As tyrants take control of democracies, they typically do 7 things.
1. They exaggerate their mandate to govern—claiming, for example, that they won an election by a “landslide” even after losing the popular vote. They criticize any finding that they or co-conspirators stole the election. And they repeatedly claim “massive voter fraud” in the absence of any evidence, in order to have an excuse to restrict voting by opponents in subsequent elections.
2. They turn the public against journalists or media outlets that criticize them, calling them “deceitful” and “scum,” and telling the public that the press is a “public enemy.” They hold few, if any, press conferences, and prefer to communicate with the public directly through mass rallies and unfiltered statements (or what we might now call “tweets”).
3. They repeatedly lie to the public, even when confronted with the facts. Repeated enough, these lies cause some of the public to doubt the truth, and to believe fictions that support the tyrants’ goals.
4. They blame economic stresses on immigrants or racial or religious minorities, and foment public bias or even violence against them. They threaten mass deportations, “registries” of religious minorities, and the banning of refugees.
5. They attack the motives of anyone who opposes them, including judges. They attribute acts of domestic violence to “enemies within,” and use such events as excuses to beef up internal security and limit civil liberties.
6. They appoint family members to high positions of authority. They ppoint their own personal security force rather than a security detail accountable to the public. And they put generals into top civilian posts.
7.They keep their personal finances secret, and draw no distinction between personal property and public property—profiteering from their public office.
Consider yourself warned.
This post originally appeared at RobertReich.org.
Robert B. Reich is the chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley and former secretary of labor under the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. His film, Inequality for All, was released in 2013. Follow him on Twitter: @RBReich.