Thompson on tyranny

January 31, 2013 by History in a Hurry

The journalist Dorothy Thompson, in this 1937 admonition, explained how compliant citizens unwittingly usher in tyranny. Here is the full quotation:

No people ever recognize their dictator in advance. He never stands for election on the platform of dictatorship. He always represents himself as the instrument for expressing the Incorporated National Will. When Americans think of dictators they always think of some foreign model. If anyone turned up here in a fur hat, boots and a grim look he would be recognized and shunned. Likewise anyone resembling six Roman Emperors, or someone you must greet with a stiff arm and a Heil. But when our dictator turns up you can depend on it that he will be one of the boys, and he will stand for everything traditionally American. Since the great American tradition is Freedom and Democracy you can bet that our dictator, God help us! will be a great democrat, through whose leadership alone democracy can be realized. And nobody will ever say “Heil” to him, or “Ave Caesar,” nor will they call him “Fuehrer” or “Duce.” But they will greet him with one great big, universal, democratic, sheeplike bleat of “O.K., Chief! Fix it like you wanna, Chief! Oh Kaaaay!” -Dorothy Thompson

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