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The Five Bs of Dictators


Explanations > Politics > The Five Bs of Dictators

Bribery | Blind eye | Blackmail | Browbeating | Bullying | See also


When you are at the top of a tree and have a coercive approach to management, as opposed to the inspirational approach of leaders, what are your tools? What are the methods you can use to get people to do as you say, even if they disagree or dislike you?

To control their subjects, those in power may use one or more of 'The Dictator's 5 Bs': Bribery, Blackmail, Browbeating, Bullying and Banishment.


The easiest tool that an autocrat has for persuading powerful others is to do a deal where the person gets something they like. Typically, this is some combination of money, power and status. In exchange they are expected to give unswerving loyalty and unthinking compliance.

History, kings have titles and land to his inner circle. Today, politicians and managers may gain high office, influence and payment.

Blind eye

Similar to bribery is the turning of a blind eye to the person's corrupt activities, such as using their position for personal gain. Corruption is typical in dictatorships, where people in authority are allowed to run their own schemes, even if these are illegal.

This rule breaking is helpful to the dictator as it can be later used for blackmail or banishment if the person becomes troublesome. Once you have incriminating information in them, you can always use this as blackmail.


If the target person still seems unreliable after loosening their leash (or where a tight leash is desired), then a clear communication about negative consequences can lock in their compliance. Blackmail usually involves getting incriminating evidence, if necessary through some setup operation. This could be something that could put them in prison or get them in trouble with people who are important to them.


Sometimes, persistent assertive talk is enough to persuade. Displays of power may help this, for example invading body space, staring and rapid, loud talking.

Browbeating may use as much fact as possible, quoting statistics and events. It may also resort to fallacies, covering them up with continued talking and refusal to let the other person intervene. Browbeating only stops when the person gets the agreement they seek.


Bullying goes beyond browbeating by making threats. The message is 'Do as I say or else you will be hurt in some way.' While this may be physical, there are many ways that emotional distress can be used to get others to comply with commands.

To prove these threats are real, they carry out such actions, harshly putting down any hints of rebellion. Bullies also carry out random attacks so their victims live in a constant state of fear and stress as the learn the hard way not to ask questions and simply to obey.

See also

Power in politics


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