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Historian Timothy Snyder explains how Trump's world of fiction is undermining our democracy and how we can fight back.


The Path to Authoritarianism: Historian Timothy Snyder

By Senator Bernie Sanders, YouTube

20 August 18

 

istorian Timothy Snyder explains how Trump's world of fiction is undermining our democracy and how we can fight back.

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0 # chapdrum 2018-08-20 17:49
Very worthwhile. Thank you Professor Snyder.
 
 
+1 # kyzipster 2018-08-21 09:38
This is worth watching. It leaves an impression that Trump has created this fake reality. I guess it depends on what reality we're talking about, but I think it existed before Trump and will continue when he's gone.

The anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant fever has been brewing for years, Trump just stepped in and gave it 'legitimacy.' I think it's one of the most dangerous phenomenons we've seen since the brutal racism towards African Americans in the mid-20th century. When Trump is gone, it will probably get worse if we don't figure out some way to counter it. It's all about the media, it's all about money. The propaganda is extensive and largely out of sight and out of mind to people who aren't interested in that echo chamber.

'The left', or everyone else, may largely live in a different false reality in some ways, but to say it's the same is a false equivalence imo. It doesn't have the same fascist, xenophobic elements. The tribal politics may keep us stuck, but the liberal side does not pose the same threat beyond this.

If the cup is half full, Trump may have made things worse by giving legitimacy to this insanity of the far right but he's also woken a lot of people up to this propaganda. It's been with us for decades, so persistent and so pervasive that it's become like white noise, we only notice the very worse outrages coming from the far right. They're spewing this garbage day in and day out. Finally, everyone seems to be questioning what is true and false.
 
 
-3 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-08-21 11:19
I wonder if Timothy Snyder knows he is doing exactly what he’s accusing Trump of doing. He is fabricating a persona and history for Trump in order to ground a theory of authoritarianis m, which is itself not based in any reality. It was Reagan and Bush who perfected the American fictional nation and derived their politics from that. Reagan worked from a mythologized shining city on a hill. Here's Karl Rove on how Bush creates his own reality that other just have to respond to.


"The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' [...] 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judicio usly, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors...and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do'."

Rove is quite open about politicians creating their own realities. Snyder says Trump is unique in this but in fact Snyder is creating his own reality in trying to tell us that Trump is different from any modern politician.

continue --
 
 
-2 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-08-21 11:21
part 2


The roots of this thinking go back to marketing and public relations in the early 20th century. This was the era of American Pragmatism in philosophy; truth is what people understand it to be or a socially constructed reality that people generally accept. Human understanding and the public mind are much more important than old fashioned “objective” reality. This was the era of expressionism in art and stream of consciousness in fiction. Corporations also created a fantasy of commodity consumer culture. You have to read Roland Marchland’s “Creating the Corporate Soul,” about how corporations became people in this ear. The goal was to inspire people to want to create an “identity” for themselves by buying certain products. They should fantasize themselves in a new world of commodities. They were to be driven by desires. This fantasy world would replace the reality of the needs based economy. Watch Adam Curtis’ Century of the Self for a good overview of all this.


All nations have worked this way. Rome hired Virgil to write a fictional story about the founding of Rome. Jews wrote the Hebrew Bible and modern Israel has fabricated a history and reality in the extreme. The British wrote the History of the Kings of England, starting with the fictional King Arthur.
 
 
-2 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-08-21 11:24
part 3


Snyder also has a fantasy about fascism. He says it is about “tribes,” not individuals. This is definitely not the real historical roots of fascism which are in corporatism and its turn toward government instead of away from it. Tribalism is important in Nazism. Perhaps he confuses the two (odd for a historian of this era). Tribalism was called “race” by Nazis.

Snyder is just cobbling together a lot of gibberish he got from the media and he lies in order to turn people against Trump. Why not tell the truth about Trump. That is far worse than Snyder’s fiction. Why does Snyder think his viewers deserve only a fictionalized portrait of Trump?

Trump is not an authoritarian and his term as president is not a pathway to authoritarianis m. We do have authoritarians in the US. Cheney is our best current example. All of the neo-cons espouse an authoritarian or really Nazi ideology. Brennan is much more of an authoritarian than Trump.

Let’s be honest about Trump. He’s a huckster, a salesman, and a con-artist. He actually does want to learn something about government and he is a quick learner. His ideas about politics are poorly developed and ignorant. He is an opportunist who latched on to the split in the Republican Party.
 
 
-2 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-08-21 11:28
part 4


What is happening is that the real authoritarians in the US in the intel agencies and neo-cons want to destroy this upstart and send a message to all populists. That message is “we own the government and not you. We will decide who becomes president, not you.”

What’s happening in the media is a tremendous effort to “control the narrative” because the narrative is the reality or the pragmatic truth. There is a reality outside the narrative and it may be the actual truth, but if only a few people know it, then who cares. So the narrative tells us that Trump colluded with Russia. This is the created reality that people like Snyder are peddling. It is not true, but that does not matter if the masses accept it.

I've had a long standing disupte with Timothy Snyder. I think he's a pseudo-scholar. His writing on Putin and Russia are truly abysmal. They are just what the American cold warriors want to see. He's just a superficial man who is paid to help keep the masses in line. Chomsky and Howard Zinn had a lot to say about "scholars" like this. They are part of how the ruling elites maintain their rule.
 
 
-2 # Caliban 2018-08-23 23:13
[Snyder is] "just a superficial man who is paid to help keep the masses in line",

I'm not sure about the "paid" part, # RR, but the rest of the description sounds a bit like the part you choose to play on RSN, complete with superficial invocations of heavy weights like Chomsky and Zinn to awe readers (like myself) whose progressivism is more instinctual than scholarly.

But why not dig deeper for the rest of us and unpack the great ones in a way that will open them up and draw the rest of us in.? I know you can do it -- and that you'd probably like doing it as well.
 
 
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-08-24 10:52
Cali -- "But why not dig deeper for the rest of us and unpack the great ones in a way that will open them up and draw the rest of us in?"


Yes, sure. Many commenters on RSN do this all the time. Right now DudiestPriets has done it for legendary journalist, James Risen. I did not know what he writes but it rings true for me and opens up a lot of insights about Risen's stellar career in journalism. Here's DP --


"DudeistPriest 2018-08-23 10:48
More propaganda from a man who's spent his whole career with his nose up the CIA's ass. He knows damned well that sitting presidents are immune from criminal prosecution. You can impeach them, and after they're impeached then you can criminally prosecute them."

Is that what you are looking for?


I don't know who funds the endowment that pays Snyder -- He's Richard C. Levin professor of history. Levin was president of Yale, but some foundation is putting up the money for Snyer's job. The Koch Bros fund endowed professorships in economics at many universities.

One recent book of Snyer is "The Road to Unfreedom," which is a pretty clear homage to Friedrich Hayek's long discredited "The Road to Serfdom." His arguments are just as vile as Hayek's and just as dishonest. What both of them are saying is that economic and political development in democratic nations of eastern Europe is a road to unfreedom/serfd om. In other words, US capitalism uber alles. US capitalism is Freedom.
 
 
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-08-24 20:44
Caliban -- you are certainly right that I would like to see a good discussion of Snyder's work on RSN. He publishes a lot in journals like the NYRB. Maybe some of them could be posted on RSN and opened up for debate.

His newest books is The Road to Unfreedom. Its thesis is standard issue contemporary Russia blaming. The Kirkus review summarizes it this way, a good and very concise summary:


"How Russia’s campaign to undermine democracies threatens the European Union and the United States.

In a hard-hitting analysis of current events, Snyder (History/Yale Univ.; On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, 2017, etc.) argues persuasively that Russia under is aggressively working to destabilize Western nations and export “massive inequality” and “the displacement of policy by propaganda.” Beginning with the strenuous revival of totalitarian thought in 2011, Russia has widened its efforts to attack the EU and to infiltrate American politics by masterminding the election of Donald Trump. For Russia, the EU, which requires that its member countries are democratic and promote human rights, exists as an affront to its “native kleptocracy.” "

Snyder really does preach this junk. Russia exporting massive inequality. Has he ever looked around in the US. It was in fact the US that exported inequality to Russia in the 1990s with Yeltsin.
 
 
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-08-24 20:51
part 2 --


Russia is not aggressively destabilizing the west. Rather the west is expanding NATO right to the borders of Russia. It was the west which destablizied and regime changed Ukraine, Georgia, Ossetia, and others.


What "native kleptocracy" in Russia. Has he never seen western capitalism?


I could go on much longer. Almost all he says is just false. It is standard issue US propaganda directed at Americans who don't read much, don't travel, and aren't much interested in other nations and cultures.

I'd like to talk about his misreading of Ivan Ilyan, an early 20th century Russian theologian, who has come back into favor in Russia today in parallel with the return of popularity of the Russian Orthodox Church and Czarism. The church in Russia just held huge memorials for the 100th anniversary of the execution of the last Romanovs. Ilyan was a Czarist. He left Russia in the 1920s looking for more forms of Czarism. But his reasons are spiritual and not political -- not that religious ideas are not often taken over into politics -- the divine right of a king and all that bullshit.

The return of Ilyan and his teacher Soloyviev is very complex in Russian culture, something an outsider like Snyder probably can't understand. Or he could if he tried, but he'd much rather talk about the return of fascism in Russia.
 
 
0 # Caliban 2018-08-26 01:58
Thanks, # RR. I can see this is, indeed, more work than usual comments require, but I do appreciate your effort to fill out your critiques with details.
 
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