Yale Historian Timothy Snyder on How the US Can Avoid Sliding Into Authoritarianism

Is the United States sliding toward tyranny? That is the question posed by Yale University history professor Timothy Snyder in his new book that draws on his decades of experience writing about war and genocide in European history in order to find 20 key lessons that can help the United States avoid descending into authoritarianism. “I was trying to get out front and give people very practical day-to-day things that they could do,” Snyder says. “What stood behind all of that was a lifetime of working on the worst chapters of European history, a sense of how things can go very wrong.”

TRANSCRIPT

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JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We spend the rest of the hour with award-winning author and Yale University history professor Timothy Snyder, whose new book draws on his decades of experience writing about war and genocide in European history in order to find lessons that can help the United States avoid descending into fascist authoritarianism. It is titled On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Snyder writes, quote, “The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We 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.” That’s from On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder, Levin Professor of History at Yale University, where he joins us now. Professor Synder is also the author of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, as well as Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Timothy Snyder. Can you talk about, well, just what we quoted you saying there? Do you think that the United States is — is headed towards tyranny?

TIMOTHY SNYDER: So, I guess the place to start…

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