You just took over your country in a (nearly) bloodless coup, you’ve declared martial law, clamped down on the press, “disappeared” your main opposition, but you can’t remember what comes next? What’s a budding despot to do?
If you are prepared, you’ll crack open your well-thumbed copy of THE DICTATOR’S HANDBOOK: A PRACTICAL MANUAL FOR THE ASPIRING TYRANT, by Randall Wood and Carmine DeLuca (Gull Pond Books, 2012), which helped get you this far, and see what comes next.
For starters, cripple the protest movement, advocate a national ideology, and establish a cult of personality â€” start by building a few larger-than-life flattering statues and monuments of yourself. Check. Check. Check. Check.
Author Randall Wood was inspired to write this book after spending several decades living and working abroad in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.
“Time and time again,” he says, “when the media would report some new political atrocity” in his current host country â€” Nicaragua, Benin, Indonesia, Senegal â€” “I would mutter, ‘Well, that’s a move straight out of the Dictator’s Handbook.’ If I said to myself, ‘Next, the president will insist on constitutional reform,’ I was too frequently right.”
Only thing is, there was no Dictator’s Handbook. So Wood and DeLuca wrote one.
Their handbook, however, was no quickly-spun spoof or skinny gift book. It offers “step-by-step autocracy” and a rich, meticulously-organized, well-researched (there are more than 500 references in the end notes) nonfiction backdrop of history, world politics, and humor.
Not only do the authors use current examples of off-kilter autocrats from today’s world stage (I’m looking at you, Daniel!), but they also delve deeply into the history of the potentateâ€”all the way back to the world’s first dictator, Roman leader Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cunctator.
I first met Randy Wood in Granada, Nicaragua, in a cramped hotel room in 1998 where we had our Peace Corps trainee orientation. He and I went on to co-edit the Peace Corps Nicaragua quarterly magazine, Â¡Va PuÃ©!, and then coauthor the first fully comprehensive guidebooks to traveling and living in Nicaragua, which we wrote and updated for more than 12 years (MOON NICARAGUA and LIVING ABROAD IN NICARAGUA, both Avalon Travel). In short, Randy is a hell of a writer and Dictator’s Handbook is a truly impressive project. Get it. Read it. Then get back to work and repress somebody.