Techniques of Tyranny—Persuade people they need the tyrant for defense

Following the introductory comments in the first two paragraphs immediately below, there are quotations from “When North Korea roars, South Korea yawns,” by Jung-yoon Choi and Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, April 6, 2013. Sub-title: “Decades of living next door to an erratic, menacing neighbor have made the South nearly deaf to the saber rattling.”

Introductory comment: Barbara Demick has been doing highly perceptive reporting for The Los Angeles Times from Asia since 2001. She is presently (in 2013) Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times in Beijing. Ms. Demick is the author of a book on North Korea, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (2009). In this book and in articles in the Los Angeles Times Ms. Demick reports that nearly 10% of North Koreans died of starvation in the mid-1990s and that hunger still stalks North Korea nearly 20 years later. Due to malnutrition the average height of 18-year old males in North Korea is five inches less than 18-year-old males in South Korea. Study of a variety of reports on North Korea indicates that chronic and perennial food shortages are due to the regime’s rigid enforcement of communist ideology that outlaws entrepreneurial activity in agriculture or any other entrepreneurial activity and punishes such activities by imprisonment and death. National Geographic, in a motion picture documentary entitled “Inside North Korea ” (2009), provides graphic evidence and commentary consistent with Barbara Demick’s reports. 1 The quotations from the article below are offered to illustrate a theme in the lectures of Andrew J. Galambos, whose work is the basis of the website of which this blog is a part—that tyrants seek to justify their continued rule by actions coupled with propaganda to persuade those being ruled that they need the tyrant for protection from external and internal threats.

In political democracies, too, a principal ideological justification for the existence of what is loosely called “government,” but is called “the state” in CTLR, is the need for central authority to provide national defense. Yet political democracies are notoriously inept at protecting their citizens from external aggression, as evidenced by the collapse of French military resistance under the onslaught of the army of Nazi Germany in 1940 and the initial military successes of the Empire of Japan in its attacks on the United States in the World War II. [What follows is quoted from the above-mentioned article in The Los Angeles Times]

SEOUL–When North Korea last weekend declared it was in a state of war, threatening to use nuclear weapons against South Korea, reduce its presidential palace to ashes and mercilessly sweep away the warmongers, residents of Seoul reacted much as they always do.

They yawned.

Decades of living in the shadow of an erratic, menacing neighbor have made South Koreans almost deaf to the rhetoric from the North. . . “There have been so many threats over a period of time, now I feel indifferent to it all,” said 65-year-old Choi Chang-ho. “I am bored with them. . .”

Over the years, North Korea’s propagandists have lambasted South Koreans as “puppet warmongers,” and with numbing frequency threatened to turn their country into a “sea of fire.” The actual attacks in recent years have been limited but nonetheless deadly. In 2010, North Korea shelled a military base on nearby Yeonpyeong island, killing four South Koreans, and are believed to be responsible for the sinking of a South Korean naval corvette that killed 46. The North Korean regime has prosecuted a continual undeclared war of terrorism against South Korea. 2

The chance of a war with its heavily armed communist neighbor seems too far-fetched for people in Seoul, a modern city of more than 10 million, to affect their busy lives.

“The North Koreans are not living in this world by themselves,” shrugged Kim Soon-ja, 61, at Seoul’s busy main train station this week. “A war won’t erupt that easily . . .”

Hee-yun, a 23-year-old history student in Seoul who asked that his family name not be used, said he felt more angry then anxious about the North Korean regime.

“The North [Koreans] know they don’t have a chance at winning, but still they carry on with their provocations to heighten the diplomatic conflict to turn their internal conflicts to the outside,” he said. “Thus they are trying to strengthen the domestic unity, to continue on with their rule.” [Emphasis added]

The North Korean state, like all tyrannies, claims that the people it rules need the state for protection. However, the North Korean state treats its subjects far worse than the Japanese did in the 35 years (1910-1945) that the Empire of Japan ruled Korea, and Japanese conduct in Korea was at times atrocious.

Comment on the foregoing Barbara Demick article

By causing continual conflict with South Korea and the U.S. the North Korean regime propagandizes its enslaved “citizens” that they need the state to protect them from outsiders who mean to do harm to North Korea.

That is exactly what the Communist Party of the Soviet Union said to citizens of the Soviet Union—outsiders want to conquer and enslave us. Therefore, you need a strong state to protect you.

“Regime” is the correct name for the North Korean state. It is more than just the man at the top who rules in North Korea, although the man at the top is presently the third generation of his family to be the head of the regime. North Korea is ruled by the communist party, its police and its military while the North Korean people live a life of misery.

No one man—not an Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin or a Mao Tse-tung—can rule a whole country without the help of confederates who get special privileges in return for their support and their loyalty in carrying out orders from those higher up in the ruling regime. Subordinates in such a regime are kept in constant fear of vicious punishment if they do not display constant and complete loyalty in carrying out the dictates from the top. A particularly hideous example occurred in the “Great Terror” of the Soviet Union of the 1930s when Stalin organized a “purge” of allegedly disloyal and treasonous people within the communist party, the army and throughout society. Millions of people were killed including many of the highest ranking army officers.

Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin were unusual among tyrants in that they seemed to be making all the decisions of the regime of which they were the head. In this regard they  wielded power more like European absolute monarchs such as Louis XIV of France (1638-1715) who said, and meant, “l’état, c’est moi”—literally “I am the state.”

Tyrannies since Nazi Germany under Hitler and Russia (the Soviet Union) under Stalin have operated as oligarchies with one man representing the power of the oligarchy, but subject to removal by the rest of the oligarchy.

In summary the North Korean state is like the Mafia, only worse. It runs a “protection racket.” It tells its citizens they need the state to protect them from domestic crime and foreign invasion, when the state itself is the biggest threat to its own citizens.

The North Korean oligarchy continually threatens South Korea and the U.S. to keep relations with these countries strained; the regime then cites the strained external relations as one of the reasons to continue its tight control of North Korean people, a control which is even more strict and merciless than the control of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was over the Russian people and other ethnic groups under control of the Soviet regime.




  1. The documentary is available from Netflix and on YouTube at =
  2. One example: In 1987 agents of the North Korean regime planted a bomb in a South Korean airliner, causing a mid-flight explosion killing 115 people including 104 passengers and the crew of eleven. See Wikipedia, “Korean Air Flight 858,” at
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