How to Be a Dictator by Frank Dikötter review – the cult of personality

 

Charisma, a lust for power, an absence of principles … what links Mao, Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler and other 20th-century dictators?

The Guardian

Sheila Fitzpatrick

Sat 26 Oct 2019

Born in obscurity, frustrated in youth, the dictator rises through accident, patronage or anything except merit to blossom into a fully fledged evil-doer, desperate for the respect and admiration that are wrung from the populace only by skilled PR manipulation. Often feigning modesty, he soon generates a cult that he personally develops. Women and even brave men feel overcome in his presence; schoolchildren chant the praise of the father of the nation; artists and writers deify the great leader. Dictators generally come equipped with an ideology, but since they have no principles, only a lust for power, the process of propagation turns it into a mockery.

Although dictators often fancy themselves as writers or philosophers, they fail to make the grade as intellectuals, and the Little Red Books they produce are travesties. If they are dictators of the left, their attempts at radical reform bring famine and suffering to the population. If dictators of the right, they go to war, with the same consequence of popular suffering, and lead the nation to shameful defeat. They long to be popular, and put great effort into creating that illusion, but it is all fakery. Surrounded by sycophants, they are friendless, lonely and paranoid. Most of them die a dog’s death, but if they somehow manage to avoid this, people only pretend to mourn them. After their death, they are quickly forgotten.

This is the collective portrait that emerges from Frank Dikötter’s book, the eight chapters of which deal with MussoliniHitlerStalinMao ZedongKim Il-sung, Haiti’s “Papa Doc” Duvalier, Romania’s Nicolae Ceauşescu and Ethiopia’s Mengistu Haile Mariam. Despite their fundamental similarities, his dictators do have stylistic differences. Stalin allowed streets and cities to be named after him, while Mao did not. Hitler was a teetotaller and Duvalier a follower of the occult. Kim’s floodlit statue towered over Pyongyang, following the tradition of Stalin statues, but Hitler vetoed the construction of statues of himself (thinking this honour should be reserved for great historical figures), and Ceauşescu and Duvalier felt the same. Some dictators’ enforcers wore brown shirts, others black, and still others had no uniform. Mussolini and Hitler excelled as orators, while Stalin was an undistinguished speaker who never addressed mass rallies. Stalin, Mao and Duvalier wrote poetry, Hitler painted and Mussolini played the violin.

In the chapters on the “big” dictators – Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin and Mao – Dikötter dwells on the cult that developed round them. All of them headed a party that borrowed some of their charisma, and their regimes featured a variety of secret police and enforcers as well as cheerleaders and informers. Ordinary people were encouraged to believe that anything bad was done by subordinates without the dictator’s knowledge (“If only the Duce/Fūhrer/vozhd’ knew”). In fact, the dictators repeatedly made terrible mistakes and appear to have had few if any lasting achievements. With Mao and Stalin, the “dog’s death” trope doesn’t quite fit, but Dikötter runs a modified form of it anyway. Dying, Stalin lay unattended, “soaked in his own urine”, and “one month after his funeral”, his “name vanished from the newspapers”.

Dikötter’s sources are impressive, including 16 archives from nine countries, one of them being the former Soviet Central Party Archive (now renamed RGASPI) in Moscow. Despite this, I did not find the Stalin chapter particularly compelling, no doubt partly because I do not share the author’s view that the cult is the most interesting thing about Stalin. When Dikötter writes that the dry-as-dust Short Course on the History of the All-Union Communist Party, in whose composition Stalin participated, “deified Stalin as the living fount of wisdom”, I wonder if he has actually read it.

For me, the most entertaining chapters of this book were about the dictators I was least familiar with. It is intriguing to read that the remains of Mengistu’s predecessor, Emperor Haile Selassie, were possibly “buried underneath his office, placing his desk right above the corpse”. The stand-out dictator, in terms of entertainment value, is Duvalier, with his personal militia the Tonton Macoutes, who “dressed like gangsters, with shiny blue-serge suits, dark, steel-rimmed glasses and grey homburg hats” for their enforcement duties. Duvalier modelled himself on Baron Samedi, the Vodou spirit of the dead and guardian of cemeteries, and sometimes dressed the part, all in black, with top hat and carrying a cane. Dikötter characterises him as a “dictator’s dictator”, by which I think he means the stripped-down model with “no true party” and without the “pretence of ideology”. Certainly Duvalier has a claim to be the reductio ad absurdum. Continue reading

The Dialogue Ireland archival website has a new domain. www.dialogueireland.ie

 

cult word in a dictionary. cult concept

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/about/

Due to us losing an old email address renewal notices for our domain for our website:

www.dialogueireland.org were not received. The result was that our domain name was sold and we have to now try to reconstitute it using this domain name:  www.dialogueireland.ie

This may take a few weeks to accomplish but all the material that was on the archival website can be found on our blog https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/

To contact us please write to   info@dialogueireland.ie

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Tom Lyons has written the most about cults for Irish newspapers, Dialogue Ireland wishes him well with his new assignment.

I have known Tom Lyons since the beginning of his career. I have found him a fearless writer in regard to my area of competence cultism.
Tom Lyons Chief Executive

Tom Lyons is the Chief Executive of The Currency. Named Business Journalist of the Year on three occasions, he won plaudits and respect for his unflinching coverage of Ireland’s boom, bust and recovery. He is an experienced broadcaster and the co-author of two books

Tom Lyons

A lot of journalism involves the threat of defamation and where a story is the law is soon behind.

He has worked with a number of newspapers which is a sign of the shrinking market for paper versions of news. How do you get people online when for some of us we need a break for a bit of paper once a week?
Wishing him well in this new venture.
Here is a selection of his articles which have included death threats. The currency is trying to get at the truth. When dealing with high pressure groups that exercise high levels of influence and control it is difficult to keep sane under the strain.

The currency is about addressing how the powerful try to stop you getting to the truth.
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In our work we often a threatened with legal attacks and in one case involving Tony Quinn we got a very pleasant surprise when Justice Hogan looked at this issue of our rights to assist the victims of cultism.

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/final-version-cornec-v-morrice-ors-judgment-by-hogan-j/

Mike Meegan~ Icross

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/why-the-mike-meegan-case-is-so-vital-for-the-study-of-cultism/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/why-the-mike-meegan-case-is-so-vital-for-the-study-of-cultism/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2016/07/02/con-sole-another-cult-of-greed/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/sunday-times-reports-on-mike-meegan-minus-icross-0607/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2010/03/07/sun-goes-down-on-icross-colin-coyle-and-tom-lyons-the-sunday-times-march-7-2010/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2010/05/16/charity-chief-‘pretended-to-be-a-priest’-by-tom-lyons-and-colin-coyle/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/priest-was-source-of-rtes-false-allegation-kenyan-woman-at-centre-of-rape-story-says/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/sunday-times-reports-on-mike-meegan-minus-icross-0607/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/famed-charity-boss-lied-in-bid-to-get-us-grant-icross-mike-meegan/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/icross-commentary-and-detailed-links-to-facts-evidenced-in-sunday-times-article/

Tony Quinn~Educo

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2009/09/20/irish-independent-tony-quinn-firm-racks-up-loss-of-e1m-october-3rd-2005/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/healthy-cash-balance-for-tony-quinn-company-irish-independent-fri-210203-by-tom-lyons/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2012/07/28/tony-quinn-physician-heal-thyself-he-needs-to-come-home-and-manage-his-companies/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2009/09/20/irish-independent-tony-quinn-firm-racks-up-loss-of-e1m-october-3rd-2005/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/summary-of-media-coverage/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2009/09/20/healthy-cash-balance-for-tony-quinn-company-irish-independent-fri-210203/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2009/01/18/healthy-cash-balance-for-tony-quinn-company/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2009/01/18/irish-independent-tony-quinn-firm-racks-up-loss-of-e1m/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/tony-quinn-plays-voodoo-with-his-product-prices-in-jersey-and-revenue-thinks-he-is-kosher-in-dublin/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/the-gardai-investigate-crime-please-step-into-your/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/mind-guru-quinn-firm-hit-by-rising-losses-of-e285000/

SCIENTOLOGY NON CHURCH ORG
https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2009/12/04/scientology-organisation-so-critical-update/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2009/01/20/troubled-scientology-church-in-ireland-is-now-e1m-in-red/

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/numbers-statistics-and-a-one-thousand-get/

Continue reading

Dialogue Ireland visit to Marian College about cultism September 24th 2019

Mike Garde the Director of Dialogue Ireland has been visiting Marian College for over 20 years.  Trying to alert rather than warn about the undue influence of cults and sects. This can be an inside job within churches or it can be the use of inappropriate means outside which we call undue influence. This is not about beliefs but how anyone of us can be put under pressure.

As usual we will outline the different aspects of the issues facing young people today.

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/schools/

 

http://www.mariancollege.ie/

This school under the guidance of Grainne McCarthy has been at the forefront in having an input on the cult issue for over a twenty years.

This school also hosted our Cult Conference entitled the Mind Benders in 2007.

https://dialogueireland.wordpress.com/2009/04/06/%E2%80%98the-mind-benders%E2%80%99-conference-2007/ Continue reading

A commentary on the Observer Triratna article ~ Scale of FWBO / Triratna abuse unfolds

English-born Buddhist The Venerable Sthavira Sangharakshita<br>Mandatory Credit: Photo by John Twine/ANL/REX/Shutterstock (1683330a)
The Venerable Sthavira Sangharakshita
English-born Buddhist The Venerable Sthavira Sangharakshita

Sangharakshita in 1966. Photograph: John Twine/ANL/REX/Shutterstock

Scale of FWBO / Triratna abuse unfolds

On Sunday 21 July 2019,  The Observer newspaper published a Special Report about the Triratna Buddhist Group, titled “Buddhist, teacher, predator: dark secrets of the Triratna guru”:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/21/sangharakshita-guru-triratna-buddhist-dark-secrets

Triratna have posted their response to The Observer article here:

https://thebuddhistcentre.com/adhisthana-kula/further-response-adhisthana-kula-observer-article

Triratna is primarily UK based, but has around eighty urban centres and retreat centres worldwide, including The Dublin Buddhist Centre, and holds activities in over twenty countries. Continue reading

Triratna – FWBO: “Buddhist, teacher, predator: dark secrets of the Triratna guru” by Jamie Doward Sun 21 Jul 2019

English-born Buddhist The Venerable Sthavira Sangharakshita<br>Mandatory Credit: Photo by John Twine/ANL/REX/Shutterstock (1683330a)
The Venerable Sthavira Sangharakshita
English-born Buddhist The Venerable Sthavira Sangharakshita
Sangharakshita in 1966. Photograph: John Twine/ANL/REX/Shutterstock
British-born guru Sangharakshita was mired in allegations of abuse for years. Now it seems the scandal in his wealthy order went far wider than previously acknowledged

Coddington Court, near the Herefordshire market town of Ledbury, is a late-18th-century red brick mansion surrounded by farmland.

These days it goes by the name of Adhisthana, reflecting its reincarnation as the headquarters of one of the most influential Buddhist orders in the world, the Triratna Community, whose founder, Sangharakshita, lived there until his death last year at the age of 93. With its impressive grounds and gardens, it looks like a serene place for someone to spend their final years. But behind the scenes, the picture is a rather more turbulent one.

For decades the order has been dogged by claims of sexual misconduct, claims that often strayed into allegations of coercion and abuse but which were thought to involve only a handful of individuals at worst.

Continue reading

Admin Letter: to the editor about John Tonner

Dear Administrators/Moderators of Yumi Toktok Stret.

http://www.yumitoktokstret.today/admin-letter/?fbclid=IwAR3znlvZdUE3IaDl7C94DKIDpDZFkAmIZJsnGSVwFY0rZizVhSfUKwLc0a8

I write to you today in the hope you will publish my letter concerning Mr. John Tonner’s brief statement printed by the Daily Post.

I will not say much on the recent social media stories published regarding corruption/bribery concerning the wharf situation as I simply do not have the facts concerning this, however, I wouldn’t be shocked or surprised to find out the details published were in fact very true.

Mr. Tonner, you talk of defamation are you serious? Just type your name, your partner’s name or the cult you are heavily associated with into google and you can read all about you all.

Do not act all honorable and as if you are respectable remember of society as you are far from it.

As a fellow Australian citizen and as well as becoming a Ni – Vanuatu citizen, Mr. Tonner I will say this too you. ‘If any investigation needs to take place it should be into you and your partner Debra Burslem who is a renown conwoman.”

Your partner who is the cult leader of the Magnificat Meal Movement in which you are also heavily involved in is renowned for fraudulent scams, deceit, and manipulation.

‘Princess’ as Debra is referred too is your partner who can apparently hear and see God and Virgin Mary has scammed millions of dollars from people.

Since you welcome transparency, let’s have the Vanuatu government and the Vanuatu police investigate you and your partner and where the money is that you scammed from many people.

How did you both get citizenship in Vanuatu when you are associated directly with someone who is a renown fraud?

Did you state that you were fleeing Australia because of your scams that had come to light and that the Australian Tax Office was investigating you both?

You may think Vanuatu was your and Debra’s way out but you will come undone Mr. Tonner.

And last of all please do not use this country’s motto when you and your partner are deceitful, manipulative cult leaders and followers.

You are a disgrace to have as a Vanuatu citizen and I ask the responsible minister to investigate all of you here associated with ‘princess’ the fraudster!

Kind Regards,

A concerned Citizen

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