The Psychological Dynamic That Enables Dictators To Remain In Power
We (the people) have a personal responsibility that we need to acknowledge.
Do you ever wonder why we humans, often seem attracted to powerful people?
Do you also wonder why some are willing to give up their freedom for the sake of stability and protection?
I don’t know about you, but it really makes my blood boil every time I hear someone speaking with that absurd mentality.
We are always quick to vilify dictators, yet we seem to forget about the responsibility we have for their existence.
So I thought there must be some type of psychological explanation to that and I was right.
The Confirmation Bias
This is a big one. It’s the most obvious explanation for the sickening support of people to dictatorships. They are essentially blinded by their cognitive laziness and dictators know exactly how to take advantage of that.
The confirmation bias is a very common thing and it can be interpreted as a “wishful thinking” that makes people prone to believe ONLY what they want to believe.
Their unquestionable acceptance of everything associated with their dictator stems from a “false optimism”. They are so confident about the rhetoric of their leader because they associate it with patriotism and righteousness. So, if you happen to be a criticizer of their great leader, you’re obviously considered a traitor.
No matter how much you try to prove to them how delusional they are, they stand by their lies — which they have come to believe as the truth.
Dictators are experts at manipulation. They know exactly how to take advantage of this type of shortcut thinking embedded in societies with high levels of ignorance and illiteracy. If the leader says “I am protecting you”, then they will believe so, because a leader should always look after his people.
According to John M. Grohol at Psych Central ,
“It is one of the strongest and most insidious human biases in psychology, because most people are unaware they are doing it.”
The Stockholm Syndrome
It’s the psychological response through which the victim starts to identify with the aggressor. Dictators are good at exploiting this behaviour that is often found in people who are vulnerable and dis-empowered. People who are socially and economically weak are the easiest to manipulate and dictators are masters at it.
Let’s take for instance a country like Egypt, where former president Hosni Mubarak ruled the country for 3 decades. Many have become accustomed to the level of oppression and brutality practised by his regime during all these years. As a consequence, they started to see Mubarak as a symbol of power and leadership that was irreplaceable because they simply didn’t know any better.
When the 2011 revolution started in Egypt, his supporters would show up in protests and even call him a “hero”. Many of those vulnerable people were exposed later on for being bribed with food or money.
This shows how the years and decades of intentional abuse enables the oppressor to later on exploit the frustration and vulnerability of his victims by brainwashing them into believing in the promise of a triumph over their crushed state.
Also, psychoanalysis suggests that victims of oppression and abuse tend to develop an identification with the assessor as a defence mechanism:
“It involves the victim adopting the behaviour of a person who is more powerful and hostile towards them.”
Finally, I strongly believe that a major part of why some people indulge in those social and psychological dynamics is the lack of knowledge. Knowledge is the bridge to a better place and ignorance is a dictator’s most powerful weapon. By impoverishing his people and crushing their human dignity, I bet that fighting back would be the last thing on their minds. After all, their main worry has become their freedom to simply live — with dignity or without.
Nonetheless the only people who never fail at this test are those who are aware— those who know and recognize that dictators would fail to exist without followers.