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Tools of Tyranny

Tea Flavored Harbor WaterJul 5, 2018, 6:39:19 PM

An important way to fight tyranny is through education, because one man alone is powerless against a tyrant with an army at their command. Knowing the tools tyrants utilize to consolidate their power can be a great deterrent to their effectiveness. 


Controlling the information the public has access to has long been a tool for tyrants.  Preventing information that would upset the masses from reaching them is a sure way to prevent uprisings.  

Identity Politics

As we've seen throughout history, many tyrants utilize identity politics to divide the people.  An us versus them mentality ingrained into a populace helps ensure the people will not rise up in unity to dethrone a dictator.  In the 20th century we saw this tactic used both by fascists and communists with incredible success.  The leader of the National Socialist Workers Party (Nazi) of Germany condemned anyone in his country, and those he invaded, based on their ethnicity or religious beliefs.  

“People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem to begin with. One does not banish this specter by invoking it. If I would not vote against someone on the grounds of 'race' or 'gender' alone, then by the exact same token I would not cast a vote in his or her favor for the identical reason. Yet see how this obvious question makes fairly intelligent people say the most alarmingly stupid things.”

― Christopher Hitchens

Gun Control

Ever since the gun was invented, tyrants have sought to keep it out of the hands of those they oppress.  Firearms are a great equalizer in humanity, and tyrants are well aware they can more easily control people if only those loyal to them possess them.  The great irony of imposing gun laws on the people, is that it must be done with guns.


Glorious soldiers, fight enemy stoingly, on to the west, for the complete liberation of Soviet land!

One of the most valuable tools in a tyrants toolbox is propaganda, which is usually distributed through state controlled media.  This was done in the past with newspapers like Praavda in the Soviet Union,  and is a practice still utilized today.  With the inventions of radio and television, state-run broadcasts have also proven an effective way to spread propaganda.  Propaganda is so valuable to tyrants because it is an effective way to utilize their other tools on a massive scale.


When tyrants turn their eyes outward at foreign nations they can conquer to expand their empire, they utilize nationalism to take the same us versus them strategy of identity politics on a national scale. It has often been used to make a case for waging war and expansion.  War often brings hardship to the people, as rationing causes a hardship for the general public.  Convincing people this hardship is justified for the good of the country, or perhaps even the world keeps people docile even when their lives are unduly burdened by the ambitions of a tyrant.  This is even a tool against those who do not buy into nationalism, because those that do might label them a traitor if they were to speak out against it.


A handy tool for totalitarian tyrants with collectivist ideologies like communism and socialism, anti-theism is a tactic used to replace God with government in the minds and hearts of the people.  The logic behind this is that people cannot be turned away from the state by the word of God.  This is especially helpful when violence is needed to purge dissidents from a country,  as a lack of consequential afterlife makes moral obligations less important in the grand scheme of things.  This isn't to be confused with atheism, which is simply the denial of the legitimacy of theism by an individual.  Many atheists still respect the rights of others to worship a higher power, but anti-theists endeavor to eliminate theism, and may go as far as persecuting those who would worship.


Monarchies have relied on theism throughout history to justify their elevation to absolute power above the people of their country, declaring themselves representatives of God, chosen to lead.  This way they can cause the people to believe they deserve complete control of the wealth of the land, even though they could not have gained any wealth without the work of the people.  A prime example of this is King Henry VIII, who for the sake of divorcing his wife Catherine of Aragon led England to reject catholicism and establish its own church.  

Henry VIII had 6 wives throughout his reign, many of which he discarded either from lack of sexual attraction, or because they did not produce a male heir. Many of them met tragic fates.

Catherine of Aragon (marriage annulled, died while detained under guard at Kimbolton Castle, mother of Mary I)

Anne Boleyn (marriage annulled, then beheaded, mother of Elizabeth I)

Jane Seymour (died twelve days after giving birth to Edward VI, believed to be caused by birth complications)

Anne of Cleves (marriage annulled, outlived the rest of the wives)

Catherine Howard (beheaded)

Catherine Parr (widowed at death of Henry VIII, remarried to Thomas Seymour)

Henry VIII had so many wives, a common mnemonic device was created to remember the fates of Henry's consorts

Boleyn and Howard lost their heads,

Anne of Cleves he would not bed,

Jane Seymour gave him a son - but died before the week was done,

Aragon he did divorce,

Which just left Catherine Parr, of course!


Usually supported with nationalism, war is an effective way to unite people behind their tyrant.  Everyone wants to back a winner, it is a simple human nature that is easily exploited with war.  It is perceived as dangerous to have power change hands during wars, and even former United States Presidents have kept their power simply because the populace feared changing leadership would weaken the war effort or leave them vulnerable to attack.


From George Orwell's "1984"

Nothing safeguards against political opponents quite like having information that you can use against them.  Collecting embarrassing facts about potential opponents can be used to silence them through blackmail.  This tactic can also be utilized to catch and punish dissent before it can grow powerful enough to topple a dictator.  This tool has been vastly expanded by the internet, as now online activities can be monitored and collected not only for gathering dirt on dissenters, but also in totalitarian countries to be used to prosecute those who would dissent on social media services like Facebook.  A mass exodus from Facebook by Vietnamese users to Minds is because such a practice has been legalized in Vietnam.

There are many tools tyrants use to consolidate or keep their power.  Too many in fact, to list them all.  There are also many subtle ways tyrants can be effective, including planting audience members to start applauding after making political points during a public speech.  If you feel I've left some tools tyrants use out of this article (which surely I have), you're welcome to point them out in the comment section.  The more we speak to each other about these tools of tyrants, the better chance we have of recognizing them and resisting their influence over us.