|The Reichstag Fire, 1933. Hitler used it as justification to suspend civil liberties.|
To be clear: we are not predicting that America will become a fascist state. But we will not say it couldn't happen, either.
Timothy Snyder, a professor at Yale University and a scholar of the Holocaust, is disturbed enough about the President-elect that he offers "twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today."
A number of items on his list are chilling, like:
15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.
17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.
19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.One item, number five, touched on something I've been meaning to write about for months:
5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don't fall for it. [My emphasis.]Professor Snyder mentions the Reichstag fire, but he may just as well have mentioned the assassination in Paris of the German diplomat, Ernst vom Rath, the event that Joseph Goebbels seized upon to launch what became known as Kristallnacht, the first pogrom of the Holocaust.
More about that tomorrow.