Could RtO have been wrong?
I have had a lot to say about Timothy Snyder’s “On Tyranny,” both directly and as a background to my numerous posts about the neonazi style of President Trump. I am not taking any of it back, but there has been some dissent in the comments, so here’s an example of someone who does not think Snyder did a persuasive job on Whiny Baby Donald. (Go to: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n09/thomas-meaney/short-cuts)
“Yet by resorting to mention of Hitler so early and often, Snyder risks sapping the sort of resistance he wants to encourage.”
This is Thomas Meany using Godwin’s Law to stop discussion; but, as I wrote last week, what if the discussion is about actual nazis?
Way back in my first list of parallels between WBD and Htler (or Mussolini or other despots), I noted that there are fundamental differences between the USA in 2017 and Germany in 1933.
For one, WBD doesn’t have a private army of 3,000,000 thugs. For another, America doesn’t have 25% unemployment, although to listen to WBD you’d think maybe we do.
Meany is writing in the London Review of Books, whose local readers have a much closer relationship to actual nazis than we Americans do. (In the same issue there is a hilarious essay on the burning of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford in 1926 and its surprising [to me anyway] connection to fascism. (The essayist, Richard Wilson, fails to mention that 1926 was the year of the General Strike and a high point of fascistic hysteria in England. ) (Go to: https://www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n09/richard-wilson/bonfire-in-merrie-england)
Europeans have a more intimate connection to fascism in its many guises than Americans do. There are fascist regimes in Europe now. An actual fascist — rather than the “ersatz fuhrer” (as Meany calls him) that we had running in November — was running for president of a nation with a permanent seat on the Security Council just last week.
Snyder, though an American, has been immersed all his professional life in European totalitarianism. He understands, if other Americans do not, that fascism is qualitatively different from other kinds of totalitarianism, no matter how noisome those were.
I don’t think Snyder was calling for Americans to rip up the cobblestones and turn over the streetcars to erect barricades. (It is a measure of the political difference between America and Europe that we don’t have cobblestones or streetcars.) It seems to me that he was calling for Americans to remember what our civic virtues are supposed to consist of, and to renew our dedication to living them.
And to recognize a neonzazi when he rides into town.
The events of the past week reinforce all that.
I have been looking over David Low’s “Years of Wrath,” a collection of his cartoons in the Evening Standard during the years of fascism’s first ascendancy. Europeans (or some of them) were concerned about interference in American elections even before I was born.
The strong resentment is not so obvious any more, is it?