On Tyranny
by Timothy Snyder
Tim Duggan Books

Protests can be organised on social media, but if tyrants feel there will be no consequences for their actions, nothing will change. Readers will find much to ponder in On Tyranny, a practical plan for counteracting the dilution of democracy. Rather than just issue a call to action in the face of popular support for the shredding of civil liberties, Timothy Snyder offers 20th-century “lessons” that allow him to share meaningful ways in which to act. These comparisons, however, many from Hitler’s Germany, sometimes oversimplify in a bid to answer the book’s underlying question: how to respond to Donald Trump (although Snyder never mentions the 45th United States president by name). Urging “be calm when the unthinkable arrives”, he reflects on the Reichstag fire of 1933 that Hitler used as a political oppor­tunity, or, to borrow from US founding father James Madison, a “favourable emergency”. Snyder cautions on the following: careless use of the word “extremist”; being hostile to verifiable reality; paramilitaries and the one-party state. He also urges individuals to stand out: “The moment you set an example the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.”