In my opinion, On Tyranny is the Buzzfeed ‘listicle’ for the politically engaged. Timothy Snyder’s book, which includes 20 succinct chapters, discuss and understand tyrannical rule.
The book, which clearly takes place in an American context. He uses language like “our President” far to often to say otherwise. Yet, in the context of this course, there is this a broad definition of of the behaviour under the spectrum of fascism.
While there are 20 chapters, there are several key themes that he highlights. The first is institutions. He wants people to understand that the ideas of tyranny take place within democratic societies. Rulers will use these built up institutions to consolidate power. Therefore, when it comes to political institutions like elections, one has to be wary about one-state parties and electoral rigging.
The second key theme is information. Media plays a major role in keeping the government accountable to the people. Therefore, it is important to watch for hateful language, slogans and propaganda. Also, it is important to educate yourself on the facts and not take information for gospel. In an era of the 24-hour news cycle, false news stories are easier to create and spread.
Finally, is to treat everyone with kindness. As we have discovered in this course, tyrannical regimes use inferiority complexes and the friend-enemy distinction to gain power. In Chapter 12, he encourages making eye contact and small talk, as a way of connecting with those around you , even in the most basic way, in order to break down social barriers and create trust.
In conclusion, Snyder states that history does not repeat, but it does instruct. These ideas that he presents encapsulates these historic principles of fascist, tyrannical regimes, and makes their elements transparent to all forms of tyranny. This way, we as a society are able to detect them and address them in all of its form.