Rhetorical Fears Lead to Real Despotism
When “strong man” rhetoric leads to disruptive government and despotic empires.
When authoritarians tell you they can make your world different than the one you live in, believe them. They don’t want the world you have. They want the world they dream of.
One where they can do what they want, flaunt rules, shame people, take what they want, from whoever they want. These men (and they are most often small men, mean men, men who have some idea of entitlement which tells them, the world is theirs for the taking) will use whatever means gets them what they want.
They are not above lying, stealing, cheating, disrespecting, using dog whistles, undermining social conventions with the pretense of disrupting traditions for your benefit.
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They aren’t even thinking about you. They are projecting strength, demonizing enemies and dismantling institutions the same way an abuser does with his victim.
They use fear to convince you that they can and will hurt you if you tell anyone what they are doing. They discredit you, they isolate you from your friends and family, then tell people the problem isn’t them, its YOU. Gaslighting your friends and family until you begin to believe them. Dismantling your life, your social circles, your job, your psychological well-being until you will accept their every word, every falsehood, as if it were gospel.
The difference between an authoritarian and an abusive husband is the scope of their power. A despot in your government can, if they are in the right place, destroy your nation, while you stand idly by, dazzled by their rhetoric and baffled by their bullshit.
A few people have said to me today, it isn’t the government but particular agencies which need to be dismantled and such men would have less power over society. Complete and utter nonsense.
This isn’t about the weapons of totalitarian governments but the dictators who USE those weapons. We are watching a wave of dictatorship under the guise of “strong leadership” leaders willing to violate your individual rights, bringing order out of chaos, even if they have to murder thousands of innocent bystanders to do it.
This isn’t about the agencies in their employ but the people who allow or even vote in these monsters without considering the long term consequences of such leadership. Such leaders dismantle institutions which protect the people under the guise that they know better than those long-running institutions and can do a better job with their “strong leadership methods.”
Often the agencies being dismantled are providing resources the strong leader is uninformed of because it is their blindness to such things that cause them to believe they are able to solve problems with a hammer when nuance is what is needed.
Demonizing their enemies the authoritarian destroys his enemies with poisonous rhetoric indicating to the people only HE can provide them with the information necessary for their well-being. This is almost never true, because part of the idea of being a strong leader is almost an oxymoron to the idea of being a knowledgeable one. A leader smart enough to recognize he can’t possibly know everything is one willing to treat his enemies with enough respect to recognize they might know more than he does.
But such enlightened leaders are considered weak because they don’t discount, demean and in some extreme cases destroy anyone who brings doubt to their leadership. Ultimately the authoritarian, the strong man, the dictator, the despot are all cut from the same cloth.
They are bullies who have managed to make their way into government using the fear of a changing world to convince people to hide in their basements until the storm has passed and to give up their rights to him while he drives the storm away.
“A man who praises dictators wants to be one in his dreams, and is often a monster in his waking hours to anyone unfortunate enough to cross his path.”
Storms pass. Dictators die. Often not before a lot of people are abused, undermined, left to struggle in the machinations of lesser men who people should have had enough sense to not elect into positions of power. These strong men, lathering at the mouth, often little more than rabid dogs, biting everyone around them, friend and foe alike until their sycophants realize they may have made a mistake.
The problem with such a state is by the time most people realize something must be done, their rhetorical rabies has spread into the government, into the military and venal men, presented with the opportunity to exercise power greater than their emotional capacity would allow under more reasonable times; such men lose their shit and join their abuser in subjugating a foolish populace who are rationalizing the monstrous behavior of their “elected” officials.
Such men start their careers by murdering the truth with specious rhetoric and eventually graduate to undermining anyone who disagrees with them, destroying their careers, attacking their credibility, and turning the people against them. Ultimately, if left alone long enough they will graduate to killing journalists, disappearing dissidents, and isolating immigrants while the people cheer them on. Until he turns on them.
By then, its often too late to do anything but suffer for their security. Anyone who promises you security while denying you even the most basic rights is someone who doesn’t plan to give you either. Give him time and you will see it in how he appoints his government, how he deals with the questions you ask, how he treats the poor and weak, how he extols the virtues of other monsters like him.
Ironically, the people most in need of this essay will never read it. They will assume strong men in government are necessary to keep the world safe.
Let me assure you, I have given this more thought than the average person and when the world has despots in power, it is less safe, less stable, less reasonable, and promotes a world where the people live in fear, having less, struggling more, and distracted from the precarity of their existence with state-sponsored news telling them everything’s fine. Even when it hasn’t been for a long time.
Share this essay with everyone you can, to fight back while you can, because right now, your government is poised to cross that line between something people will aspire to protect to one where they will do anything to get rid of it. In a world destabilized by bullies, each ramping up their military arsenals, creating new technologies to murder each other in twenty minutes or less, is this the time to sit back at watch while it happens?
— The Cognitive Dissident
Thaddeus Howze is the Cognitive Dissident, a collection of articles questioning the world view of modern society and the contradictory conventions used to justify the cruelty, the inhumanity and the corruption found in almost every sector of Human existence.
Thaddeus works as a writer and editor for two magazines, the Good Men Project, a social men’s magazine as well as for Krypton Radio, a sci-fi enthusiast media station and website. He is also a freelance journalist for Polygon.com and Panel & Frame magazine. Thaddeus is the co-founder of Futura Science Fiction Magazine and one of the founding members of the Afrosurreal Writers Workshop in Oakland.