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The level of cognitive dissonance required to remain Republican in 2023 is astounding.

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The antidotes to lies are accountability and consequences. It does not matter if we are discussing Trump's, Putin's, or a six-year old child's relatively inconsequential lies in response to the "who did that" question. In every case the antidote to lies are accountability and consequences.

It is particularly important that when lies are so disruptive to the social fabric of our society that they become threatening to large numbers of us that accountability and consequences should be as swift and serious as possible.

Let us all hope that 2023 sees swift accountability and serious consequences for both Trump's and Putin's lies.

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You expressed that particularly well. What does "doing the right thing" mean in practice? Accountability and consequences, as you say!

You raise a specific point that has long bothered me. I have never been able to see why rules, regulations and ethics in the new social media, or in politics and society at large, should be any different from rules of good behaviour in the family. When a kid plays up to the extent that the family unit becomes unworkable, sanctions are swiftly brought into play. So why should there be any difference for politicians who play up so badly the social unit becomes unworkable? Or international relations?

I think distancing and abstractionism may have something to do with our apparent double standards in these different domains.

The first distancing may be when someone gets into a car. Immediately, certain behaviours become permissible towards the driver of another car which would not be countenanced were one standing physically just two feet away from that other person. Driver rudeness is accepted, for no good reason, it seems. And the same with social media. Put a person behind a screen and all sorts of inhibitions suddenly disappear.

Subsequent stages of distancing apply to things such as long supply chains in business, where squeezing the farmer/producer becomes accepted because we do not hear or speak to them directly when we visit the supermarket. Or, in politics, when systems become so centralised that power resides at the top but the top no longer has contact with grass roots.

Is there something about the human condition which requires some degree of direct physical contact, using all the senses, as in a family, for people, and by extension their society, to stay healthy?

Deep issues come into play here. Our future in relation to robots and AI being not the least of them.

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Yes, distancing does make responsible relations more complex. In part, I think it has to do with the newness of the mediated relationship: it takes time and experience to develop or extend "proper" behavior. Each generation of children have to learn. But then people in society have to learn what to do in the new environment. And the technologies have been changing, so we do not have clear norms in which to inculcate people, or clear means of how to do it.

As you say, the anonymity of distanced relations tends to diffuse a sense of responsibility.

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This is a good point. It's also I think why the US gets away with waging war so often, with the support of The People to do so. We don't see what it's really like, because it's not at home on our soil. Then our media blurs anything 'sensitive' so we're not exposed to what the weapons of war do to the human body. We've been distanced and coddled from it all. Maybe if we were forced to look at what actually happens in war we would demand better, maybe we could stop being the world's police and instead become its healer and defender only if necessary.

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Ditto.

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I think one of the characteristics of authoritarian governance is to force people to say things that they know to be false..The lie I tell is an index of the power that forces me to lie.

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Timothy Snyder, I'm a huge fan of yours -- ever since reading "On Tyranny" back in 2017. (I gave it to everyone that year.) Every time I see the typos in your Substack posts, I wince in pain. You deserve better! I'm offering my copy editing services, should you ever require them. Happy New Year from your admirer, Jamie.

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Can I second that? Speaking as a retired publisher/editor I can say, it does make a difference. If nothing else, typos break the train of concentration. At worst, they render the truth of the statement ambiguous or even alter it. And none of the software programs does a satisfactory job. Copy editing is about much more than spelling checks. Human intelligence enters into the process. So—please do implement this excellent suggestion.

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Please! Let’s organize our priorities. Thank Goodness for Snyder taking the time to give us his thoughtful, informative and broadening grasp of our current reality. Tell yourselves to overlook any ‘typos’ you think you are seeing. I’m so hungry to read every word he’s written that I don’t even see them and it’s a pleasure.

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You misunderstand me, Sarah. The intent was to enhance the overall quality of output by offering additional voluntary input from us readers., if possible.

This is not a zero-sum game. It is not an either/or choice. That limiting, binary thinking is a huge part of our problems today.

To be clear: I subscribe to Thinking It because I have found it to be the best available source of information and analysis on Ukraine—that, together with Dr Snyder's books and Yale Making of Ukraine course. I consider him to be the leading authority on the subject. He has my unqualified admiration and respect.

There is no reason at all to think that because several of us (not just me) have raised the question of typos, that means we are criticising Dr Snyder's work. Nor that we are distracting in any way from the importance of his work. That is a logical non sequitur. It does not follow.

To raise a question about standard/system of delivery does not detract from quality of the work itself.

No one has suggested Dr Snyder should spend extra time himself proofreading and/or correcting his copy a second time. Everyone actually knows how busy he is. That, if it is what you are implying, is a figment of your imagination, I’m afraid.

The entire publishing industry arose to enable creative writers' work to reach the public in the best possible way. And it's a source of deep sadness among those of us who are professionals in the field to see the way computerisation and online publishing have allowed basic standards of language—vocabulary, grammar, spelling, typography, page design, graphics, etc., to deteriorate.

If there was any implied criticism in my comment, it was that several people noted the typos, one offered to copy edit, and another—me—actually posted some copy edits of this piece in an attempt to be helpful. But even that was meant to be a gentle dig…

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Jan 5, 2023·edited Jan 5, 2023

Your services then should be offered privately I think. Though this topic is interesting, it is distracting from Snyder's main thoughts. Again, I think the brain that follows the thoughts fills in, corrects, and ultimately forgives the mistakes. Mine does. I agree with Sarah. I agree with you that standards need to be upheld. But I will tell you that my ex-English teacher mother-in-law was annoying because she would interrupt a thought to correct and it was deflating. PS-There are several grammatical mistakes in this comment. I, for one, use too many or not enough commas.

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My parents were like that. I have a particularly strong memory over the word "library". Some people would be dancing on the table if their 7 year old asked for a lift to the library. I never got an answer to my request because I couldn't yet hear the difference between "liberry" and library". Perfection should never be a barrier to communication.

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With respect, the readership is allowed to be imperfect. We cannot reasonably expect 100% perfect English from the commentariat.

But Dr Snyder is a major public figure, and this is a public platform, so it is reasonable to aim for the highest standards of presentation. His books will have been copy-edited, so why not this platform's offerings too? As I explained on my other reply to you, this is more an issue for Substack than Dr Snyder himself, I suspect. One can only do as well as the tools on offer permit.

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Yes of course with respect. The errors you cite are not worth this. There are larger issues. Goodness knows public figures (how major?), professors, public intellectuals, even Presidents, are allowed some slack. I have not noticed anything consistent. Perhaps you should be communicating directly with Dr. Snyder though, as he can make corrections. We have veered off. Substack is new and appreciated at this time.

Again, my mother-in-law, a retired English teacher, went on correcting and now my mate does that following in her footsteps. I found then and find now that this is rude, it disrupts a train of thought (even if given after) and as well as gives the signal that what one is trying to say is either not as important or unimportant. It could be that those that are so wired to correct for proper English cannot focus until this is matter of "house cleaning" taken care of. Okay. I should appreciate this. I try as a result to be more perfect myself. Perhaps you should appreciate the other side of this. It's disruptive and public. Of course I offer this with respect. Thank you..

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I know. I agree in general. Which is why I appreciate the edit function here. Snyder, I forgive. I did not notice anyway.

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What "edit function" do you mean? I was meaning edit functions for readers to copy edit article text under some pre-agreed arrangement with the author.

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I meant being able to edit my own comment is appreciated. Do you wish to edit Snyder?

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I did the same thing with "On Tyranny." I gave copies to all my children and all my friends.

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Same here. I just bought 5 more copies.

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There is software (Artificial Intelligence), which does spell-check for social / illiterate media, including Twitter! And for Substack and other on-line "posts." Now, if there could just be something which does "Fact-check" as well, I would be eternally grateful.

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The fundamental problem with trying to implement your suggestion is that it would be necessary to parse the universe of statements in the source field (the internet; libraries; other databases) to sort our truthful statements from lies. As of now, there exists no automated method for doing so, and personally I doubt that there ever will be.

As an example underlying my pessimism, consider the statement "An object held in one's hand, when released, will drop to the ground." That statement contains an unstated assumption, namely that the event takes place under the influence of gravity. It is false if the event takes place under conditions of weightlessness. Moreover, even if one modified the statement to specify the presence of a gravitational field, the statement would still be incorrect. For the object is composed of individual molecules or atoms, all in random motion according to the object's temperature. Using statistical mechanics, it is possible to determine the probability that at the instant of release the velocity vectors of all the particles were in an upward direction, which would result in the object rising instead of falling. Admittedly, the probability is tiny: unlikely to occur even once in the current age of the universe,, but that is not the point: the object will not fall with absolute certainty and therefore the statement is false.

There is a very large class of statements based on assumptions concerning our knowledge of the world which are subject to falsification as our state of knowledge improves. This very uncertainty is frequently employed for malevolent purposes, as for example by the tobacco industry, climate change deniers, antivaxers, and so on.

In short, we would all be well advised to thoroughly research statements before accepting them as being factual.

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Brilliant. And, of course, correct. If you're ever in NY City, drinks on me. Very interesting! Very grateful for your thought-provoking comments. jbr

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I just saw this. Ditto on all of it!!

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It seems to be lies and discrepancies. Watching the vote for House Speaker, Nicolle Wallace finally said the 20 members-elect are not ‘rebels’, they are coup plotters and insurrectionists who tried to overthrow our Democracy. Santos is such a sick liar he posted yesterday that he had been sworn in. Trump and Putin are pure evil manipulators, ‘The Road To Unfreedom,’ lays this out clearly. I recommend your book to everyone I know and meet. What a horror show we are in

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Jan 5, 2023·edited Jan 5, 2023

Deliberateness and a relatively heavy emphasis on manipulation distinguish propaganda (https://www.britannica.com). How much are the followers, the believers, the promoters of these lies also responsible for the consequences of their manipulation? Legislators, voters, financial contributors, traditional & online media, and complacent government workers (IRS? FBI? AGs?) are followers, etc. albeit with varying motives for their actions. The "Dark Money" and Fox News et al. crowd fomenting and financing anti-democratic policies under the guise of freedom are doing so to subordinate voters to financial agendas whether tagged as religious or capitalistic philosophy.

How much is this all like the perpetration of a cult?

And the targeted and neglected victims -- where is their recourse or restitution?

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Yes, I really appreciated Nicolle saying that and reiterating the thought several times aimed at the peanut gallery.

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There is a point where congenital lying—evil, turns into insanity—believing you're Jesus.

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"Once factual truth is no defense in politics, all that remains is spectacle and force."

We are watching this play out on the House floor this week.

Side note: The photo of the soldier reading your book is Everything.

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Remember the Republican Platform of 2016? Nothing! Not even bad ideas. Just no ideas!

An intellectual Wasteland. The party of Lincoln. Eisenhower. McCain. How can so many people be so divorced from the history of this great country? More than polarization. People not concerned about what Russia is doing to Ukraine? They aren't concerned about what America is doing to itself.!

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"Getting and spending we lay waste our powers"... William Wordsworth

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I do not disagree with you but wish to point out that, sadly, platforms are toothless, in that there is no obligation on anyone's part to adhere to the tenets of the platform. Otherwise we would have had a climate bill a year earlier, and there would have been no attempt by either Manchin or Sinema to gut it.

It's parf of what I see as flawed in our so-called two party system: Neither party really stands for anything, wedge issues aside. And that's exactly what their big donors want.

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Mr. S: Thank you for your thoughtful comment! And I appreciate Potter's as well. For the sake of discussion . . . Yes, platforms are aspirational. Not binding commitments. But even as aspirational, they can reflect important values and then measure their deeds by those goals. Many people do fulfill vows, imperfectly, but insofar as possible. Kennedy's "Ask Not ... " vs. Reagan's "Ask What Can your Country do for You," were both aspirational, but the former appealed to social ideals, the latter to self-interest and selfishness. A lot of religious people are not very religious but if someone thought that the 10 Commandments were meaningless because they don't reflect the way people really are, that would be understandable but also nihilistic. . . And civil society is not nearly as civil as it should be. Our democracy is not a classic democracy in any event. But it still seems better to aspire to higher values (even if only aspirational), than to reject them because they are not always attainable. PS: I hope you're understanding and kind when you read this, and it makes some sense. I tried! Illustration, obviously, aspirational goals rather than fulfillment. jr

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Jan 5, 2023·edited Jan 5, 2023

A platform states to the partisans, or voters in general, what they stand for on the whole, not individuals who may and do have some reservations. They still need to bargain and gather for bills/law proposals and to vote. It depends on how a bill is written too. There is a lot of hardball happening. With a nihilistic party of liars and the disreputable I agree a platform is toothless or useless. I disagree about Democrats not standing for anything.

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Excellent, timely read. Republicans in the House, as the try to elect a Speaker, keep saying, “This place is broken,” referring to the House, and/or Washington. In truth it is the broken Republican Party that is doing all it can to destroy our government.

Side note: Thank you for your class on The Making of Modern Ukraine. A fascinating history!

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founding

Photo of the year.

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Incredible, indeed.

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Reading your essays and other learned historians like Sarah Kendzior and Andrea Chalupa, has made me smarter. The fact that Sarah and Andrea are not paid by a corporation, means that they speak the truth. Your books, On Tyranny and The Road to Unfreedom, speak truth to power. Missing is “The Fairness Doctrine” and more independent journalists to tell the truth.

I was in a Republican senator’s office in 2018 and called them out on a lie they were arguing. And ultimately I said, if we can’t agree on the truth there is nothing left. And that was it. Nothing.

It was gutting.

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I hate Trump, but I still say that for rural people at the poverty level Hilary Clinton would not have made any improvements in their lives. And that is something else Putin had a good understanding of exploiting. Had she simply campaigned in some rural and small town areas, that would have made a world of difference just like it had for Obama even with his very minimal small town campaigning. Just like it did for Trump. Yang's idea of $1,000 stimulus checks would be so beneficial to everyone at the poverty level. Especially rural Americans who could use a predictable, stable, and reliable income. Hilary really did not provide any positive ideas for improving rural life. And thus I still hold to the idea that Hilary Clinton was also a driving force of wedge politics. She also encouraged the urban vs. rural divide. And that is currently still a HUGE problem.

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That's an interesting assessment. I'm coming to the end of Volume III of Blanch Weisen Cook's biography of Eleanor Roosevelt and how I wish Eleanor was with us today. I think Hillary was fully qualified to be president, but she did not have the warmth or heart or real love for people that Eleanor Roosevelt did. Eleanor Roosevelt had the true moral vision that we need so much today.

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There is a difference, though, between an intent to divide (Trump) and an unintended consequence (Clinton). The first is deliberate evil; the second, ignorance or sloppiness. It is easier to change the mind of a Clinton than a Trump.

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I must disagree about Hilary Clinton. She was flawed from the start, having demonstrated numerous instances of poor judgement as Secretary of State (Crowing over the murder of Qaddafi; sabotaging the Copenhagen Climate conference; using her own private server to conduct the Peoples' business) and showed her disdain for ordinary people everywhere by allying herself with oligarchs such as Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman-Sachs.

It is not as though there was no choice: I voted for Jill Stein, the Green candidate. One could easily imagine how the last six years would have played out had she won.

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Thank you for the 3 SCOTUS Justices appointed by FPOTUS.

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Yes, the knowledge of being solely responsible for the Trump Administration weighs heavily upon my shoulders. But on the other hand I remember the conversation I had with a taxi driver in Tromsø in February 2017, during which he asked me how it could be that the Democrats had selected the only person in the US who could not beat Trump. Then on the third hand, I continue to wonder why the so-called liberals did not embrace Jill Stein, whose platform promised to address the world's number one existential problem: anthropogenic climate change, and to press for social justice. Could it be because Dr. Stein is a Jew?

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The death of local journalism may be the death knell for our country.

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I appreciate that Professor Snyder closed his essay with some thoughts about the state of journalism and reporting; "We speak about the news all day, but pay almost no one to get out and report it. This rewards people who lie as a way of life. Every political career demands investigation at its beginnings, and most American counties lack a daily newspaper. That is where we are, and it has to change.'

For the past several years I've joined many folks supporting the Montana Free Press a digital newspaper that has grown from a one person operation to an organization with a dozen full time editors and reporters as well as a half dozen part time reporters. The Press' mission is to produce in-depth public-service journalism that creates positive change and helps move society toward justice and equity; to bring to light essential news stories that might otherwise never be reported. I began supporting the MTFP in earnest soon after I read "On Tyranny".

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I am glad you mentioned what Prof Snyder said about journalists. Our local newspaper has disappeared and it had been around 100 years. Was it a great piece of literary work? No, it wasn’t but it did inform people of events, history, and local news. It was eaten up by the conglomerates thus, the writers, the photographers made haste for other jobs. We are now relying on what’s called The East Bay Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. Plus, lots of digital content is available. Journalists are not making the money they deserve to stick their necks out to get “the story”. But they have so much passion for writing what they see, hear, or feel. It’s shameful they do not get more recognition.

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Love the photograph!n

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This is very interesting. Thank you. Just a suggestion, though, to correct the typos. They are very distracting.

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Jan 5, 2023·edited Jan 5, 2023

"Trump has trained Republicans, and a large part of the American people, in just these mental habits."

Trump walked right in when the job was almost done for him, if not already done. Putin took years too. Cognitive dissonance in regard to partisanship, not caring and lacking curiosity, laziness in thinking, ignorance or lack of education. To be trained in mental habits to me means having an opening to have a vacuum or need filled. Putin, Trump both know almost instinctively what they must do or through history perhaps (Putin reads). They "harvest" this by weaving tales ( lies) and soothing; they appeal to the lower nature in people and make them feel okay. They offer purpose and belonging as well as an outlet to hate others. So many seem to be easy marks for such selfish and destructive purpose. So many are habitually fearful and vulnerable and ready to have the wool pulled over their eyes.

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