Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, I remember watching TV and seeing two-bit dictators of banana republics, surrounded by sycophants, lying blatantly and openly while everyone around him nodded in silent agreement. The thing that stood out about those lies was that they were obvious lies. Easy disproved. Exaggerations to the point of absurdity. Lies about the big and lies about the small. But there he stood proclaiming this “truth” as though the mere proclamation would make the statements true.
I would laugh to myself at the ridiculous nature of it all.
But now I realize that those specific types of lies — the exaggerations to the point of absurdity, the obvious nature of them, the ease in which they could be disproved, lies about the irrelevant and important, and the frequency in which they were told — were, in fact, the point. I now realize that this was a weapon being used right in front of us. These types of lies specifically have a unique purpose that helps a tyrant or dictator take and keep power. They do it in a number of different ways.
First and foremost, they are instant loyalty tests. Think of it this way: If the dictator stands in a room and says 2 + 2 = 4 and everyone nods in agreement, he has learned nothing about who is supporting him and who is not. But if he says 2 + 2 = 5, or 10 or 30 and people nod in agreement, he knows that they are loyal. They will defy their own truth and even reality and defer all that to him. This is why blatant lies about the big and the small are important. People who will stand by him and agree regardless of the importance or lack of importance is key. Some people thinking the small lies are unimportant will let them go while other people will speak up for that same reason. They figure it is inconsequential. Others may be prone to speak up when the lie is about something of importance while others will remain silent in fear. This is why the dictator needs to lie about all things great and small.
At this point, it will also be helpful to look at the nature of dictators or tyrants. In non-democratic systems, the dictator’s power is derived from what he can extract from others. Initially, the power may be voluntarily given but once given coercion is often used to continue to build a power base. And loyalty is of supreme…