while officials in the El Monte and Laguna Niguel offices in California sent similar questionnaires to tea-party-affiliated groups." Lerner's superior, then-acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, later testified to Congress that he had discussed with Lerner how she was to make the revelation and apology using a planted question at the ABA meeting, rather than at her appearance two days earlier before the House Ways and Means Committee.

    Then, mysteriously, her hard drive with all her emails crashed. And the IRS, somehow, had no backups.

    If Trump had been even peripherally involved in anything like this, you would be squealing like a teenage girl seeing a spider on her bathroom mirror.

    When my friends applied for an exemption for their long-established home for abused children, they had to provide extensive justification and it required nearly three years.

    I don't believe you.

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  17. [Clovis:] But setting aside all the points above, you are in a bind: either I am a fool for believing the US has been deploying powerful tools to spy and influence other countries ...

    You are a fool for parading vapid theories when the obvious, existing, evidence is completely sufficient to explain what happened.

    There is obvious, existing evidence that the IRS specifically targeted conservative groups in the run-up to the 2012 election. There is obvious, existing evidence that the IRS released conservative donor lists to leftist organizations.

    To be clear, I'm not asserting either of those things had any significant impact on the 2012 election. My guess is that the election was completely unaffected by these things that clearly happened.

    However, that isn't my point. During the Obama administration, many things happened -- Harry's trip down the river Denial notwithstanding -- that, had Trump done anything remotely like that, would have had Harry coming unglued.

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  18. Skipper,

    ---
    I'm certain you can point to facts -- the reasons for the warrants, the evidence underlying those reasons, and the criminal charges that came about as a consequence.

    You can, right?
    ---
    We both can't, right?

    So everyone can build his own theory of what really happened - politically motivated spying? Or a real concern over undue influence of a foreign power?

    The point being that, whatever theory you sign to, there will be no way to prove it for now, with every evidence amenable to multiple interpretations. It is not so different from our previous discussion of covert influence on the ME, with the difference that I can understand the conundrum, as opposed to asking you to buy steel umbrellas against raining pigs.


    BTW, if I had to bet, I do believe some extent of politically motivated spying happened from Obama's team. After all, it is hard to not use such weapons at home, after getting so used to doing it elsewhere.


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  19. There is way more reason to investigate Trump's ties to Russia than there ever was to investigte Clinton's actions around Benghazi. I remember well how Skipper called shenanigans on that one . . .

    Oh, wait. He never did.

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  20. There is way more reason to investigate Trump's ties to Russia than there ever was to investigate Clinton's actions around Benghazi.

    Harry, there are two things about Benghazi. First, was the spread of a lie about its proximate cause (hello, once again, Susan Rice).

    Second was two undeniable facts. All manner of international organizations had abandoned Benghazi because the risks had gotten too great. All manner, that is, except the US. Ambassador Stevens sent many requests to strengthen security there. All of which were ignored or denied.

    Now, given that Clinton had a very strong hand in the US role in the fall of the Ghaddafi regime, one might, just might, think she would focus on the outcome. Clearly, she didn't.

    Just as clearly, neither did the rest of the State Dept. Which she ran. Or so I have heard.

    Given those facts -- go ahead, deny them -- why should Congress not investigate what went wrong, and who was responsible, when clearly the administration did not.

    Also, I can't remember your ever calling for investigating the rampant access peddling that was called the Clinton Foundation.

    Amazing how donation dried up after she lost the election. Amazing how her son-in-laws investment fund folded very quickly thereafter. Just as interesting is how Chelsea got very highly paid jobs for doing, well, what exactly?

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  21. [Clovis:] So everyone can build his own theory of what really happened - politically motivated spying? Or a real concern over undue influence of a foreign power?

    First off, we can stick to known facts and see if they sufficiently explain the outcome. Hillary's email server was, in fact, a gross security violation that, if anyone else had done it, would have earned a prison term. Never mind that it was clear to everyone that if they had taken it upon themselves to delete thousand of emails, that would have been a prison term all on its own.

    Also, it was clear to everyone that she lied every step of the way about her email shenanigans.

    Then there was the strong whiff of corruption around the Clinton Foundation. And her failure to take any accountability for Benghazi. And the fact she was a horrible candidate. Also, it was completely obvious that super delegates very much rigged the primary in Clinton's favor. (NB: the DNC can run its primaries any way it wants.)

    There's more, but the point here is that taking Russian meddling as given, what difference did it make? Would Hillary have won if the DNC wasn't so laughably incompetent at simple IT security? Did the emails add anything that voters who weren't already in the tank for Hillary hadn't already assumed?

    (Well, okay, we didn't know how much the MSM was colluding with the Hillary campaign.)

    What is striking about all of this is what kind of information has been leaked: FISA warrants, Americans unmasked. But not one word of what was actually said. One would think that if there had been any incriminating information, given how many people want to illegitamise Trump -- hell with the election results -- that if there was anything than smoke, we'd have long since seen it.

    Pardon my aside. Your last sentence is on topic here. It appears that the Obama administration was abusing FISA courts, and unmasking conversations involving American citizens without cause.

    And Harry is fulminating about Trump.

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  22. 'And her failure to take any accountability for Benghazi.'

    BS

    Let's recall the outcome of the endless /benghai investigations: embarrassment for the Republicans in Congress, nothing else.

    So, you're OK with Russian meddling so long as te candidate you detest loses?

    Got it

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  23. 'And her failure to take any accountability for Benghazi.'

    Anyone lose their job? What price did she pay? Did she get a subpar fitness report?

    Harry -- re-read what I wrote above. Any of those facts in dispute?

    So, you're OK with Russian meddling so long as te candidate you detest loses?

    I'm not OK with the NYT and people like you invoking Russian meddling when you have absolutely no evidence for it.

    Tell me, exactly what meddling did the Russians do, and how do you know they did it?

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  24. Let's have an investigation, since the intelligence services suspect it.

    Remember who around here believes vote fraud with no evidence.

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  25. Remember who around here believes vote fraud with no evidence.

    Let's remember who around here insists no non-citizens voted in California, despite -- given CA motor voter procedures -- that is impossible to know. Only an analytically challenged prog (sorry, I repeat myself) would say otherwise.

    Let's have an investigation, since the intelligence services suspect it.

    And until the results of that investigation, making evidence-free claims about the Trump campaign colluding with the Russians, or Russian meddling in the election is in exactly the same bucket of merde alongside Trump's allegations of Obama tapping his phone.

    It is worth noting, though, that Trump was retaliating to the NYT meddling in the legitimacy of his presidency.

    Come to think of it, the most prominent example of meddling in the election is the MSM itself.

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  26. You seem to have fallen behind in your reading.

    ReplyDelete