Timothy Snyder (@TimothyDSnyder) is the Housum Professor of History at Yale University and author of Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning and On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. [Note: This is a previously broadcast episode from the vault that we felt deserved a fresh listen!]
What We Discuss with Timothy Snyder:
- Democracy has to be an ongoing activity — not a waiting game for the next election cycle.
- How fragile a democratic republic can be against the concentrated efforts of would-be tyrants — and that the United States is not immune to their strategies.
- The small actions we can take every day to ensure we’re doing our part to maintain an open and free society.
- How to consume information critically in a “post-fact” world.
- Recognize the scary parallels between historic catastrophes and current events.
- And much more…
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Compared to many young nations that have dabbled in democracy, the United States has been lucky enough to enjoy stability and prosperity envied by the rest of the world for generations. But does this luck make Americans complacent enough to ignore signs of budding tyranny that would be obvious to the less lucky — such as Holocaust survivors who endured the Third Reich and Eastern Europeans who remember life under authoritarian Soviet rule?
Timothy Snyder, Yale University’s Housum Professor of History and author of Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning and On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century joins us not so much to scare us awake at what he sees happening in our country today, but to show us what we can do to resist it and avoid being complicit bystanders.
Listen to this episode to learn more about why so many of our Eastern European and Russian friends accurately called the election results long before the American press, the meaning of corporeal politics, pushing back against the normalization of abhorrence and giving advance consent to would-be tyrants, the tools we can use to oppose oppression, how we can critically dissect minuscule facts from mountains of misinformation (without getting burned out and just giving up), why deciding to do nothing is still a choice, what Timothy means when he says we must “take responsibility for the face of the world,” how we can stand up for the marginalized, the power of language in resistance, how people are manipulated into supporting policies that make their lives worse, and — most important — what we as individuals can do to stay motivated against apathy and safeguard our society from those who would deprive us of the right to do so. [Note: This is a previously broadcast episode from the vault that we felt deserved a fresh listen!]
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Miss our two-parter with former mobster Anthony S. Luciano? Get caught up by starting with episode 425: Anthony S. Luciano Raimondi | The Mob Enforcer Part One here!
Thanks, Timothy Snyder!
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Resources from This Episode:
- On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder | Amazon
- Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder | Amazon
- Timothy Snyder | Website
- Timothy Snyder | Twitter
- How a Russian Fascist Is Meddling in America’s Election by Timothy Snyder | The New York Times
- The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera | Amazon
- I Will Bear Witness, A Diary of the Nazi Years: Volume 1 (1933-1941) and Volume 2 (1942-1945) by Victor Klemperer | Amazon
- The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central Eastern Europe by Vaclav Havel | Amazon
- 20 Lessons from the 20th Century on How to Survive in Trump’s America by Timothy Snyder | In These Times
585: Timothy Snyder | Twentieth-Century Lessons on Tyranny
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Special thanks to our sponsor Glenfiddich single malt scotch whisky. You've heard me talk about Glenfiddich. They have sponsored this show very generously. Thanks for that. They've got their highly recognizable stag icon right on the front of the show art, right next to my cat. They've got a bold new line of work that aims to challenge the traditional notions of what it means to be wealthy and live a life of riches. Glenfiddich believes beyond the material, a life of wealth and riches is about family, community values, fulfilling work. These are the values that led Glenfiddich to become the world's leading single malt scotch whisky. Today's guest, Tim Snyder, well, this is an episode about authoritarianism, kind of the opposite of a rich life. Anyway, more from our partners at Glenfiddich coming up later in the show.
[00:00:35] Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:38] Timothy Snyder: It makes a lot of difference now whether we choose to talk to people who might feel excluded or whether we just let ourselves drift. In the memoirs of authoritarian regime changes, whether it's Nazi Germany or Soviet Union or communist Eastern Europe, you probably know this, there's always that moment where the person remembers, "Well, my neighbor who always said hi to me, no longer says hi to me," or, "My business colleague now is walking across the street, not talking to me." If we can just avoid doing that, if we can make sure that we're talking to the people, everybody who might possibly feel marginalized or targeted by this government, we're already making a big difference. Not only for them, but also for ourselves.
[00:01:17] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, spies and psychologists, astronauts and entrepreneurs, even the occasional national security advisor, neuroscientists, or money laundering expert. And each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:01:44] If you're new to the show, by the way, or you want to tell your friends about it — of course, I appreciate it when you do that — we've got our episode starter packs. These are collections of top episodes organized by popular topic to help new listeners get a taste of everything that we do here on the. They're available on many platforms, Spotify included. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start to get started or it helps somebody else get started with the show.
[00:02:06] Now today, one from the vault, this was recorded a few years ago. We're talking with Timothy Snyder, a professor of history at Yale. One of the most — can you say celebrated historians when you're talking about the Holocaust? He's one of the most celebrated historians of the Holocaust. I'm not sure if that works, but there it is. One of his latest works at this time of recording was On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. I read the book when it first came out. It's been on the bestseller list for a long time. It's a short book about an hour to read, go get it. We'll link to it in the show notes. It's got 20 lessons that you can easily consume. You should listen to this episode if you want to learn how to think in terms of protecting your rights and our democracy. We'll discuss mindsets to become and stay aware of shifts in how we and others around us think and behave.
[00:02:47] We'll also discuss details and small actions we can take everyday to ensure that we're doing our parts to maintain an open and free society for ourselves, our families, and our communities. And last but not least, some scary historical comparisons and some even scarier current comparisons — well, current at the time of recording, I should say. I think this is a few years old, again, take notes, but we can use these comparisons to become sharper and more discerning critical thinkers when it comes to consuming information and with respect to our roles in America or the world today.
[00:03:16] And if you're wondering how I managed to book all these amazing folks, it's because of my network and I'm teaching you how to dig the well before you get thirsty and build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Most of the guests on the show contribute and subscribe to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[00:03:32] Now, here's Timothy Snyder.
[00:03:36] What is the story of this book's formulation? And it's a little scary when I saw this — I actually read it right when it came out, thinking, "Oh, this will be this cool academic-ish overview of subjects that I'm interested in." And I lived in the former Yugoslavia. I've got a lot of friends in Russia. I've lived in the former East Germany. So I've kind of grown up in places in certain times around that — is nostalgia really the right word for it? Where it's like, "Well, things were great back then. Oh, they were also horrible and terrible, but there was also this good thing," because that's how people remember their childhoods or their teenage years kind of, regardless of what's going on, unless maybe there's a war in the country where you're living. And even then, sometimes it just depends on how affected you were by that same war. And I ended up reading a practical how-to guide about how to deal with something that you just really hope never happens to your country.
[00:04:28] Timothy Snyder: So the story of the book coming about is the story of me coming home. I'm an American, I'm a historian, but I'm not an American historian. I work on Eastern Europe, which means that I've spent the last 25 years learning lots of difficult languages and spending time with a lot of difficult sources. Having to do 10 or 15 years with Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and some of the darker chapters of European history. To do that, I've had teachers and those teachers have very often been people who lived through communism and often fascism.
[00:05:02] And then now that I've done that and gotten older, I've had my own students, people from Eastern Europe who have seen democracy recede. So when I write the Twenty Lessons in November of 2016, what I'm bringing to it is the sense that it can happen — that is democratic republics can collapse. I'm bringing to it the sense that it can happen to people like us because the people I learned from or teached people like us, and then also the sense that it can happen here, because I just don't have the assumption that Americans are wiser or smarter or nimbler than my friends in other countries where democracy has collapsed. I've been worried over the course of 2016, I'd written a fair amount about the Russia story, which I think I was actually the first person in the US to write. I wrote about interference in the elections in the summer of 2016.
[00:05:48] What I was thinking in November was that this is going to be a shock. What I can do is I can try to compress the things that I think I have — from wiser heads than me, basically — from the people who've experienced national socialism communism, try to bring that into some kind of crisp, clear form quickly so that Americans can make use of it while there's still time to do so. That's the story of the book. So it comes out of, two times it comes out of my whole adult life and then it comes out of that specific moment, which I wanted to react to quickly.
[00:06:17] We want to hope it's not going to happen to our country. And we want to make the distinction between our country and other countries and we want to imagine it. I think the huge majority of Americans do imagine that America is somehow cut off from the rest of history, that America is somehow special. And you see how people spin their wheels when that's clearly not true. So some of the main reactions from people who were worried about the election of Mr. Trump were things like, "Well, we've always been a free country. We've always been a democracy," which is not really true. "The institutions will protect us," or, you know, fundamentally, "It can't happen here." And the problem when you don't know the history of authoritarianism is you don't realize that your own normal human reactions, that those forms of exceptionalism, which are pretty harmless day to day, are a complete moral and political trap when your institutions are actually at risk.
[00:07:03] So I was writing the book to make sure, I try to help them make sure that people wouldn't just turn their heads away, wouldn't just say it can't happen here, wouldn't just say that America is exceptional because you know, in some ways we are, in some ways we're not, but you don't know how wonderful you are until you've actually been tested. And now at the moment, when we are being tested.
[00:07:18] Jordan Harbinger: I think it is an interesting phenomenon, really, for lack of a better word, that Americans, we as Americans don't get how lucky we are in terms of our government, in terms of our history, especially if you are a white male American, you really don't get it because you've never really had to deal with it in your lifetime, no matter how old you are, if you're still. And we don't really see that democracies can fail. We can get unlucky pretty fast, as far as being Americans, especially the middle-class white dudes in America. And the Americans of today are kind of like the Czech or pre communist Eastern Europeans of not even a century ago.
[00:07:56] Timothy Snyder: Yeah, there's a lot of wonderful stuff in that comment. I mean, I love that you've mentioned Czechoslovakia because the Czechs are actually a good example of a country, which in the '20s and '30s was more democratic than the United States was at the time by many measures, including its acceptance of minorities, and yet, nonetheless, collapses into communism after the Second World War in 1948 and many people at the time thought it was a good thing. Many people were in a kind of dream state or kind of alternative reality, which Milan Kundera captures very nicely in his novels. And those are people who are very much like us. I mean, if anything, politically, probably a little bit more savvy than we are.
[00:08:36] I also love that you mentioned luck because I'm not an American historian, but when I look at the US I think, "Yeah, there were these moments where we had to have good leadership and damn were we lucky with Washington, with Lincoln, with Franklin Delano Roosevelt." I mean every couple generations, we had to have a good leader. And by the standards of the time, those were exceptional leaders. Now the next moment and we're unlucky. We have terrifyingly bad leadership. If we've gotten lucky now, we would have gotten lucky, but we didn't. And so in that sense, it's the first time we really have been tested.
[00:09:06] And then your point about US history is also really well taken. Part of our notion of exceptionalism, you know, that we're not vulnerable is this conceit that we've always been a democracy, but we haven't really meaningfully been a democracy. There are plenty of countries who have been more democratic than we have been at various times, including right now. We're not a model democracy now, but the story that America has been a democracy for 200 years is that something, that you say that, you know, one white guy says to another white guy, another white guy nods. Women have been able to vote for a century. African-Americans have been able to vote for half a century. And in the last 10 or 15 years, we've actually been moving away from democracy with the more specific gerrymandering, with the voter suppression laws, with Citizens United, and the endless money in politics. We've been drifting away from democracy rather than moving towards it.
[00:09:47] So democracy in America is a kind of aspiration. Part of what I'm after in the book is to remind us that democracy has to be an activity. Acting in such a way that we might get better outcomes.
[00:09:59] Jordan Harbinger: If Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw their democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, communism, depending on which part of that geographical disaster you were a part of, our advantage really is what, that we can learn from watching what happened over there from a distance, hopefully?
[00:10:16] Timothy Snyder: Yeah. I mean, this is why the book is, it is a case for history. You're right. It's absolutely not an academic history book. It's something quite different. It's really a manual. It's a political pamphlet that gives advice drawing from history. But as such, it's also a case for history that there's a whole lot of wisdom that remains from the confrontation with communism or the confrontation with fascism or with other kinds of authoritarianism. And that wisdom is accessible to us, if we just accept that we need it and look back and learn from others. That's the advantage.
[00:10:50] The thing that terrifies me is how we can just look away from that, how we can just imagine that, "Oh, this has never happened to anyone else." Either, we say — you know, there are two American impulses. The first is, "It's not happening," and the second is, "If it is happening, nothing like this has ever happened to anyone ever before, ever. And therefore no experience is relevant," right? Whereas in fact, things that are happening now resemble other things that happen to other people. And if we can just break free of the horizon of everyday experience, if we can just get out of the horizon of the daily news and look back a little bit, there are all these helpful bits of advice which were left precisely for us.
[00:11:27] I mean, the people that I'm citing in the book — and this is probably important. I mean, the book is not so much of me being smart. The book is my trying to recall other people who were smarter than we are at more difficult moments. If we think of Victor Klemperer keeping a diary in Nazi Germany, or Vaclav Havel, writing The Power of the Powerless in Communist Czechoslovakia, they weren't writing for themselves. They're writing for other people and they weren't even writing necessarily for their own times. They were writing for the future. And that's the generosity that we have to accept. If we can accept that, then the way we see the present changes, because instead of just being stunned and confused and overwhelmed by the daily news cycle, we can think, "Okay, I'm part of some kind of a tradition of people from whom I'm going to learn and then I can take what I've learned from them into today and into the future. And I can make a little bit of a difference."
[00:12:11] Jordan Harbinger: I think the thing that really surprised me the most, and freaked me out the most, was when the election was going on and my friends in the former East Germany, who had lived through the East German regime, which is pretty terrifying, friends who've lived in Russia, Ukraine, and in the former Yugoslavia where I used to work, they predicted the outcome of the election pretty clearly well in advance of the press here at home. And it was too many people for them to have just gotten lucky or for their collective paranoia, which I used to make fun of them for, to have really played a part. I used to kind of laugh when they'd tell me things like — I mean, there's all kinds of conspiracy theories bound over in those places as well. So I just kind of chalked it up to that way of thinking when you grow up where everything is being manipulated all the time, and you do really only have a one party state. And it was kind of disturbing when they said, "This is what's going to happen because this is who's going to believe it. And this is the reaction that's going to happen as a result." It turns out that we gave ourselves a lot more credit than maybe we were due in many ways.
[00:13:12] Timothy Snyder: Yeah. I had a very similar experience as I was kind of going in and out of my American bubble in 2016. I tried to look at America from a Russian point of view because, you know, there are lots of smart people in Russia and, you know, they overdo things and they see conspiracies when they're not there, as you say. But very often they can be quite penetrating about aspects of American life that maybe we would be shy about, being specific about.
[00:13:33] You know, when you look at the U S from a Russian point of view in 2016, you think, "Yeah, here's a vulnerable society. Here's a polarized society. Here's a naive society where people are not critical about what they read. Here's an electoral system, which is shockingly open to outside interference, both technologically, but also just morally because no one expects it to come." I'm kind of describing what the Kremlin actually did to us, but I'm trying to say something broader, which is that if you take a step away from the US and look at it, it does actually look rather vulnerable to the kind of thing, which hit us in 2016. And yeah, my experience is similar to yours, where, you know, my friends on the Polish left, or my friends on the Ukrainian left, or my Russian dissident friends were saying that this could happen. I mean, because they recognize Trump as a kind of politician, but also because they recognize the fake news. And the kind of subterranean propaganda of the attack on Hillary Clinton and the stolen emails as a kind of politics they knew and which they knew could work, especially in a place where they hadn't been tested.
[00:14:30] So, I mean, one funny thing about Ukrainians, for example, is that they're much more resistant to this kind of thing than we are, because they've seen it before. They've grown up with it. They know what it is. I just had this funny experience where a Ukrainian war journalist dropped into Ohio. And within just, basically within a day, she was saying, "Trump's going to win," and I thought, hmm, you know, it's interesting that one smart person coming from a completely different society who actually just goes and talk to people is going to get it right, whereas our entire media complex is basically going to get it wrong. There's an upside to this, although it's a bit of a strange upside, and the upside is to recognize we are in one world. That we can learn from other people. We're not these problems that we have.
[00:15:09] One of the things we can do is we can reach out to other people and learn from them. And that's part of what the book does. I mean, some of the lessons in the book, for example, even the term corporeal politics, which, I mean just getting yourself outside, doing your politics outside and not in front of the screen, these are things that I've learned from younger people from democracies that have been challenged. So that can be heartening to realize that you're not alone.
[00:15:29] Jordan Harbinger: I think that is heartening in some ways, but it's also disheartening because I don't want to live in Ukraine. I lived in Ukraine before and I didn't like the government there.
[00:15:39] Timothy Snyder: No, I'm trying to give an upside at the end. In a way this is the whole approach of the book, that the range of possible outcomes is a lot broader than Americans usually — we think, "Oh, well, it's going to be some form of democracy," but why should it be? That's not the lesson of history at all. We have people in the executive branch now who are indifferent and hostile in fact to democracy and the rule of law.
[00:15:59] So our imagination may only extend to various forms of democracy, but reality extends much further than that. It's like, what we can see is the visible spectrum. There's a whole realm of gamma rays and cosmic rays and so on, beyond that visible spectrum, which is also possible. We need history and we need some knowledge of contemporary authoritarianism so we have some idea of what's possible. On the other hand though, if we have that, if we see that, you know, if we sort of retune ourselves, that we can see all of that, it gives us the tools to fight back. Even if we do it fast, I think we can prevent these worst outcomes from coming in.
[00:16:31] So on the one hand, it's much worse than on the other hand. It's also much better. Yeah, I don't want to live in Ukraine. I want to live in a non-kleptocratic, non-authoritarian, democratic egalitarian United States of America. That's what I would like.
[00:16:44] Jordan Harbinger: So then if things like that, if things like democracy's failing, which usually happens, it doesn't mean they fall into something like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, but democracy is set up with good constitutions and good faith, generally do fail. That's what history says. And you're a historian, so you can correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like, of course, we don't think those things are possible here. And they're possible here just as they're possible elsewhere. So, is what we're doing here primarily fighting normalization of the erosion of our rights? Or what's the primary thing that we have to do?
[00:17:19] Timothy Snyder: Yeah, I think that's a good characterization. The primary thing is fighting normalization. That's why that lesson number one in On Tyranny is, "Don't obey in advance," because if we accept that this shock is going to overwhelm us and we're just now going to take whatever happens every day is normal, then we're done. Then we don't have a chance.
[00:17:39] One of the things that we do know about 1933 in Germany, and about authoritarian regime changes in general, is that in the beginning the new rulers require consent, unorthodox forms of consent: just not reacting, looking away, internally adjusting your own expectations, and obeying advance. That is, you start thinking, "What are the new rulers going to want?" and you'd start doing it. If you do that, then you're psychologically lost, because you've started to normalize your own soul. It will be very difficult for you to walk back that process. You're also politically lost because the one time when authoritarian regime changes are vulnerable is in the first weeks and months. So if you waste the first weeks and months by saying, "This isn't such a big deal," or by looking away, you're probably not going to have a second chance to go back and to do anything.
[00:18:22] So if you can fight the normalization, if you can say, "Here I am. I'm not with this program. I think this is basically wrong. I'm going to think about what kind of America, what kind of American I want to be," if you can do that, if you can just be a stick in the mud while everybody else is drifting, then you have a chance to do other things. So that's why lesson number one is lesson number one, because everything else follows from that. If you can do that and it's harder than it sounds, then there are a lot of other things you can do that are very effective. But if you blow that one, then you're basically taking part in the authoritarian regime change, whether you like it or not, that's what you're doing.
[00:18:54] Jordan Harbinger: Can you give us an example of what it means to obey in advance? You said yes to try to figure out what the regime wants and then do it. But what does that look like in practice?
[00:19:02] Timothy Snyder: Yeah. So one would be the moment of the victory. So you could be the kind of person who thought that Trump was unacceptable for whatever reason. Let's say you thought he was an opponent of the rule of law. Let's say you thought that he wasn't a Patriot and someone who was likely to betray the US. Let's say you thought he was a misogynist. Let's say you just categorically oppose him, but then the moment when he wins, you'd find yourself saying, "Oh, but on the other hand, you know, maybe you've got a point about X, Y, or Z." And as soon as you open that aperture, you know, then all the poisonous air starts to rush in. And the next thing you know, you'll be saying he was worried about something else, something else, something else. And before, you know, you're saying, "Well, he's just like, I mean, he's got his problems, but he's just a politician like the others." If I could summarize that it would be like the expression on Wolf Blitzer's face on election night. Like people realizing that they think it's their job to make this normal.
[00:19:52] A second example would be at the level of civil servants. Historically in Germany, for example, if the civil servants hadn't treated the Hitler regime as a normal top of the hierarchy, then the Hitler routine wouldn't have been possible. And I'm not saying that we're exactly like that or that our civil servants are that yielding because they're not, but it is a reaction in the civil service to say, "Okay, the new leadership is going to be against human rights and therefore I'm going to start preemptively disabling that part of my job," and doing it even before the orders actually come down, that's built into people who work in bureaucracy. So they have to think they have to be active if they don't want to do something like that.
[00:20:32] A third example of not obeying in advance has to do with, the most fundamental one, I think, and there are other chapters in the book, it has to do with accepting what's true or what's not true. So one of the forms of normalization that you see a lot in the United States, and it's the one that the authoritarian regime changes are aiming for. And it's the one that authoritarians of the Putin and Trump variety tries more than anything else is when people say, "Well, you know, I'm not really sure what's happening because on the one hand these media say this, and on the other hand, these media say that, but President Trump says this, and Comey says the other thing, I don't really know," and that's being an advanced, because as soon as you give up on figuring things out for yourself, you're then just going to drift. Because without the ability to figure things out for yourself, you're basically done. So those are some of the ways it can look.
[00:21:16] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Timothy Snyder. We'll be right back.
[00:21:20] This episode is sponsored in part by Paint Your Life. We all know those people, the ones that are impossible to shop for, they buy themselves everything they want, or they're just that annoyingly particular. This holiday season steer away from generic gifts and gift cards. Get the gift that will delight and surprise your loved one. At paintyourlife.com, you can have an original painting by an artist done by hand from any photo at an affordable price. I got one of these. I got the show art as an oil painting. I was actually blown away at how fast they did it and how much it was. My kid walked in, he's like, "Daddy," and pointed at the cat and was like, "Maw-maw." So it's spot on. The artist nailed it. It takes five minutes to order. You send them any picture or you can even combine photos in one painting. They can customize the background. So it could be like you and your kid and your wife flying on a dragon with Shanghai in the background. I'm not saying that's my taste, but you know, to each his own. Choose from a team of world-class artists and work with them until every detail is perfect. You can even have them send you a time-lapse progress video of painting in progress, which is pretty cool.
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[00:22:41] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by StoryWorth. This holiday season, I've been looking for something a little bit more special. My parents are turning 80 this year. That's why I'm sending them StoryWorth. It's an online service that will help write their life stories into a book and it's a cool heirloom that we can pass down to our kids. Every week, StoryWorth emails your relative or your friend, a thought provoking question of your choice. Like, what's the bravest thing you've ever done in your life, or if you could see into the future, what would you want to find out? And after a year StoryWorth will compile all of your loved ones' stories, including photos into a beautiful keepsake book that you'll be able to share and revisit for generations to come. So once Jaydenis old enough, this is going to be a great way for him to learn more about his grandparents too. So I think this is a great freaking idea.
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[00:23:55] And don't forget, we have worksheets for many offices. If you want some of the drills and exercises talked about during the show in one easy place, that link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast.
[00:24:06] Now back to Timothy Snyder.
[00:24:10] So what are the differences between media silos, right? Because that's what a lot of people do say. They say things like, "Well, this news is probably fake. So that other news is probably fake. I'm just going to watch Netflix," or, "Sure, Comey said this in the hearing, but you know, he leaked this other information. I mean, he said that too. And then this other side said that, so we just don't even know who's telling the truth. I give up again. I'm going to go watch Netflix. Why bother? Everyone's a big liar."
[00:24:36] Timothy Snyder: You know, if you want to be an authoritarian, that's exact — like if you want to be in an authoritarian society, that's exactly the pose that you need to strike and that's exactly the mood that you need to have. And I think it's pretty important for people when they say — I'll use your phrase. When people say, "I don't know, I'm just going to watch Netflix." That means that you are actively taking part in the transformation of the United States of America from a Republic to an authoritarian regime, if that's your attitude.
[00:24:59] We're not in a moment where you have options that aren't choices. Everything you do is a choice. If you just say, "I don't know. I'm going to go sit on my couch." You're making a choice and the choice is for authoritarianism. And let me just explain that. If you want to have a republic, that means you have to be a citizen. And being a citizen means you try to figure things out for yourself. If you give up on the impulse to figure things out for yourself, if you just say, "Well, it's a bunch of stories one way or the other way," then that means that whoever has the most firepower, whoever can generate the biggest spectacle is going to win. If you stop trying to figure things out for yourself, whenever there's some kind of shocking event, whether it's a war, terrorist attack, something completely invented, it doesn't matter. You're going to get pulled along by the crowd. You're going to be pulled along by your emotions. And the system is going to continue to fall down around you.
[00:25:43] The answer is we have to do some things, which make us feel a little bit uncomfortable, which is okay, because freedom is uncomfortable. I mean, being an authoritarian regime is pretty comfortable. You're just unfree and poor. It's comfortable because you don't really have to think, you know, you can just watch Netflix. You have to do something which is uncomfortable and that is to just say, "Look, I think that the facts are out there and I think I can figure them out. And I think that this is important." In our present cultural moment, that can sound naive, right? It can sound like, "Oh, well, don't you realize it's all fake," right? I mean, everybody has become a kind of epistemic 17 year old, like, "Oh yeah, we don't know. We don't trust mom. We don't trust dad. We don't trust our grandparents," you know? And people think that's like, that's the height of enlightenment is not to believe in anything. That's not an attitude you can really afford in politics. In politics, you have to say, sure, I'll make mistakes, but I'm going to try to figure it out for myself.
[00:26:28] How can you figure it out for yourself? You can pay attention to people whose job it is. And those are the investigative reporters, people who actually do that day to day and have methods and have discipline. But if you just discard the TV and the Internet for a moment and only pay attention to people whose job it is to figure out what's happening, you will actually have a pretty good idea of what's happening. I mean, part of the tragedy of all this is that it's really within our grasp to have a sense of what's happening and to avoid cynicism. So you have to take that little tiny risk of saying, "Hey, I care. I care about knowing, I care about learning and therefore I'm going to follow these journalists. I'm going to pay attention to people whose job it is to actually get things right."
[00:27:05] Jordan Harbinger: I think that is a challenge because self-deception is a pretty seductive habit and it becomes a state of mind. Self-deception and laziness, but mostly self-deception couches laziness, right? Kind of like, "Well, you know, I don't have time to figure all this out. I'm just going to go on with my life." Really isn't just laziness, it's kind of like, "Hey, I think there's something really bad going on, but I'm afraid I'm actually going to see more of it if I look for the truth. So I'm going to ignore it for now and hope it goes away," even though in the back of my head, I know it's not going anywhere.
[00:27:40] Timothy Snyder: Yeah. I mean, that's part of what being a free person is like, I think is overcoming impulses like that, which as you say, are totally human and totally normal. It goes back precisely to the framers of the constitution, which is where the book starts. They think — and they're, I think, quite right — that our natural tendency is towards tyranny. They're worried that when push comes to shove, Americans are not going to cut it. I think, you know, justified in worrying about that. If anything, they thought the republic was going to last much less long than it actually has lasted. So, I mean, I think if they were looking — I mean, it's a stupid thing to say — but if they were looking at us now, they wouldn't be surprised that we deceived ourselves or that we were lazy or that in some part of our body or some part of the political system, we actually want to have authoritarianism, so we don't have to think about things. That wouldn't surprise them. In the least, they thought that we would have to have appropriate institutions such as the free press to alert us, to give us a chance of not acting in this way. They thought we had to have checks and balances so that the Judiciary, for example, could react against the Executive to give us a chance of thinking in a way, which is contrary to the way that the leaders are going to think.
[00:28:41] But now, I'm going to say something completely different, which is that a lot of this is actually habits. So a lot of what the book On Tyranny is trying to propose is that how we carve up the time in our days and have a great influence on how we think about the politics of the world, how much influence we think we actually have. If we can manage to do little dumb things, like spend an hour or less on the Internet every day and subscribe to newspapers, then that unbelievably elementary habit of picking up a newspaper at the doorstep can make us feel more connected and more active in the world. If we just sort of drown ourselves on Facebook until we've had enough and then turn on the TV, not only are we less well informed, but we also feel helpless. We feel like we can't really do anything. There's just too much varieties. A lot of it has to do with how we actually treat our bodies. Like what do we do for our bodies? What kind of day do we have every day? And that's as close to fitness guru as I'm going to get, so my response is over.
[00:29:35] Jordan Harbinger: So what can we do to actually increase our ability to take responsibility. In fact, one of the things that you mentioned in the book On Tyranny is to take responsibility for the face of the world. In other words, or at least in my other words, maybe be skeptical about propaganda and the things you hear search for truth and things like that. And also, this is one of the primary functions of this show in many ways is to challenge people to think about things they might otherwise take for granted. What else can we do to motivate ourselves to take responsibility for the things that are happening around us, for the conversations people are having? You even get into this when you talk about defending the language and it seems almost a little bit ridiculous on its face until I read it to understand what you meant by this, that we should actually monitor the language we're using in our own heads or that we're using in conversations with others.
[00:30:23] Timothy Snyder: Yeah, on the one hand, our predicament is a lot more dire than, I think, we'd like to admit. And that's the element of the self-deception that you're talking about earlier. On the other hand, this means that we have much more power than we think we do. Since authoritarian regime changes require consent, we have all kinds of powerful, although relatively simple ways to deny consent. All kinds of things, which ordinarily might not be that politically significant are much more politically significant now.
[00:30:55] So for example, the smallpox, it makes a lot of difference now, whether we choose to talk to people who might feel excluded or whether we just let ourselves drift. In the memoirs of authoritarian regime changes, whether it's Nazi Germany or Soviet Union or communist Eastern Europe, you probably know this, there's always that moment where the person remembers, "Well, my neighbor who always said hi to me, no longer says hi to me," or, "My business colleague now was walking across the street, not talking to me." If we can just avoid doing that, if we can make sure that we're talking to the people, everybody who might possibly feel marginalized or targeted by this government, we're already making a big difference. Not only for them, but also for ourselves.
[00:31:34] How we use the language, you mentioned this, this is lesson nine, I think, "Be kind to the language." This is hugely important. One of the ways that our sense of imagination gets crushed, gets compressed, is that we fill our heads over and over again with the things that people are saying today. And of course, it's natural to try to figure out what's going on today. I mean, very exciting things are happening every day but the way that the news covers it is by using extraordinarily small vocabulary, which is largely designed by, you know, the administration and its opponents every morning, pitching a few very short cliches to the media about what's happening. And then those talking points pound their way into our brains over the course of the news cycle. If we read, if we take some distance, if we use broader swaths of the language, if we have enough time in our day to read a few pages of a novel or a few pages of a history book, then we can express ourselves differently. And just in the act of expressing herself differently, we also broadened the political discussion, so that it becomes less about the yes and the no, less about accepting or denying the day's talking point, and more about perhaps figuring out what's going on. If we all use the language more broadly, we end up broadening the whole public's fear and we end up creating the possibility for more connections among people. These are all in, you know, face the world, which you mentioned, this is also hugely important.
[00:32:47] I mean, the example, which is closest to my heart are the swastikas because I work on the Holocaust. There just are now more swastikas in the US than they were before. There are also more people who are getting up early in the morning and whitewashing the swastikas than there were before. And those people are making a difference because if we get used to seeing the swastikas, then we can also get used to other things. Where we are it means that little activities, especially regular ones can make a huge difference, but we have to accept where we are. If we accept where we are, then we can also see that these small things, which don't appear to be political, actually are politically very powerful.
[00:33:22] Jordan Harbinger: Why is that? This seems like such a small thing. Like again, going back to the language, who cares if I use the same tropes that are on the news or that pop culture sources are using there? Aren't those the same ones that are being used by both sides? I mean, isn't that the common language? Why should I worry about which words we're using? And on that same note, why does it matter if I talk to the people I work with or talk to my neighbors or I don't?
[00:33:47] I mean, I have definitely noticed that difference in Eastern Europe and even in the former East Germany, people just didn't talk to each other that much even afterwards because it wasn't really a culture that was built out like that. And they were our immediate neighbors in Germany that were very close to, but when I looked in countries like Yugoslavia and things like that, a lot of the people they didn't even really know who lived in their same apartment building. When I was in Ukraine, there were people that lived in the same building as us with the family that I lived with and they'd been there for years and years and years, and we saw people in the hall and when I was with them, they never said anything. I thought that was really weird.
[00:34:20] Timothy Snyder: You've answered your own question really beautifully, but I'm going to take a stab at it anyway. When Americans think about what an authoritarian government would look like or what a repressive state would look like, I think we first think of the big personalities. We think of Hitler. We think of Stalin. And then we imagine a government that has unlimited power, which is just overwhelming, which can do whatever it wants. And when we do this, what we're effectively doing is we're ascribing to Hitler and Stalin superpowers. These people who just kind of stride onto the stage, and they can do whatever they want.
[00:34:51] That way of thinking about it perfectly destroys all of our responsibility, all of the responsibility of the Germans, all the responsibility of the Russians or whoever it might be, because it's always the case that masses of people have to, in some way, participate, if only passively, if only by letting things happen. Not letting things happen involves thinking of yourself as an individual and choosing how you're going to talk and how you're going to make your way through the world.
[00:35:20] Just the very decision that you're going to be an individual, and that you're going to talk about things in your own way, actually matters tremendously because it means, to take your example, that you can talk to your neighbors, or you can talk to somebody in a bar who may or may not agree with you completely. But if you've got your own way of talking, which doesn't immediately fall into one thing or the other thing, then you might find some other areas where you can agree, or you can at least get along and where they see you as a person and maybe something that you say sticks in their mind and ends up having some kind of conversation later on.
[00:35:53] Another very important thing is the possibility of trust, right? So there's something we take for granted. We take trust for granted, like we take air for granted. There are all kinds of things that are possible in our basically functional rule law societies that depend upon trust. Trust depends on language. If we get so deep down in our silos that we can't communicate one with the other, if we all just repeat various kinds of cliches, then we end up not trusting one another. If we don't trust one another, then we can't really have the rule of law and we can't really have democracy. I'm thinking of this because of your example of Ukraine or post-communist situations.
[00:36:25] In soviet setups, people were only free in the kitchen. People did have a deep sense of trust, but for a very small number of other people, usually family members or close friends, and you would talk in the kitchen, literally in the kitchen. It's normal for a totalitarian state. If you want to avoid that kind of thing, you have to try as an individual citizen to keep the trust going, to keep the communication going outside of the home in other places. One way that really struck me was in the run-up to the election where I realized that when I was talking to people about politics, that I was very often not talking to them. I was interrupting the conversation they were just having with their Facebook feed. It was like I was intervening in their desire to be all alone with the one thing which they trusted, which was their computer basically. If we go too far in that direction, we're just not going to trust one another as people. But I think, you know, I think we can break that. We just have to be aware that it's happening. .
[00:37:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I think that being aware that it's happening is actually kind of tricky in the moment because you give, actually, a really brilliant analogy of this. I believe it was in something I've read online, speaking of my Facebook feed, but that people forget what freedom and we forget what liberty are. It's like cake, once it's gone, you just don't know what it is. It's not like, "Oh, yeah, there's some of that somewhere." It's just gone. You have no concept of it at any point, anymore.
[00:37:41] Timothy Snyder: Yeah, this is an obsession of mine that we can give up freedom the same way that heat rises from hot water. At a certain point, it's just not there and the waters become cold and, you know, you start to shrink and you're unhappy. But you're not really sure exactly when it happened. When did it go wrong? Everything was fine for a long time. Part of our problem is that, I'm not speaking for you, but so few of us have actually done anything to deserve living in a free society. And this is partly a generational issue. I think one of the reasons why we're so obsessed or were until recently with the Second World War is this notion that those are people who did something, right?
[00:38:21] But all across the west, we've now lost touch with the moments in the 20th century when freedom really was — I mean, not to sound too dramatic or like a mini series, but we're freedom of tens of millions of people really did hang by a thread and where it was clear that action did matter. We've lost track of that. And the irony is we can jump too quickly to thinking, "Well, nothing that we do really matters," and we lack the imagination of what losing freedom would be. Like. We think, "We'll see it coming,'' but we won't. Unless we know how to look, we won't see it coming. I mean, if you don't see it coming now with the denunciation programs of the Department of Homeland security, with the obvious targeting of Muslims and other people just because they can be marginally associated with the bad parts of globalization, the total mendacity campaign of the White House, with the demand for loyalty which is a fascist cliche — if you don't see it coming now, that means you're never going to see it.
[00:39:14] You have to recognize that it's not going to come at you like some black figure, right? It's not going to come at you like some overwhelming supervillain. It's going to come at you by getting into your personality, making you think, "Ah, I can do without this. I can do without that. It's kind of fun to denounce people. What's the big deal if there's a swastika on the train station in my neighborhood?" You get used to things and then you live in this world that's half free and half not, but then the terrifying thing, at least for me, the thing which animates me, is the notion that the next generation of Americans could have no idea what being free is actually like, and then the one after them. And then we'd have to go through the entire thing all over again from the start and who knows if we would.
[00:39:54] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Timothy Snyder. We'll be right back.
[00:39:58] This episode is sponsored in part by Glenfiddich. Glenfiddich breaks from the single malt scotch whisky norm and helps redefine what it means to be rich. We all get bogged down in material success when the currency of the new rich, it's about getting more time and enjoyment out of what we've already got. Glenfiddich has been around for 130-plus years. It's a family business. I don't know how they have avoided killing each other, but they've done a great job building this. It's the best-selling single malt scotch whisky in the world. They invented the category internationally in the '60s. Can't beat that. It must have been kind of scary to innovate a beverage category. Glenfiddich was actually the first brand to open its distillery to visitors, essentially starting whisky tourism, which a lot of people do. I'm more of like a drink-the-whisky guy rather than a look at how the whisky is made, but you know what, that's why I buy it at the store instead of flying all the way to Scotland. Maybe one day that'll change.
[00:40:45] Jen Harbinger: Skillfully crafted, enjoy responsibly. Glenfiddich 2021 imported by William Grant and Sons Inc. New York, New York.
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[00:42:22] Jordan Harbinger: And now for the rest of my conversation with Timothy Snyder.
[00:42:27] Right. Who knows if we would, especially now that technology and things like that, make it easier to entrench things like this and make them, regimes like this, and make them more ubiquitous. When you see outside resistance reforming Germany, that resistance came from a free United States. It wasn't going to happen from inside, most likely. And if it did, it was going to take a long time. There's a reason that Hitler called it the 1000-year Reich. I mean, it wasn't something that was going to stop in his mind with another election during his lifetime or during the next 10 lifetimes of people that he had planned to succeed him. Labeling groups of your friends and neighbors is the bad part of globalization, picking out a group of your neighbors and citizens, fellow citizens, and associating them with some sort of worldwide globalistist threat — well, gee, that sounds like 1930, doesn't it?
[00:43:14] Timothy Snyder: Well, yeah, of course, it is. And it's a quite conscious use of that history. One of the reasons why we can't afford to let history go is that people who like the 1930s haven't let history go. American and European right wing and fascist thinkers of the 1930s are in fashion in the alt-right They're in fashion with Mr. Bannon. We can say, "Oh, that doesn't really matter," but if it matters to the people who are governing us, then it matters to us directly, whether we like it or not. You're exactly right. Fascism is a few things, but one of the things that fascism is, is a way to handle globalization.
[00:43:48] Globalization is inevitable. It's just there. It's not the fault of you. It's not the fault of me, but it just so happens that we're living in a world together with lots of other people with one economy, which has linked in impossibly complicated ways. And you can either face up to that, try to deal with that, say, "Okay, we're going to have policies which are going to minimize the inequality and maximize the opportunity. And we're going to be real citizens about this and to face up to it," or you can say, "Well, globalization is not really a condition. It's a conspiracy. It's not impersonal, it's personal. And here are the people."
[00:44:18] And those people for the fascists were the Jews usually, although not always exclusively. They can be the Jews now, but they can also be — it can be the Mexicans, it can be the Chinese, it can be the Muslims. The way that this works, regardless of whether it's X, Y, Z, P, D, or Q, the way the politics were once you start accepting that your neighbor is not your neighbor, but is an element of a larger global conspiracy, then you stop being a citizen of the country and you start being what you think of as a defender of the virtues of your special group from this global threat. As soon as you start thinking of your neighbor as someone you denounce as opposed to someone who's your fellow citizen, or your neighbor, then you are taking part in the authoritarian regime change. And if we choose not to understand it, you know, then we're inviting problems.
[00:45:01] Yeah, and the global thing really is striking to me. I spend a certain amount of time reading the Twitter feeds of people with whom I disagree. And it's really striking how a lot of folks on the American right talk about the globalism, you know, which is an imagined conspiracy, and they do it to the exclusion of real enemies, of actual threats. So I mean, one thing which is weird, which is happening now is a lot of folks on the right are spending their Twitter feeds talking about resisting globalism when there actually is a foreign entity. You know, there's an enemy which has interfered in our elections and we're going to overlook real problems, real threats, you know, in order to create imaginatively some kind of conspiracy. That's where we are right now.
[00:45:37] Jordan Harbinger: Here's a question that I hadn't planned on asking, but you're just the right guy for this. Russia in the '90s dipped into democracy and then got out of democracy pretty fast. I've read a ton about Putin. It's one of my obsessions that doesn't seemingly have any connection to the things that we talk about here on the show, although it's starting to become so important that I can't ignore it. But the Russian system stabilizes inequality because it uses fear and scarcity, et cetera, to keep the status quo. And when you look at guys like Putin doing extreme things like blowing up apartment buildings inside Moscow, using the security service, to scare people into obedience, that stuff is not even just straight out of Nineteen Eighty-Four. It's straight out of the nightmares that people have in the book Nineteen Eighty-Four. Why is this model spreading? It seems like there's some obvious answer that I'm missing here. I mean, does Russia have to spread this negative disastrous model? Because Russia isn't becoming more like Europe and the USA, they've got to somehow try to make the USA in Europe more like Russia. Is that the case? And if so, why? How does that work?
[00:46:43] Timothy Snyder: No, I think you've captured it pretty well. It's a little bit like in the 1990s, we could think our institutions are going to spread from West to East. There's a kind of gravity to this. Things are going to slide from West to East. People are going to become more like us. What do we notice that are not in the last 10 years that seesaw is now tilting the other way and things are rolling down from East to West. And many of the things as we were talking about before, with respect to elections, many of the things that have happened here in the last year already happened in Russia, whether it was five years ago or 10 years ago or 20 years.
[00:47:18] I think what's happened is that the current Russian regime recognizes A, that it can't actually reform the country over address the terrifying levels of economic inequality without losing their own grip and B, they can't bring Russia closer to Europe or the European model, again, without losing their grip. And rather than conceding defeat they've come something which is very intelligent, which is to say, "We're going to deny that it can get any better." So, this is how Russian authoritarianism is different from the big ideology of the 20th century. The big ideology of the 20th century said, "There's some better world out there and we're going to get there." And they said, "Liberal democracy is irrelevant because liberal democracy is failing and it's much worse than these utopias we've got." What the Russian leadership says is, "No," what they're saying is, "Go watch Netflix." That's their ideology. Their ideology is, "You know what? Liberalism is a joke. Democracy is a joke. Trust is a joke, it's all a joke. There is no truth." That's the way they run things at home. And then if you win with that, if you can get the public to believe that, then the next step is the public says, "Yeah, everything's a lie, but we prefer our own lies to foreign lies." And that's the special form of postmodern nationalism.
[00:48:28] So, you know the government's lying to you, but you also believe — and you think you're clever for believing this — is that all governments always lie to everybody. So we might as well vote our own lies, just like for our own soccer team. And so what Russian foreign policy tries to do is to spread that because insofar as there might be a democratic Ukraine, or insofar as there might be a democratic European union or a democratic United States, that's a threat to existing model in Russia. So they are quite intelligently trying to bring us down to their level. That's what they're doing and they do it, not by spreading ideology, they spread lots of ideology. They spread contradictory ideologies. They pitched different stories to different people.
[00:49:05] So during their invasion of Ukraine, they told the International Left that they were stopping to fascism and, you know, stupid people bought that. And they told the International Right that they were stopping homosexuality and stupid people bought that. They were claiming to play word against fascist homosexuality. They weren't doing anything of kind, they were just invading their neighbor. They send out these contradictory narratives, very effectively with high production. Then at the end of the day, they just kind of wink and nod and say, "Well, maybe we're lying, but everybody else is lying anyway," and if they can persuade us of that and we all just watch Netflix and shrugged our shoulders, then we will lose democracy and then they will win. I mean, that's not so much the point that they will win. Putin has his own problems and so all the people on the American Right who admire Russia, you should really go there and see how durable you think the system actually is. It's not so much important that they win. I mean, what's important is that we lose. If we become like them, we become not only less free, but we're going to become a hell of a lot poorer very fast.
[00:49:57] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I think that the folks who look at that and that side of the world and think, "Wow, you know, they're doing a lot of things right." I remember when I was in law school, one of my friends who was Russian, but had never lived there, said something like, "This Putin guy, I admire him. He doesn't take crap from anybody. He pushes his policies through. He doesn't care about what other people have to say. And, you know, at some level that's what Russians really need. You know, none of this back and forth stuff that we're doing over here, that's for pansies. He's pushing these reforms through. He's not letting these guys get away with anything." I really wish I could grab that guy and find him now and say, "What do you think of how that worked out for the last 15 or 20 years?" and I would have a feeling that since he reads the news, he probably has a slightly different opinion of how that shook out for his friends and family who are still stuck in Russia, and probably don't want to be there at this point, especially being — they were Jewish, they still live there and he was planning to go visit them shortly after we graduated and I think he actually did. I'm wondering how happy and healthy those people are right now, especially not being connected to the government and things like that. It's just really scary. The more I've read about Putin and the more I read about Russia, the scarier that whole place actually becomes.
[00:51:03] Timothy Snyder: Yeah. People should really go there. It is very important. I mean, one historical analogy that occurs to me, the International Right and Russia today is just a tiny bit like the International Left and the Soviet Union in the 1930s, people are drawn to an image of something, but if they could spend a few weeks in the reality of it, it might be very useful to them, you know? The International Right are just like the American alt-right, which loves Russia. Are they aware that Russia actually has a tremendous problem with its Muslim population? Which we really don't. Are they aware that the way that Russia manages terrorism is by co-opting Muslim terrorists into the government? Are they aware, in general, what it would be like to live in a society where they're not free and where, you know, people even on the far right will go in and out of prison at the whims of whoever has power? Are they aware just how annoying it is not to have the rule of law, not to be able to say what you want, not to be able to have your business, et cetera, et cetera?
[00:51:58] But the other point of view I wanted to return to is the success of Russia, which I think is quite temporary in managing inequality. Much of the system goes back to that, that Russia has terrifying levels of inequality. And I think this is the element of the system, which is attractive to Mr. Trump and his colleagues, this notion that you really can't have a system where a relatively small number of families controls a tremendous majority of the national wealth and get the society to put up with it. And part of the secret of getting society to put up with it is something which I would call this like sado-populism, where there's populism but the populism is actually demanding but the people, the populism is content to blame the rest of the world for our problems.
[00:52:38] And the reason why I mentioned that is that this has been perfected in Russia. Standards of living in Russia are way down since Russia invaded Ukraine. Russia pointlessly invaded Ukraine. There was no point invading Ukraine, but did make Russians a lot poor,. But so long as Russians believe that they're taking part in some grand struggle against the American superpower, yada, yada, they're willing to put up with it, at least for a while. You take the pain because you think there's some international point to it.
[00:53:01] I hope we're not going to get there. I believe that we won't, but we are at the beginning of a trajectory that Russia has already gone much further along.
[00:53:08] Jordan Harbinger: Tim, thank you so much. This has been very enlightening in kind of a scary way, but sometimes those are the best shows. So I really appreciate your time. And I definitely appreciate this book. I will be giving away several copies of it because it's really short. I think I read it in an hour and that was because I just sat down and did it. It was really easy, really interesting. It's got 20 little discreet lessons that you can stop if you get interrupted by your kids or life and come right back to it. And it's pretty darn important and it becomes more and more important every single time I turn on the news, it seems.
[00:53:40] Timothy Snyder: Thanks so much for the conversation. I really appreciate it. It's a pleasure to talk to you. I hope we can do it again.
[00:53:45] Jordan Harbinger: I've got some thoughts on this episode, but before I get into that — Anthony Luciano Raimondi was born into the world of organized crime, spent much of his life as a mob enforcer, and played a part in heists and assassinations, allegedly. Here's a preview of my conversation with a former Italian mob enforcer.
[00:54:03] Anthony Raimondi: So I'm in the club and I put many envelopes together. This guy walks in. So I get up, I say, "Excuse me. Can I help you?" "Yeah, I want to talk to you." He pulled out his gun. I still got the first scar right over here. This guy beat me so bad, I don't even know how I made it back downtown. I was crawling out of the place. Literally, I was crawling out of the place. And I remember him saying, "You just come back here. Your mother is going to have a closed coffin for you. I'm going to blow your f*cking head off. I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that."
[00:54:29] PS, my cousin takes me out from the hospital about five, six days later. They told me who this guy was. I went to see Joey D. We went to the basement, all weapons, his family was gun runners. I mean, if you want a B-52 bomb, hit them. They're there for you in three days. They'll have it at your doorstep. I mean, they have bazooka, they have hand grenades. I mean, they have stuff like you'd never saw. He goes, "Pick out something."
[00:54:49] I take off with my cousin's car and I drive to Third Avenue. And I parked right in front of the place, there's parking space. I got the gun on my waistband. I got to go in and Dukie the bartender sees me. He goes, "What are you doing here?" I say, "Don't worry about this. I want to talk to him." I figured out he would really talk to me. When I walked through and I turned around, I seen him, he had his back to me. And he was talking to this girl Karen. I'll never forget Karen.
[00:55:13] The musical was down and I hear her tell him, she says, "Anthony's behind you." For whatever the reason before she'd say I had this gun in my hand. This guy gets up. "Why did I tell you? You dirty mother f*cker. Your mother is going to have a closed coffin. I'm going to blow your f*cking head." He opened his jacket and I seen the gun in his waistband. He puts his hand on it. I just picked up my hand like this and emptied the whole clip into him.
[00:55:31] Joe Colombo goes, "Give him a drink." He gives me a 7 and 7. He goes, "Look at this kid. He just kills somebody and he's sitting there calm as a cucumber.
[00:55:40] Jordan Harbinger: For more with former Italian mob enforcer, Anthony Raimondi, including the many creative ways mobsters have gotten rid of bodies over the years, check out episode 425 on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:55:52] Big thank you to Timothy Snyder. We'll link to the book in the show notes. Please use our website links if you buy the book. It does help support the show. Tim Snyder is really, really good. It's something that I think is a very unfortunate necessity right now, because we do as Americans, myself included in this, we think, "Oh, this can't happen here. This won't happen here. There's going to be institutions that will protect us." This was recorded a few years ago. Are we in a better place now than we were back then? I don't know if we are. I really don't. Eventually, people will decide they've had enough or people who voted one way or the other way, or are in positions of power will eventually say, "To heck with this," and they'll pull the emergency. As we can see from the historical examples, that's not always what happens. And that in itself is quite terrifying. So this is certainly something to think about. Again, this episode is from the vault. I know that some of these don't stand up over time. I think this one certainly does.
[00:56:41] Worksheets for the episodes are in the show notes. Transcripts are in the show notes. I'm at Jordan Harbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, or you can hit me on LinkedIn.
[00:56:48] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using the same software, systems, and tiny habits that I use. That's our Six-Minute Networking course. It is free. I'm teaching you how to dig before you get thirsty. It's over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Most of the guests you hear on the show subscribe and contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[00:57:10] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's interested in the direction we're headed politically in terms of our freedom and the creeping authoritarianism, please share this episode with them. Hopefully, you find something great in every episode of the show, please share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[00:57:47] This episode is also sponsored in part by Chinet. Chinet is a people-focused brand disguised as a premium disposable tableware brand. Chinet prides themselves on being part of authentic human connections and playing an important role and togetherness. So they've been a part of American culture for over 90 years, providing durable plates, cups, cutlery, napkins, and table covers. Chinet is the go-to brand for cookouts, holidays, birthdays, game nights, baby showers, and more. Chinet brand believes not only that everyone should have a place around the table, but that everyone should be welcomed with open arms and a full cup. Chinet Classic, Chinet Crystal, and Chinet Comfort products are all made in the USA with at least 80 percent recycled materials. Chinet brands products can handle anything from the sauciest ribs to the most generous slices of cake. Made to be microwave safe and leftovers' best friend, easy cleanup, environmentally conscious. Great for the upcoming holiday gatherings and perfect for all of life's get-togethers. Visit mychinet.com to find out more.
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