In On Tyranny, why does Snyder emphasize the importance of language and truth?

In On Tyranny, Snyder emphasizes the importance of language and truth because both can be easily distorted in the service of overly simplistic thinking, lies, repetitions, myths, and irrational faith, all of which can allow an authoritarian leader to seize power.

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Snyder emphasizes language and truth because his study of history has shown that they can both be distorted to undermine democracy and allow an authoritarian leader or party to seize power. He cites, for example, George Orwell's 1984, in which, Snyder says, language is so "constrained" that the public can not develop sophisticated ways about thinking about concepts. This can happen today, too, he says, if people don't move away from television and into reading works that build critical thinking skills.

Likewise, truth can be distorted by being replaced by myths that have little relationship to reality. Snyder says that truth dies in "four modes," all of which he says United States experienced under Donald Trump.

First, people can switch from listening to provable facts to what they want to hear. Snyder states, for example, that seventy-eight percent of Trump's factual claims were wrong, leading to the creation of a fictional reality. Second, what Snyder calls "shamanistic incantation," or the repeating of the same lies over and over, can replace truth to the point that the lies take on a reality of their own simply through repetition.

Third, "magical thinking" can overwrite truth, as when the Nazis told the people to focus on Hitler's greatness at a time when it was obvious that he was losing World War II. Finally, Snyder points to "misplaced faith," which is giving up reason simply to believe in an absurd system that purports to be right about what it says, which is easier than independent thought.

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