Why should you care about tyranny?
There are two very strong arguments why you should and they apply, whether your current political dispensation is democratic or despotic.
First is that most democratically elected govt heads these days have been using some of the ideas which despots employ. As Joseph Stalin advised them, “it is enough that people know that there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything”.
Secondly under authoritarian or absolutist regimes, you should care so as to foresee and hence avoid the disastrous consequences which are listed in the kill chart below (result of the unrestrained power lust of last century tyrants).
Now, a bully getting state power is like an addict getting to own a meth plant. At some point he will overdose.
That a dictator will abuse his power is a given, however what is surprising is how large populations and sometimes entire generations are blindsided as they go along with his repressive regime if not actually participate in it. There is something about collective human nature that makes public turn a blind eye to grotesque abuse of human rights, civil liberties, if not murder and mayhem by its rulers. If it was not so, revolutions would have far more common than genocides.
So how does this cognitive blindness happen and how are dictators with such unfailing regularity, able to lead sheep to slaughter.
I want to outline a LIT framework, which will help you understand, how you are manipulated by those in power. My hope is that after knowing LIT, it will become visible to you as to how dictators ( & sometimes even elected politicians) cloak their actions in emotional narratives, get your buy in and thus make you unwilling party in their oppression. Much like knowing a magician’s trick undoes his magic, likewise knowing LIT model makes you impervious to politicians charades.
Most successful dictators use LIT (Legitimacy-Ideology-Tactics) framework to perpetuate their rule. They assume legitimacy to appear credible, take an ideological stance to rein in your liberties and finally exercise various tactics to protect their power play.
Now lets take a deep dive to get to bottom of this model.
First task of LIT is about building trust with population or setting up the dictatorial legitimacy. Since it is not democracy where electorate provides the vote legitimacy so all despots have to use one of the two methods available to set up legit grounds of their power grab:
Setting up a Leadership Personality Cult or their image of being a strong man. When they are perceived as macho strong men (mostly from military or secret services), it is an assumption that the nation is safe with them and they will be able to steer us through. This projection of their strength triggers Hero Archetype is us and we are willing to accord them the legitimacy they need.
One of the oldest trick in any despot playbook is to legitimize power by religion. When it comes to their religion, human nature divorces rationality in extra quick time. So if somebody can project himself as a custodian of religious ideals or soldier of faith, he messes up our neural circuitry real fast and affects us at our deepest identity level. Tyrants know this public gullibility and have exploited it by mixing state and religion since days of Holy Roman Empire.
So having legitimized their authority, wherein you accept their rule, they now need to contain your liberties to be able to rule you.
All dictators are ultra conservatives (benevolent or progressive dictatorship is oxymoron) as they internally know that their hold on power is at best tenuous so more than anything, they need to survive in that position. To further their survival then they mount their public policies (second leg of LIT) on either of these two ideological hangers:
Nationalism or patriotism is always the first refuge of any tyrant. Whenever they have to explain any action or policy, patriotic duty towards fatherland/motherland is the most invoked reason. This again being an emotive issue with most, shuts their reason down in nano seconds. If nation calls for a sacrifice, be it of your life, liberty or happiness, you will be failing your national duty not to make it. Nationalism comes in two flavors here, one where you have to defend borders second where you are duty-bound to expand them.
Second ideological handle for an absolutist is cultural values upholding or their enrichment. Be it a race, ethnicity, morality or mores, something or the other can always be found to be either threatened or threatening. Policies crafted around the cultural policing infringe on your basic rights but you lump them as they are sold, wrapped in something that you value and want to uphold. Latest twist in this tale is the security bogey. Now deep surveillances can be mounted on populations thus invading their privacy, in guise of their own security,
Thus having secured credibility, crafted policies to contain freedom, a despot now needs to carry on day to day task of state governance and thus needs effective tools and tactics for that.
Tactics of StateCraft:
However prior to that exposition there are some home truths of statecraft to contend with.
- Every dictator or tyrant to be a successful power wielder must polarize the population, as divided populations are easier to govern.
- Never underestimate fear in matters of governance. Every governor knows that if citizenry is not scared it can spill into streets anytime.
- If population is not perpetually distracted or misdirected they will end up debating either the legitimacy or ideology of their ruler.
Hence the important tactical objectives of governace that emerges from these three truths is to keep population, divided, distracted and terrified. Now lets have a look at some common tactics employed to achieve these objectives.
To keep people engaged and distracted the best strategy used by all dictators is identification of an enemy and raising the specter of war. The war narrative is always heady when ably supported by wrongs that have been historically done or prosecution that is being done now. Now this enemy can be internal, as in some faith group, sect, cult , people belonging to a specific ethnic, race or sexual orientation or external as in a hostile state or its intelligence agency. The specific attributes of the enemy are irrelevant provided the enemy threat can be converted into a clear and present danger. Also aiding this war mongering are top business houses and money bags as any war economy helps them make extra money from public exchequer. So next when you hear a war cry or enemy definition from a tyrant sympathize with the poor man that he is unaware of you being up to speed on his tactics.
If those who control the media, controls the mind is true, a popular divisive tactic of any dictator who wants to keep his head and his crown together, is the control of information and its dissemination channels in its population. He needs to isolate people so that they are receptive to his spin. Thus all dictators ( and govts) invariably resort to information policing and censorship .
Information that you as general population gets then is distorted in two ways. One by omission or information censorship where corny issues are not disclosed and second by commission where only that information is allowed passage which carries the state spin (propaganda, is always a cottage industry under all suppressive regimes). This propaganda is delivered to kids by amending their school curriculums and to adults by owning/banning/patronizing, the media channels. Thus these regimes are able to set up and control the ongoing narratives and hence able to control your behavior.
Third and final tactic with any dictator is, routing of dissent either in pre or post eruption stage. Now to instill fear in its population so that challenges to their power can be averted, all dictators set up secret police whose task is to intimidate by search and seizure without due process. Secondly if protests do get organized, they put them down violently so that they do not reoccur. Also part of fear regime is banning or monitoring of all Non Govt organizations ( NGOs), student organizations, activists forums, opposition crackdowns and suppressing any other organized group who can be a potent threat.
So using wars and spectacles, dictators keep you distracted, by propaganda, divided and finally by force fearful . As population gets increasingly divided, afraid and distracted, they then can carry on their governace agenda which often is predatory.
This then is the LIT model which every tyrant uses and mindfulness of which will now help you see how you are getting manipulated. Remember educated populace cannot be converted into a mob and without a mob there are no mass kills, the likes of which are presented in the info-graph below.
Finally let me close with a warning against not waking up to tyranny delivered in the words of Ian Willams Goddard: “A society whose citizens refuse to investigate the facts, who refuse to believe that their govt and their media will routinely lie to them and fabricate a reality contrary to facts is a society that chooses and deserves the police state disctatorship it is going to get”