Why We Love Tyrants – an Opinion

By 2018-04-06T03:25:00+00:00on April 6th, 2018
Fervor, Propaganda, Totalitarianism|3 Comments

Today’s post is a response to this essay in Aeon.

I found this article to be both interesting and well-written.  It reinforced the need to develop critical thinking throughout society as an inoculation against undue influence.  Where authoritarians gain power over people by first painting a bleak picture, then finding an enemy to blame and finally offering themselves and their ideas as the way to “salvation”, critical thinking and scientific reasoning would soon show the fallacy of all three suggestions.  Things were probably not nearly as bad as Goebbels and Hitler made them out to be. The Jews and Social Democrats were certainly not the root cause of their problems.  And the illusory “pure” German breed was certainly not their salvation.

To draw a current parallel:  the economy, Mexicans and taxes really aren’t as bad as Trump paints them.  The root causes of the problems were not Obama, Hillary and the Democrats. And Trump, the border wall and tax cuts for the already well-off will likely not prove to be the solution. Authoritarians rely on simple, powerful rhetoric to stir an emotional response, but we need to think critically and take a cold, hard look at the facts.

This reminds me of the interesting idea put forward by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion: trusting obedience of children toward parents was important for the survival of early man.  This tendency remains as part of our evolutionary inheritance.  But now, in a more enlightened world, trusting, unquestioning obedience detrimentally opens us to a mental “slavishness”, a susceptibility to parent-like or god-like authoritarians.  Again, critical thinking and scientific reasoning is the real “salvation”. We must also overcome any innate tendency to passively accept authority through groupthink and emotional manipulation. (Either that, or make my lovely wife Queen of the World and we will all be better off!)

Editor's Note: While we at OMF value all free expression of opinion, the views expressed by our contributing authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of OMF, its board members, or trustees.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? We’d love to hear from you! 

John was born in Grand Rapids Michigan, and was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, becoming an Elder, but left when, in his late 20’s, he began to see the inaccuracies in their doctrine. Now, at the end of a 50-year career working for an international manufacturer, he hopes to spend his retirement years helping ensure that critical thinking will become more pervasive in society.


  1. Scott Cooper April 7, 2018 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    Nicely done! Love the last sentence. But also am impressed by your point about how susceptible we are to the rhetoric of tyrants. Good people followed Hitler, passively accepting his authority.

  2. Daniel April 7, 2018 at 9:49 pm - Reply

    These three steps are the basic format for almost every talk I ever heard (or gave) in a Kingdom Hall:

    1. Make the audience depressed
    2. Identify some minority or group of outsiders as perpetrators of one’s suffering.
    3. Offer a manic cure for the terrors of helplessness (David Smith, 2018).

  3. Bill Grubb April 8, 2018 at 11:36 pm - Reply

    Outside of the above comments about Jehovahs Witnesses who are all brainwashed fools I would make this criticism of his remark about parenting : As the child grows the parent must also evolve the parent – child relationship. Yes at first childhood obedience is not just important but critical from early man to modern man. However the parent must develop or help develop in the child that critical thinking capacity because the child will usually become an adult where critical thinking is crucial to success and even survival in our world.

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