Tyrants aren’t born that way, they are created. And all tyrants follow the same formula to grab power and rule over their authoritarian regimes.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Brittany: Hi, Connor.
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: So today we’re gonna talk about Tyrants, especially. Yep. And especially, this is gonna sound weird, how to become one. Now, I need to give a little disclaimer or disclaimer here. I am not telling you guys to go out and become tyrants. I think your parents would be very upset with me. I’m not telling your parents how to be tyrants either. So no one I cannot emphasize this enough. No one is telling you to be a tyrant. But as we’ve talked about a lot, you know, by understanding how people’s minds work or how things happen, or, you know, the way the world works as this podcast is called, you can start noticing patterns and you can start learning from history and you know what to avoid. So there’s a new documentary series on Netflix. I think it’s a Netflix original called How to Be a Tyrant. And it’s really quite good. Maybe not for younger kids, there is a lot of violence described. I don’t, there’s no like swear words or anything, but it does go into some pretty atrocious things that tyrants have done. But I think the parents might find it interesting. I think if they find it interesting, maybe older kids and teens might, it would be very good for them to see and kind of, you know, it’s the same reason why you learn about terrible things so you don’t do them. And that’s kinda the point of this. So it takes a close look at tyrants and it examines how they rose to power. And some of these tyrants I had never even heard of before. So it was very interesting for me. But all of them have several things in common, and I wanna go through a few of those today. So first, and this one I think is really easy to see. A hopeful tyrant has to believe that they can be a tyrant. They have this mega confidence, you know, some people call it narcissism, where you think you know, that you can, you can do anything and it, but it’s, not the good kind of, you can do anything. It’s not like the, I believe I can be an entrepreneur, so I’m gonna do it. It’s like, I believe I can take over the entire world.
Connor: Can control people.
Brittany: Yes. I don’t think pinky in the brain is a thing anymore, right?
Connor: Oh man, it should be. It used to be. That was great.
Brittany: And the tagline of every episode was, what are we gonna do tonight? Brain? And he’d say, try to take over the world. And he was actually like a young Tyrear, like a tyrant wannabe. So that’s, it’s kind of a funny and also pretty good historical lesson. So Hitler, who we will talk about soon, is probably the world’s most infamous tyrant. You know, he is the stereotypical, the archetypical villain in everything. But he believed in himself so much that failure wasn’t an option. At one point, he tried to become an artist like a painter, and he had no talent. And I’m kind of like, admire that. Cause I’m like, you know, you went for it. Again, I do not admire Hitler. I should have prefaced that, was a joke. But Kim Jong Young, or Kim, how do you say it? Kim?
Connor: Kim Jung-Un, I think.
Brittany: Un That’s right. So he was the father of Kim Jong-il, or did I get that mixed up?
Connor: I know, I think you’re right.
Brittany: Okay. So we talked about both of them in the North Korea episode, but he even thought, you know, his power was divine. Not even that it was divine, that it was given to him by God. He thought like he was a God, basically. So a lot of these tyrants and even kings throughout history have thought that they had this divine power, they could do anything. And tyrants also believe, you know, they’re the center of everything. We’ve talked about cults of personality before, and I think that describes this perfectly. So instead of, you know, a movement of ideas, and I think you could argue that the revolution was a movement of ideas. Yeah, yeah. more than, you know, one soul person. But tyrants make all their political plans about themselves, right? The movement is about themselves. So that’s one really interesting.
Connor: Point. I think if you look at, like every authoritarian regime throughout history, they have what you just described, this cult of personality, this strong individual. Everything is centered around one person, the leader who makes all the decisions. And so, you know, as I look at it and as this, little documentary talks about, but certainly as, history shows, you know, the step to come, a first step to becoming a tyrant is you have to get people really upset about something. You have to identify a common enemy that encourages people to unite to, then fight back. And, there’s a quote from HL Menkin who’s this writer, I’m gonna get butcher this when I summarize it, but he says, you know, politics is just endlessly showing people that there’s all these hobgoblins and monsters to be afraid of. And if there aren’t any that exist, then you create them. Right? And, he’s being a bit cynical, but you look through history and that’s the case. There are cases where these, leaders, I hesitate to call them leaders, these tyrants, that’s the word we’re using for them today, where these tyrants, you know, used something that happened and tried to kind of galvanize the people and unite and follow me, right? And, give me your, you know, power. And, but then you have instances where events were manufactured, where they were created. and so you think of something like with Hitler and the Reich dog Fire. Yes. And, where.
Brittany: We’ll get in two more in just a couple of episodes.
Connor: And so, you know, they’ll say, oh, well, I’m gonna cause something to happen. Another term for this is a false flag event. When, you basically say, all right, I’m gonna create this incident and I’m gonna blame it on someone else, and I’m gonna get everyone really upset against those people, and they’re gonna gimme all their power, even though I’m the one that kind of tricked them into doing it, which I think gets into propaganda, right? Which we’ve talked about before, Brittany.
Brittany: Yes. We’ve absolutely talked about propaganda. And I think, that’s one of them. You need propaganda to create a common enemy, right? I, we’ve seen this, we and I both talked about the book Propaganda. Yeah.
Connor: The thing. So for those who don’t know about that book that was written by Edward Bernays back in, like World War I, during the days of Woodrow Wilson, and they were trying to find out how to manipulate entire movements of people, how you can get people to, change their minds, to follow leaders. And and this is something that, again, we’ll talk more about Hitler later, but Hitler and his team used that book propaganda when they were doing all their Nazi stuff. And so it’s very alarming to see this is what, this is how tyrants do it. as we said, you identify an enemy, you kind of unite the people, as one, to fight back to support the leader. You have this grand lie, this big kind of, claim of problems. You know, I think, even if you look at this war on terror that America’s been fighting for a couple of decades, it creates this us versus them narrative that encourages people to rally behind. You know, you have bad government policies that take their freedom away. And so it’s, the tyrant, the wannabe tyrant needs this because otherwise, you have people disagreeing people, oh, I don’t quite, I don’t support that. You know, but then when there’s a big crisis, then the, you know, a tyrant can step forward and call all of the disagreeing people, unpatriotic. Yeah. Right? Or, or traders. And suddenly you can basically bend the will of the public behind what you want to do because it’s the patriotic thing. it’s the, you know, the, it’s our duty. This is what we must do. And suddenly all of your dissenters, your people who disagree are pushed to the side and everyone falls in line behind the tyrant. it works time and time and time again throughout history. It’s a pattern that we can definitely see and which can warn us about the future.
Brittany: Absolutely. so another step on for wannabe tyrants is, be a man of the people. And this one’s really interesting to me. You know, people look up to people who are like them. And I’m not calling George Bush a tyrant, but you know, there was a point, I remember when he was like, oh, he wears blue jeans. He wears a cowboy hat. Like, he’s like me, right? ,
Connor: It’s that cult of personality again,
Brittany: It’s that cult of personality. And so you, like people love this, they’re drawn to this also. There’s the whole, war hero mentality, right? Like, oh, he served in a war, and with Hitler, Hitler served in World War I, that’s how he, kind of got his lust for war. And so he was able to say, you know, look at me. I was a war here. All this stuff. And they also, people are drawn to people, and we’ve talked about this with our heroes. I mean, even we are drawn to people like this who rise up from impoverished circumstances, right? A lot of people might not be as sympathetic with a wanna-be tyrant who’s like, I come from money and now I wanna rule over you. Now that’s gonna be different, obviously in different situations, but so they like this whole, like, he’s one of us. They want to see the people wanna see themselves in this leader as a potential leader, and that helps them rise to power. And the next step, which Connor you actually already kind of touched on, but I wanna touch on again, is obviously to unify the people. So you’ve created that common enemy and everybody’s now directing, you know, their anger, whoever caused that. So let’s say you’re in, you know, Nazi Germany or before Nazi Germany, and you’re angry that the economy is suffering post World War I, and you wanna blame someone. That’s what Hitler did, right? He blamed a certain group of people for that, and then everyone turned against them because everybody’s wallets were hurting, right? Everybody was, outta money. And so it was really easy to get everybody to turn against people. And so by uniting the people, you create almost like a mega collective tyrant, right? Because they’re all following one guy, but then everybody else is willing to do whatever it takes to, get rid of this enemy.
Connor: I think the next thing that a tyrant would need is like a core group of supporters and, you know, tyrants, they have to choose carefully. How this group is viewed, I think is important. You need, you know, war heroes or people who are respected, you need people who’ve proven their loyalty, right? Because if you’re gonna do big, bad, bold things, you, you want people who are gonna be loyal to you, who are, you know, committed to the cause just like you are. And so, you know, they choose their friends, these tyrants as if there’s a war going on. Usually, there is an actual war going on. But these people, these tyrants see this as a matter of life and death. And so they have to really trust, you know, these people who are gonna be like in their direct vicinity all the time. These are people who could like, assassinate you, right? Or, who could cause a lot of problems if they were to turn against you? And so, but you need this core group of people, cuz no, you know, one person cannot be a tyrant alone. You need people to follow your orders and do all kinds of horrible things. And so you have to have this group that you can influence and, and this people, these people that you surround yourself with are going to be those core like order followers. And so there’s that level of alignment and trust and loyalty, which, you know, again, these are, this is loyalty around evil things. Yes. Which is kind of despicable. And yet this is how tyrants operate. They have to have these core group of like-minded people. And some people are so allied with the tyrant, they support, you know, if they think they might lose power, they sacrifice their own life rather than live in a world without them. I mean, it’s very odd how this happens, but when you, when you have your group of supporters and you have the propaganda, and you have the big bad, you know, problem, that you’re all rallying around this unity, fake unity, the next step that you’ve gotta do is you have to crush your enemies. You know, even if they’re friends and family, you have to be ruthless. If you want to be a tyrant.
Brittany: I like that word. Ruthless is a good way to put that.
Connor: You have to be ruthless. What’s the opposite? Ruthless. I don’t know. Ruth, maybe there isn’t enough.
Brittany: Is It just Ruth?
Connor: Yeah, Ruth and ruthless. And so you have to vanquish your foe. You have to defeat your enemy. This is, I think, of course, the most terrifying aspect of pirate. They’ll turn even on those people who are being loyal to them, if they suspect disloyalty if they feel like, oh, he wants my power, you know, I’m gonna, I mean, this happens throughout world history. You have people killing siblings and parents and children, you know, and, people in your political party and the ruler on the other side, like because you, have all this power and now what’s in your mind? it’s the preservation of that power and, not only preserving it but increasing it, which is where you get into hurting and killing a lot of people because you’re trying to destroy your opposition. And, sometimes they’ll turn on these people to send a message to anyone who might even think about disloyalty. So maybe it’s not about that one person that you just, you know, executed. it’s, you wanna send a message to other people. and again, like some of these tyrants will even do it to their own family members. Saddam Hussein more recently was known, I guess.
Brittany: That was more recently, wasn’t it? It doesn’t feel like it, but yeah.
Connor: A decade ago. And I mean, imagine that Brittany like turning on your own family just because you want to hold onto your tyrannical political power. I can’t even imagine how evil you have to be thinking something like that. And yet, world history shows time and time and time again, that this type of thing happens. It reminds me of that quote from Lord Acton, right? Power corrupts people. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts, absolutely. In other words, when you have like a ton of power, it is totally gonna corrupt you, which is why people like you and I support this concept of decentralization. So centralized power is like when all the power goes to the center of a circle, well, what’s in the middle of a circle? One little dot, which is could be your tyrant. And so if all that power rushes in from the outer edges of a circle into the center, cuz it’s centralized right now, you have this tyrannical power. But if you decentralize power, think of the perimeter, what’s it called? The circumference of a circle as being all these little dots, all these individual people. And if the power is pushed to the edges, then people have power in their own lives to do what they want. So that’s the decentralization of power. You’re pulling it away from Washington dc you’re pulling it away from tyrants, you’re pulling it away from an individual person. And so if absolute power corrupts, absolutely, then I think, you know, folks like us who care about liberty, we have to be pulling power away from any one person rather than giving more to them.
Brittany: And it’s absolutely right. I also wanna point out, and I think, again, I love, you know, using literature and fiction to get this lesson across, but I think about Harry Potter and nobody’s born a tyrant, right? You aren’t born evil. Voldemort had to choose to be a villain, just like Harry had to choose to be a hero. So, you know, just because you don’t like a bully at school doesn’t necessarily mean they’re gonna grow up and be a tyrant. They might I don’t know. But I think it’s important to remember that choice, right? And we’ve talked about all these steps. These are purposeful steps that people have taken to get power. So, you know, nobody is born evil, at least in my opinion. So that, I think that’s just something interesting to keep in mind that, you know, but I don’t think Hitler was born from the day he was born. It was like, you know, I’m gonna grow up to be a mass murderer. That’s what I wanna do when I grew up.
Connor: A Little teaser for all of our listeners out there, we are working on a guidebook about this exact type of issue. so stay tuned for that in the future. It’s in the works and it’ll take us a little while to work on. but if you don’t have any of the other guidebooks, you can go to Tuttletwins.com/products. This is for the older kids, kind of 12 or 13 and up mostly for the teenagers and certainly you adults as well. So you go check that out. And as always, Tuttletwins.com/podcast for show notes and subscribe to the show, share it with your friends. We’re very grateful to you guys for listening. We don’t want tyrants in our day and age, and so we gotta make sure we educate everyone about freedom so that we can decentralize power and make sure when some wannabe tyrant stands up and says, here’s a problem, let’s all unite around my exact plan and proposed solution. Just gimme your freedom. Then we’ll know because we will have learned from history so as not to repeat it in the future. That’s why what we’re doing behind the Tuttle twins is so important. Thank you all for playing a part of it, Brittany, and you as well. Great conversation. And until next time, we’ll talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later.