HOW TO BECOME A TYRANT
“One who controls the past controls the future.” –George Orwell; 1984
Where author George Orwell portrays a dystopian world and the dangers of Totalitarianism in his book 1984, narrator Peter Dinklage takes us through the life journey of the six most brutal dictators of the past century. Orwell portrayed a dystopia to warn future generations of the evils of propaganda and Dinklage presented us with a playbook that can help one become a successful Tyrant.
‘How to become a Tyrant’ is a documentary series on Netflix, where the narrator elaborates on a step-by-step playbook to become a tyrant. He uses this delivery mechanism to tell in detail which rule was followed by which dictator and how it benefits them. The series opens with the quote, “We love being ruled”, said by Andrew Sullivan (Author and Political Commentator). It is further elaborated that Tyranny is a government for people who want results and this is the thought used by several dictators to manipulate their citizens. The narrator puts major emphasis on the fact that all these dictators had one thing in common, they all were narcissists. The first step towards becoming a great dictator is; ‘Believe in yourself’. If you want to rule you have to believe that you can.
The series is divided into six episodes, where each episode focuses majorly on a single dictator. The six dictators covered in the series are; Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussain, Idi Amin, Joseph Stalin, Muammar Gaddafi, and the Kim Dynasty. He narrates to us the major life incidents of these tyrants which helped them achieve this position and make a mark on the world. The documentary contained some clips from old video tapes and some incidents which went unaccounted for were portrayed using animation. The documentary also contains examples from some other dictators, who did not make huge in history. One of them is Francois Duvalier.
The first chapter, “Seize Power” documents Hitler’s journey from a World War I soldier to one of the greatest dictators of all time. He worked with one simple principle: find a group, understand the nature of their already existing resentment and use it to your benefit. He used this principle on Germans; he inculcated the need to cleanse Germany of Jews in his fellow Germans. He presented people with a common ground and the permission to be themselves. The episode ended with Hitler’s demise as a dictator. Similar anecdotes were picked from other dictators’ lives and presented to the audience. The narrator also covered the weaknesses of these tyrants; what worked for them and what went wrong, causing their reign to end.
The playbook contained many lessons for the coming-of-age tyrants. Some of these lessons are; choose when to strike, establish dominance, regular surveillance, destroy the past, and buy loyalty. Orwell also used the majority of these lessons in his book to portray how dangerous this can be as a whole. All the dictators utilized only some lessons, causing their reign to end but only one leader followed every step closely, with no room for error. He was not just able to establish dominance but also was able to continue it for three generations. Kim II-sung, grandfather of Kim Jong-un, current President of North Korea was responsible to establish complete control over the country. The legacy was further continued by his son Kim Jong-il and grandson Kim Jong-un. The final episode of the series, titled “Rule Forever” , completely concentrates on the Kim dynasty in North Korea.
To say that the tone used in the documentary is a little weird would be an understatement. The narrator needs to sell tyranny while telling us how it harms the society and the narrator; Peter Dinklage has done the job pretty well.
The series ends with one line, one line which will leave a major impact on your minds and force you to contemplate.
“Anybody can be a Tyrant”
This piece is written by Nehal Thakur