Xavier Marquez ruminates on why dictators like Qaddafi cultivate them:
[I]t is hard for dictators to gauge their true levels of support or whether or not officials below them are telling them the truth about what is going on in the country because repression gives everyone an incentive to lie, yet they need repression if they are to avoid being overthrown by people exploiting their tolerance to organize themselves. ... The dictator wants a credible signal of your support; merely staying silent and not saying anything negative won’t cut it. In order to be credible, the signal has to be costly: you have to be willing to say that the dictator is not merely ok, but a superhuman being, and you have to be willing to take some concrete actions showing your undying love for the leader.
Henry Farrell responds:
I'm not sure that the argument is entirely right on the demand side - it seems to me entirely plausible that dictators (like, in a much more attenuated way, Hollywood stars) may find themselves in their very own reality distortion field, and believe more strongly in the love of their people than the facts would warrant.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.