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On Tyranny

Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

By Timothy Snyder
12-minute read
Audio available
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder

On Tyranny (2017) is a guide to recognizing the warning signs of tyranny, which, unfortunately, is a political climate that many are all too familiar with. Find out what you can do to protect yourself and keep your community vigilant and resistant to dangerous political leaders.

  • Citizens against oppressive regimes
  • Freedom fighters
  • Activists and demonstration organizers

Timothy Snyder is a Professor of History at Yale University. His other books include Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin and Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning.

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On Tyranny

Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

By Timothy Snyder
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
Synopsis

On Tyranny (2017) is a guide to recognizing the warning signs of tyranny, which, unfortunately, is a political climate that many are all too familiar with. Find out what you can do to protect yourself and keep your community vigilant and resistant to dangerous political leaders.

Key idea 1 of 7

Resist tyranny by being politically active and aware of paramilitary forces.

If you’ve been following the news these days, you’ll no doubt know that America is bristling with hostile attitudes toward “foreign threats.” However, if you have a real concern about threats to democracy, it’s often best to keep an eye on the threats from within.

If you look at the democratic governments that have collapsed in the years since World War I, you’ll notice that each fell to a single party that seized power from within the nation.

Nazis, communists and fascists have traditionally used spectacle and repression to enable their takeovers. They’ve also tended to use salami tactics, the process of slicing away at the opposition, taking power piece by piece. Often the public is too distracted to notice the threat to their freedom.

This is why you must be vigilant and support a multiparty system. What you want to avoid is one power controlling every level of the government, which is what is now happening in the United States.

You can do your part by voting, in both local and state elections, and being politically active. It’s best to support the use of paper ballots, which can’t be tampered with as easily as electronic ones. And of course, you could even run for local office yourself.

In the meantime, another sign to beware of is paramilitary forces – that is, any military presence that isn’t state or federally sanctioned.

If someone wants to take over, she’ll likely throw together some sort of violent organization that acts as a paramilitary wing of her political party.

Donald Trump did something that most candidates avoid; he formed a private security force that followed his orders at political rallies. They were used to eject dissenting voices from the rallies, and the members even encouraged supporters to remove anyone who opposed the candidate.

At one rally, Trump gave a disturbing command: “Get the remnant out!” After “the remnant” had been removed, he asked the crowd, “Isn’t this more fun than a regular boring rally? To me, it’s fun.”

This is the kind of behavior that should make people take notice.

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