CONNECTIONS: Handbook for dictators

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By Tuesday, Jul 11 Life In the Berkshires  5 Comments
The Brownshirts, a Nazi militia founded by Adolf Hitler.

About Connections: Love it or hate it, history is a map. Those who hate history think it irrelevant; many who love history think it escapism. In truth, history is the clearest road map to how we got here: America in the 21st century.

Let’s say you want to rule the world – or at least one country. Is there an instruction manual for becoming a dictator? As it turns out, there are several. Not including books and scholarly works on the subject, the Guardian proposed completing the task in 10 easy steps; the Economist reduced the process to eight steps; Forbes Magazine and Psychology Today only needed seven. To boil it down, as they say on cable news, here is what you do.

Create an enemy, a thug class, an internal surveillance system, and a coterie whose shared interests reinforce yours. With your support in place, silence the press; suspend the rule of law; define dissent, leaking, and all forms of truth telling as treason, and create a basket of goodies that includes targeting, imprisonment and harassment of any and all groups and individuals who oppose you. There: now you have established order, but why bother?

Well, so you can always get your own way and always act in your own best interest without contradiction or prosecution.

Create an enemy because you need someone to blame for ….whatever…the stuff you do, the stuff that goes wrong and the stuff that angers your supporters. You also need an enemy to justify intimidation and violence by…the thug class. That’s why –  here’s how.

You create a thug class by blaming the enemy: whatever is wrong in your supporters’ lives is not their fault; it is the fault of the enemy. You whip up the crowd by saying outrageous things, promising the impossible and permitting – even encouraging – hatred that justifies violence. That brings us full circle – still want an example?

Okay, Hitler had his Brownshirts. Their tasks were providing protection for Nazi rallies, disrupting meetings of opposing parties, and intimidating enemies – you know: Catholics, Jews, gypsies, pro-union groups and whoever else may be named on a whim.

Roman emperor Caligula on his horse.

Roman emperor Caligula on his horse.

Just as an aside: a cult of personality assists in gathering and motivating the coterie and the thugs. The personality should be out-there: unpredictable, outside the norm and – more important – outside the law, quick to anger and quick to retaliate. If you are hit, hit back 10 times harder. Oh, and demonstrate you can break the rules (say, of ethics) and laws without consequence. Got it? You need to practice being scary. Example? Caligula made his horse a consul just to show he could and to humiliate those who actually were qualified.

If you are going to suspend law, round up your enemies and create an internal surveillance system, you need help. You need a deep bench. Say, for example, there are three branches of government – well then, you need to control all three. Frustrating if you can’t but, if you can’t, try government by fiat – you know: royal decree, executive order.

Take surveillance as an example. One of the reasons it helps to silence the press is there will be no one to contradict the assertions you use to justify your orders. Remember: it is one thing to be a dictator and another to be caught being a dictator. So try this: make up a story. Example: there is widespread voter fraud. In order to stop it, you need a legislature that will defund the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, a fellow to head the new commission who bills himself as “the ACLU’s worst enemy” and knows the value of voter suppression, and an executive order to get all the voter rolls from all the states with all the information about if and how everyone voted. It is the only way to know whom to suppress or intimidate and whose vote to buy or bury.

Remember the cult of personality? Start with a crazy pronouncement: I really won the popular vote and it doesn’t show because of voter fraud. When the press reports that is not accurate, double down. While they are reporting you are dumb or crazy, set the fraud investigation in motion that will give you power over the next election. If you go to all the work of establishing your dictatorship, you don’t want someone to oust you.

Small countries could take control with small forces but, in big countries, the president is commander-in-chief of the military. If you want to flex that muscle and you have established a process that works, don’t vary. Start with an outrageous assertion: if they don’t stop shooting people in Chicago, I will send in the troops. Can he? While Constitutional scholars debate and lawsuits are filed, the troops assemble on Lake Shore Drive.

In a big country, silencing the press may be difficult, but why bother? Just challenge everything reported as fake and untrue. The stations aren’t silenced, but no one is listening. It works as well as closing stations. The goal is that YOU must be the sole source of truth.

Use false accusations and name calling against enemies. Don’t worry about proof. You can rest assured in the knowledge that it is almost impossible to prove a negative.

Well, there is more work to be done, but this is a good start in establishing a dictatorship in a democracy or any other form of government. If you want to learn more, there are examples right before your very eyes. Pay attention – he does more than tweet.


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5 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Susan P. Bachelder says:

    The Emperor and no clothes. Caligula you will notice is naked. Most statues of early Emperors are. Young and virile to demonstrate their ability to lead – even if they might not have cut such a handsome figure, or been great leaders, it was important PR to demonstrate leadership through nakedness. I would suggest we do the same thing. I do not even wish to imagine what is under those $5,000 custom made suits and, once placed on a horse, that anyone could vote for the man. Not sure anyone in Washington could stand the strip test these days either. Thanks for a really wonderful read. Let’s put them all on horses and send them packing…..

  2. David says:

    Truth. Also read “Democracy in Chains” – the anatomy of how the RW politico-corporatocracy – conceived and designed by economists such as Buchanan, Friedman, Calhoun etc. – has been manipulating society, government, culture, media et al for decades with the ultimate goal of rendering the Constitution a useless relic and the complete oligarchic/plutocratic takeover. And….we’re well on our way!

  3. Diane Provenz says:

    Our defense against dictators is to Resist – Read and be informed – and to be an activist. Ignorance is our worst enemy. Join an Indivisible group and follow their suggestions for action. It’s our democracy to lose.

  4. Ann St. Clair says:

    This is an excellent series. Thanks to Carol Owens, and to The Edge!

  5. Steve Farina says:

    Carole, if you are truly wishing to show how a dictatorship is formed, perhaps your historian viewpoint can simply walk us through history from 9/11 on. The creation Homeland Security, the TSA making sure our papers are in order to travel about, including degrading physical searches. The TSA expansion to the highways via VIPER. Maybe touch on warrantless surveillance via NSA. The many NDAAs (national defense authorization acts) signed since, by both R and D Presidents. The militarization of local police forces across the country with the acquisition of military grade weaponry (I’m still not sure why Berkshire County really needs an armored vehicle for SWAT use). And much more…
    The direction this country is heading has been set, and kept, in motion by both major parties. It does not take a lot of research to find the facts of this….

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