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#79- The Road to Tyranny A Conversation with Timothy Snyder

 
Nhoj Morley
 
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Nhoj Morley
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29 May 2017 18:55
 

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Timothy Snyder about his book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century.

The Road to Tyranny A Conversation with Timothy Snyder

This thread is for listeners’ comments.

[ Edited: 29 May 2017 18:58 by Nhoj Morley]
 
Saint Ralph
 
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Saint Ralph
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29 May 2017 22:40
 

This was an excellent discussion.  I ordered the book while I listened.  I think this one, along with your conversations with Anne Applebaum and Juliette Kayyem, give us some real insight into what is really going on.  America is being jacked people!  While I hate to attribute any kind of real skill or non-accidental cunning to Donald Trump, somebody in that administration is running a masterful con on the whole of the the United States.  There’s a chance, a good one if you ask me, that it’s being orchestrated by the Kremlin.  Trump seems way too dumb to pull off anything that took more than a minute or two to plan, but if you think about it, the dumber he looks, the more likely the American people will be to accept the fascist dictatorship we end up with as having “just happened,” as being “nobody’s fault.”

Please keep bringing these types of guests to our attention.

 
 
Emerich
 
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Emerich
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29 May 2017 23:12
 

Sorry, Snyder comes across as hyper-partisan. Gerrymandering doesn’t do Republicans any good because they have no ideas—all they want is to poison the environment and give money to the rich? Pulease, as though Gerrymandering is historically a Republican tool, nine years after the election of a Democratic President and Congress. And speaking of poisoning the environment, whose EPA spilled three million gallons of toxic pollutants into Colorado’s Animas River two years ago—with no political or legal consequences? His discussion of tyranny would have been more convincing if his book contained an 11th point, about the tyranny of the administrative state. But that’s a bipartisan problem, and perhaps doesn’t suit his purposes.

 
yamishogun
 
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30 May 2017 00:33
 

Timothy Snyder said that “Russia is in fact a very poor country where people are not free.”

Fact check: False. According to the IMF, Russia’s GDP per capita (PPP) is $26,500, about tied with Hungary and Poland. I doubt he would say Hungary is a very poor country - or would he? Freedom is more subjective.

I wish Harris would have asked toward the end if Snyder agreed with his statement that “the left is irredeemable” and how the left can push back against some future trump led tyranny if they themselves want to limit free speech.

[ Edited: 30 May 2017 00:56 by yamishogun]
 
Stuart M.
 
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30 May 2017 04:37
 

Timothy Snyder is obviously very much on top of what is happening in the USA right now. Unfortunately, someone intelligent like him is automatically suspect to Trump supporters. Part of Trump’s attraction for these people is that he has made stupidity and mendacity okay, and it relieves these people from actually taking the trouble to find out what the facts are. Who cares what Trump says, he’s a success, so I’m just going to cheer wildly, seems to be their M.O. What also bothers me is that many on the Left really have little respect or gratitude for American freedom and democracy. This self-loathing, this hatred of America, is so strong that these Leftists welcome a right wing authoritarian like Trump because he further tarnishes America. I can’t tell you how many times I had to argue with Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein supporters who seemed to hate Hillary Clinton more than Trump. Last, as the saying often goes “There’s nothing new under the sun,” and Mr. Snyder’s pointing at globalization as a frequent whipping boy for authoritarians is a great service. That also lessens my respect for Bernie Sanders (I still like the man) who jumped on this anti-globalization hobby horse.

 
gamut
 
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gamut
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30 May 2017 05:20
 

Although history is instructive in terms of the breadth of outcomes, it offers far too many degrees of narrative freedom.  When comparing the inferences of Snyder and those of Hayek, in the Road to Serfdom, one cannot avoid the suspicion that people who observe the same course of events first-hand can and often do generate entirely different narratives about political causes and outcomes.  This is a phenomenon very clearly at play in the siloing of conversation of the present.  People in differing political camps are living different storylines in their own heads, and are generating different narratives that they will later recount.

That isn’t to discount the possibility of compatible narratives, i.e., Hayek and those with whom Snyder have conversed could *both* be correct.  The former about the faults of a distributive system, and the latter about the perils of the descent into the propaganda that political failure compels.

However, the story of the lady who decided to end her cancer treatment on account of Trump’s election is either about someone who recognised a familiar reality, or someone who recognised a familiar narrative being told by those around her.  She might have, in effect, been led to death by the repetition of a story she had come to believe about her own past.

I think the latter interpretation is more likely to be true and is really quite pathetic, but that conclusion is just a symptom of my own narrative.

[ Edited: 30 May 2017 11:58 by gamut]
 
Art Dodger
 
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30 May 2017 07:04
 

I listened to you on Very Bad Wizards and gained respect for you, but this descent into totalitarianism line you’ve been taking lately is rather sad.  Trump is an incompetent fool who is fueled by an incompetent media in a world set on fire by cultures that are attacking human rights and the idea of a Liberty.

 
Celal
 
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30 May 2017 09:00
 
Art Dodger - 30 May 2017 07:04 AM

I listened to you on Very Bad Wizards and gained respect for you, but this descent into totalitarianism line you’ve been taking lately is rather sad.

Indeed, sad.

It was as if listening to couple of political hacks on CNN, yakking it up with shameful masquerade of intellectualism.  It was embarrassing for Sam to set up his guest for his hit job, comparing Trump to Hitler whilst providing a feeble cover asserting “we are not saying Trump is doing this .... by he could .... we are not saying we are there ... but we could be ...”.  Unbelievable!  The supposed clear thinker Sam Harris turned into Trump speculator, and Trump possibilities to vindicate himself whilst serving red meat to his base on the left.

The professor has proved once again that impressive resumes (on paper) mean very little when they start talking. Snyder says “Even if I’m completely wrong about Trump, it is good to know about these dangers ....”  What?  He indicts with accusations, Nazi comparisons, convicts based on innuendos and he would like an escape hatch for himself just in case he is wrong! And then this gem at the end as parting shot at Trump… “Polish Holocaust survivor who was being treated for cancer and when Trump won she decided to die and stop getting treatment. ”  Absolutely pathetic!

Sam has descended into a place he railed against in his great book “The End of Faith”.  Unreason.

 
wilbwil
 
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30 May 2017 10:33
 

Hard not to see the author as partisan and biased when there is no mention of the rising authoritarian left.  Anitifa, cultural Marxism on college campuses, BLM, anti free speech laws being enacted across Europe and Canada. Trump worries me but so does the extreme left.  I just can’t take Timothy Snyder seriously when he has such a clear cognitive bias.

 
Twissel
 
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Twissel
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30 May 2017 10:56
 

I usually don’t get so worked up but:

Jesus, has no one here an idea how to asses a country’s economics?

There is the little difference between average an median income, which matters a whole lot in countries with uneven wealth distribution. Some few make it rich, but the most commonly earned salary is something like $14,600/year gross.
Russia is also near the bottom of Transparency International, World Press or Economic Freedom Index.

Furthermore, Russia is massively underdeveloped and can sell next to nothing on the open market but gas and oil - no finished products (except for weapons).

 
 
Art Dodger
 
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30 May 2017 12:02
 
Celal - 30 May 2017 09:00 AM
Art Dodger - 30 May 2017 07:04 AM

I listened to you on Very Bad Wizards and gained respect for you, but this descent into totalitarianism line you’ve been taking lately is rather sad.

Indeed, sad.

It was as if listening to couple of political hacks on CNN, yakking it up with shameful masquerade of intellectualism.  It was embarrassing for Sam to set up his guest for his hit job, comparing Trump to Hitler whilst providing a feeble cover asserting “we are not saying Trump is doing this .... by he could .... we are not saying we are there ... but we could be ...”.  Unbelievable!  The supposed clear thinker Sam Harris turned into Trump speculator, and Trump possibilities to vindicate himself whilst serving red meat to his base on the left.

The professor has proved once again that impressive resumes (on paper) mean very little when they start talking. Snyder says “Even if I’m completely wrong about Trump, it is good to know about these dangers ....”  What?  He indicts with accusations, Nazi comparisons, convicts based on innuendos and he would like an escape hatch for himself just in case he is wrong! And then this gem at the end as parting shot at Trump… “Polish Holocaust survivor who was being treated for cancer and when Trump won she decided to die and stop getting treatment. ”  Absolutely pathetic!

Sam has descended into a place he railed against in his great book “The End of Faith”.  Unreason.

I had a lot to complain about in this episode, but you’ve encapsulated my thoughts pretty well.  Lately I’ve been downloading the podcast in anticipation of partisan attacks from the mainstream media, wondering why I would listen to Sam Harris when I can get the same bafflegab on television.  My only answer is that I don’t have a cable subscription, but that rationale is not very compelling.  I think that Sam should think about the secondary effects on his other more reasoned arguments, which come into question when he engages in these political opinion pieces based on questionable scholarship. 

At points I feel that if he continues, he may just convert his listeners to Islam because they may become convinced of his irrationality and merely apply it across the board.

 
WhiteRhino
 
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30 May 2017 12:57
 

Unfortunately partisanship clouds the value of Snyder’s obviously impressive knowledge on the complex history of the last century. I wonder if he was as vocal about his concerns on one party government in 2008 when the Democrats controlled the White House and both houses of congress?  I also think his confidence that Trump could not have won without a non-democratic electoral college isn’t backed by any facts.  He won given the rules set out for all sides.  The perspective of Trump as simultaneously a clueless ignoramus and the man plotting to end our democracy depending on which fits the moment better is so overplaying their hand that it makes these conversations tiring.  I guess I am one of Sam Harris’s fans who on this issue does think he has lost his mind.

 
Celal
 
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30 May 2017 13:24
 
WhiteRhino - 30 May 2017 12:57 PM

  I guess I am one of Sam Harris’s fans who on this issue does think he has lost his mind.

Not sure about the losing his mind…but it makes me question his authenticity with his ever increasing frequency of his elastic positions.

Not so long ago, he took a position on one of his podcasts about the Berkeley protests, and I paraphrase “If you must resort to violence you already lost the argument”. Sounded like a reasonable statement. Yet, on this podcast, he was the cheerleader for this partisan professor who said;

“disobey”  “resist” “

“Even if you aren’t sure what it is you are holding off, you should get out there and resist..” 

presumably encouraging kinds of disruptions that takes place on university campuses and in the streets. So, people need not know what it is they are resisting as long as they do what this professor says…. resist!  He says dont wait for him to do something. He says and I quote

“If you cant do ‘dont obey in advance’  it will be too late!”

The professor pleading for anarchy and Sam was cheering him on.

Trump wins a democratically run elections, these people declare Trump a demagogue, Nazi and Hitler and invite people to resist. Not wait before he does something. Do it as early as possible! Then they accuse Trump of being a man who doesn’t respect the rule of law of democracy. All this reads like a bad script.

If Sam is indeed sincere, he has lost his mind!

[ Edited: 30 May 2017 13:33 by Celal]
 
WhiteRhino
 
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30 May 2017 13:55
 

Celal, to be clear I was quoting or at least paraphrasing Harris who said that a significant percentage of his followers think on the issue on Trump he has lost his mind.

 
Celal
 
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30 May 2017 14:15
 
WhiteRhino - 30 May 2017 01:55 PM

Celal, to be clear I was quoting or at least paraphrasing Harris who said that a significant percentage of his followers think on the issue on Trump he has lost his mind.

Yes, I heard him say the same thing. I understood your reference the first time. I was merely trying to give him the benefit of the doubt on losing his mind prior to sharing my thoughts.

 
NL.
 
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30 May 2017 16:35
 
Twissel - 30 May 2017 10:56 AM

I usually don’t get so worked up but:

Jesus, has no one here an idea how to asses a country’s economics?

There is the little difference between average an median income, which matters a whole lot in countries with uneven wealth distribution. Some few make it rich, but the most commonly earned salary is something like $14,600/year gross.
Russia is also near the bottom of Transparency International, World Press or Economic Freedom Index.

Furthermore, Russia is massively underdeveloped and can sell next to nothing on the open market but gas and oil - no finished products (except for weapons).


I think the trouble is there is no one ‘best way’ to parse it. An interesting passage from The Haves and the Have Nots, when you compare this to the fact that China has the 2nd or 3rd (depending on how you factor in the EU) largest GDP, India’s is 7th, South Africa’s is 33rd and Russia is 12th. And yet:

More than 70 percent of the people in the top decile are from the rich Western nations, next come Asian countries with a share of 20 percent, Latin America with less than 5 percent, and East Europe/ former Soviet Union and Africa with very small shares. There are no Chinese or Indians (in any significant numbers) among the people in the top global decile. There are, though, more than 2 million South Africans and 7 million Russians.


When you look at per capita income, the US is about 10th, China around 80th, India around 123rd, South Africa around 87th and Russia around 48th. So how to account for societal vs. individual wealth? Hypothetically, you could say that if people gain benefits simply from living in a country with more money overall, then the higher GDP is better. If there are no such communal benefits, higher personal wealth is obviously better. (As an aside, I find Russia’s economy inexplicable. They seem to do pretty well for a country that sells nothing but oil and tomatoes [any news on their economy is always something about either oil or tomatoes, so I assume they must export trillions of them to inexplicably tomato-obsessed people in Finland or something. I guess that’s what happens when you live in icy places. Of course they’ll be in trouble if we come up with renewable energy and technologically advanced hamburger condiments in the future, but even in the present, it seems like there must be more to that picture - I assume it involves the part of economics that confuses me, which is 90% of it.])

 
 
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