“How to Become a Tyrant:” The Dictator on Netflix

The 20th century is full of vile men who seek power at all costs.In the new documentary series Netflix, Peter Dinklage tells their story and reveals their “script” How to be a tyrant.

This documentary series travels the world, relives the stories of tyrants from Europe, Africa and Asia, exploring how they slaughtered citizens, waged wars, and tried to crush anyone who got in the way.

The show is based on The Dictator’s Handbook: Why bad behavior is almost always good politics, Co-authored by political scientists Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith in 2011.

Each of the six episodes focuses on different aspects of how dictators seized and maintained power in the 20th century.

The Tyrant’s Script, Episode 1: “Seizing Power”

Nazi leader Adolf Hitler gave a speech in 1935.
Helton Archives/Getty Images

The first episode focuses on Adolf Hitler, who rose to fame when Germany faltered due to the failure of the First World War.

It explores how he showed himself in the 1920s as a man of the same wavelength as the German people but with unshakable self-confidence.

He convinced people that he survived the First World War because he had a visionary mission to save his country, winning followers with angry rants and racist conspiracy theories.

His speeches and propaganda transformed the Nazi Party from a small group of far-right German nationalists in 1920 to a totalitarian regime that systematically murdered millions in the Holocaust and provoked the Second World War.

This documentary shows that Hitler’s famous mustache was one of the props he used to show himself as the people. It later became a fashion for working-class men in Germany.

Episode 2: “Crush Your Opponents”

Saddam Hussein in 1983
In 1983, Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq for more than 20 years.
Jacques Pavlovsky/Getty Images

The second episode outlines how Saddam Hussein eliminated his opponents to maintain power for more than 20 years. It explains how the Iraqi dictator conducts high-level surveillance on people he does not trust, and tortured and blackmailed his opponents.

During the Baath Party purge in 1979, a political leader who had been tortured by Saddam’s men was ordered to read out a “confession” about his role in the conspiracy to overthrow the government, and pointed out 68 so-called Complicity-the room at the time. These people were taken away and arrested. Some people were later executed for treason, while others were forced to execute executions.

A video of the meeting was subsequently circulated to convey information about what might happen to those who are not loyal to Saddam.

Episode 3: “Through the Reign of Terror”

Idi Amin from Uganda.
Idi Amin seized power through a military coup.
Cornerstone/Getty Images

Idi Amin (Idi Amin) is the focus of the third episode, starting with the terrible statistics that during his administration, mainly because of his orders, 300,000 Ugandans have disappeared.

In 1971, he led a military coup and declared himself president. Only six months later, he was charged with the crimes of ethnic cleansing and ordering massacres.

One incident that caused widespread concern about his atrocities was the disappearance of two Americans, journalist Nicholas Stro and lecturer Robert Sidder, who went outside the capital Kampala to investigate reports of the massacre.

The documentary tells of Amin’s men who killed them, burned the bodies and threw them into the river-but Amin did not raise any charges and ended the investigation.

Despite the international pressure on death, this documentary explains how Amin found and used scapegoats to keep his people loyal.

Episode 4: “Control the Truth”

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin rewrote history, presenting himself as Lenin’s natural successor.
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Episode 4 explained that it is absolutely taboo to question those in power, and Joseph Stalin knows this better than anyone.

The Soviet dictator used propaganda and more terrifying methods to suppress the truth and ensure that his account of the event became official history.

When he was young, he was the leader of a terrorist organization fighting to overthrow the Russian government, which caught Lenin’s attention.

However, in the period before Lenin’s death in 1924, the two clashed. Therefore, Stalin rewrote history and even circulated a retouched photo of him and Lenin, implying that they had a close personal relationship and he would be the ideal successor.

Once he came to power, Stalin conducted a strict censorship of the media to ensure that his position would not be weakened by reports that contained inconvenient truth.

Episode 5: “Creating a New Society”

Muammar Gaddafi was killed in 2011.

The fifth episode shows that Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan tyrant, really wanted to create a utopian version of his country-until he fell into selfishness and greed.

Gaddafi decided that he needed to “become the law” to start this society, which led him to implement legislation to oppose simple behaviors like calling a taxi or eating chicken from overseas.

Student protesters who violated these regulations were detained or killed-April 7 became the country’s national holiday, when Gaddafi would order the arrest of competitors and critics to show his power.

The documentary also explores how Gaddafi tried to consolidate his legacy through a huge project, the great man-made river he called the eighth wonder of the world, and the green paper on political philosophy he used to manage the country.

Episode 6: “Forever Rule”

North Korea
Kim Jong Un is the grandson of the founding father of North Korea.
Brendan Smijarovsky/Getty

Many dictators dream of reigning forever-and the Kim dynasty of North Korea is closer than most, imposing a doctrine that only members of its bloodline can lead the country.

It started with Kim Il Sung, known as the eternal leader or great leader, who became the first president of North Korea after liberation from Japan in 1948, and learned some notes on how it works from his mentor Stalin.

In order for North Korea to follow his path, Kim Il Sung used a philosophy called the subject to isolate his country, which means self-reliance.

The Kim dynasty wanted to become a monarchy. In 1966, the eldest son of the eternal leader, Kim Jong Il, proposed to take over the propaganda activities and become the heir to the throne.

This impressed his father. Kim Jong-il kidnapped South Korean director Shin Sang-ok and his actress wife Choi Eun-hee in the late 1970s and forced them to produce a promotional film for North Korea. He continued to work hard to create a narrative that would put his family in power.

In the end, the Jin Dynasty gained international fear through the threat of nuclear war. Kim Jong Il inherited his father in 1994 until his own death in 2011. Today North Korea is controlled by his son, Kim Jong Un.

“How to Become a Tyrant” is now playing on Netflix.

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