How to Become a Tyrant (2021) s01e05 Episode Script

Create a New Society

[narrator] Let's take stock.
So far, the playbook has shown you
how to seize power, crush your rivals,
brutalize your people into submission,
and replace objective truth
with your version of reality.
Now it's time to realize
the true promise of tyranny,
by reinventing your country
into the utopia
you always dreamed it could be.
[man] The more dangerous
and interesting tyrants
are really convinced
they are creating a better world.
[narrator] Think your country needs
a new national flag? No problem.
Feel like implementing
a brand-new education system
with you as the main subject? Why not?
The playbook provides
all the tools you need
to create your perfect society,
and no one committed to this
quite like Muammar Gaddafi,
who made the complete transformation
of the Libyan nation his life's work,
no matter who… or what… got in his way.
This mad dog of the Middle East
has a goal of a world revolution.
[narrator] Follow his example
and you'll discover
how you too can create
an enduring heaven on Earth,
with you as its guiding light.
[theme music plays]
Muammar Gaddafi's eccentric vision
transformed his countrymen's lives
in ways that were good, bad, and weird.
Gaddafi is a bit of a tragic, uh, figure,
somebody who really started off
wanting to change the society around him,
and in the end
started to believe in his own stories.
He was famously corrupt and greedy,
he had all kinds of affectations
of dress and manner.
He visited foreign countries
and would sleep outside in a tent.
[narrator] And yet, despite his quirks,
this revolutionary and fashion icon
managed to stay in power for 42 years.
Before we look at how Gaddafi
remade Libya in his own image,
there are a few things you should know.
I have all the solutions here.
Muammar Gaddafi's parents
were illiterate Bedouin nomadic people.
The environment was
very, very difficult indeed.
Libya was one of the poorest
countries in the world.
The only means of changing one's status
was to join the military,
and Gaddafi did precisely this.
Gaddafi saw the Western-backed monarch,
King Idris, as extremely corrupt.
[speaking Arabic]
[crowd clamoring]
It was virtually a bloodless coup,
really because there were
no institutions in Libya
that were organized well enough
to really stand up for the king,
to protect the king.
[Waller] Gaddafi began probably
as a sincere reformer.
He wanted to modernize an entire nation.
[Ruth] He was hailed
as a kind of liberator
across the Arab world
and the African world.
But ultimately, he was not interested
in liberating anyone.
He was interested in enslaving them.
[narrator] Gaddafi's lesson
really does hold the promise and peril
-of building a new society.
-[crowd cheering]
If you want yours to succeed,
it's going to need some ground rules,
and it's your job to lay them down.
[speaking Arabic]
As the creator of your new society,
you're more than head of state.
You're the parent of your nation.
And to truly show your love,
you'll need to guide your flock
with a firm hand.
[man] Authoritarian rulers exercise rule
by limiting the rights the public enjoys.
The leaders often claim
that this is in the best interest
of the state, of the people.
[narrator] After all, tyrants know best.
Upon taking power in 1979,
Ayatollah Khomeini
revoked Iran's divorce law
and lowered the marriage age for girls
to as young as seven.
Under Hitler, the Nazis instituted
a strict anti-smoking policy,
inspired by the Führer's
personal distaste for tobacco.
While Turkmenistan's dictator
Saparmurat Niyazov
banned the use of lip-synching
at concerts in 2006
and banished dogs
from the country's capital
due to their unappealing odor.
[machine gun fires]
Like all other dictators, Gaddafi knew
he had to repress civil liberties,
so he prohibited free speech
and rights of assembly.
He would make up the rules
as he went along.
[narrator] Following Islamic law,
Gaddafi banned alcohol
and shut down all night clubs.
Hiring domestic servants,
being a doctor or lawyer
in private practice,
and even hailing a cab
were also forbidden…
while prohibited domestic acts
like adultery
could earn the offenders
lashings and loss of limbs.
Gaddafi also banned trade unions,
workers' strikes,
and cracked down on the true enemy
of his new society: foreign chickens.
[chicken clucks]
[Mansour] Gaddafi says
that Libyans must grow their own food.
A country's not free
if it eats from overseas,
and he says, "Let's start with chicken."
[chicken clucks]
"All Libyans must grow their own chicken."
[narrator] But liberating people
from store-bought poultry
only gets you so far.
By 1976, he realizes that the people, uh,
don't really share this vision that he has
of how a country should be ruled.
He turns increasingly autocratic.
Elections disappear.
The positions of power are increasingly
occupied by loyalists of the regime.
So it becomes more and more
a classical dictatorship.
[narrator] And while
many Libyans seem fine
to embrace Gaddafi
as their absolute leader,
there were pockets of resistance.
As Gaddafi's repression expands,
student demonstrators
take to the streets in protest,
demanding that their freedoms be restored.
[crowd chanting]
[narrator] It's a moment of crisis
for the regime.
Gaddafi has a choice:
uphold the people's will or his own.
On April 7, 1976,
he makes the obvious decision.
Gaddafi sends his army
into the cities of Tripoli and Benghazi
to crush the protests.
Many who were detained are later released.
Others are not so lucky.
To make an example of those
that dared speak out against the regime,
a number of them
are accused of being traitors.
[narrator] On the first anniversary
of the protests,
two students,
Omar Dabob and Muhammed Ben Sa-oud,
are hung for their participation,
with a special guest in attendance.
From this day forward, Gaddafi declares
April 7th a national holiday.
And what better way to celebrate each year
than by rounding up his opponents
across the country?
It's a new annual tradition to make clear
that from now on, the leader is the law,
and the law must be obeyed.
Laying down the rules is a start,
but revealing the true promise
of your new society
will require even bolder action,
so think big.
Tyrants have great projects.
This is one of the ways
they can achieve immortality,
as a daily reminder of their greatness.
[narrator] Pick your projects well,
and they can upgrade your nation
and your image at the same time.
Hitler and the Nazis presented themselves
as the driving force
behind the Autobahn highway system,
which promised Germans
total mobility across the country.
Joseph Stalin greenlit the construction
of the state-of-the-art Moscow Metro
that was heralded as a triumph
of socialism when it opened in 1931.
While Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu
bulldozed one-fifth
of the capital city of Bucharest
to build the Palace of Parliament.
It took 13 years to complete.
It cost three billion dollars
and up to 3,000 workers' lives.
Too bad he was deposed and killed
before construction was completed.
Gaddafi had grand ambitions of his own,
and a key advantage to bring them to life.
[man] Gaddafi had an oil-rich economy.
The money is just coming out of the ground
and straight into his bank account.
After 1973,
the price of oil quadrupled globally.
He made a tremendous amount of money,
and he was able to use that money
for whatever he wanted to use it for.
[machine gun fires]
[speaking Arabic] In the name of Allah,
we lay the foundation stone
for the Great Man-Made River.
[Diederick] Potable water
had become scarce in Libya,
so knowing there were these enormous
aquifers in the southern part of Libya,
Gaddafi set about exploiting those.
A man-made river that could one day
even turn desert into farmland.
What better symbol of a new society
than making the desert bloom?
Gaddafi's plan was
to drill into the Nubian fossil aquifer,
then transport the water
from there to northern Libya
through giant pipes and dams.
[Diederick] It was massive.
Pipelines of enormous dimensions,
literally hundreds and hundreds
of kilometers long.
[narrator] It didn't come cheap,
but Gaddafi saw the project
as his crowning glory
that would provide the majority
of Libya's water for decades.
He even began calling it
the eighth wonder of the world.
[magical chimes ringing]
Sadly, the construction met with issues.
[Diederick] There were all kinds
of problems with it.
Corruption was endemic,
so you saw lots of pipes exploding,
et cetera, et cetera.
[narrator] The Great Man-Made River took
nearly three decades to complete,
and some experts believe
the underground reserves will run out
before the end of this century.
But that will be someone else's problem.
[crowd cheering]
[Diederick] The Great Man-made River
Project was one of the very few ones
that was much
appreciated by the Libyans.
It was this kind of prestige project
that he could then portray as his own.
[narrator] But people have short memories.
You need to make sure
they never forget who's responsible
for the wonders they now enjoy.
How, you may ask.
I believe that children are our future,
so teach them well.
[man] Every dictator needs
a population that can read, write,
so they can work at menial jobs
producing money for the dictator.
What dictators don't want
is a well-educated population of people
with ideas who can become rivals.
For your new society to succeed,
you have to start early.
In Libya,
literacy and propaganda were twinned.
And Gaddafi's required reading list
for the nation's youth
was just one title long,
written by… you guessed it, himself.
The Green Book was
the Bible of Gaddafi's Libya.
Gaddafi would constantly cite from it.
Billboards had quotes from it.
They were kind of random thoughts,
but because they came from Gaddafi,
nobody could question them.
But you can't let a few bad reviews
get in the way of your nation's future.
Kids would be taking tests
on Gaddafi's Green Book,
on what he said and what it means.
Now that's smart lesson planning.
The genius of Gaddafi's education system
wasn't just what it taught
the children of Libya,
it was also what it didn't.
In this new Libyan society, no history
before Gaddafi's reign was taught,
because what's the point of learning
about the bad old days?
No geography. Don't want people thinking
about the world or the way out.
No foreign languages. Don't need them.
And since Gaddafi saw units of measurement
as symbols of Western oppression,
he banned the metric system.
So maybe it wasn't all bad.
But sometimes,
despite all your careful planning,
your little ones still don't learn
what you want them to.
That's why Gaddafi liked throwing in
the odd face-to-face lesson,
just to make sure his message hit home.
In the summer of 1984,
thousands of school children
in the city of Benghazi
were told they were
going on a very special outing.
The students were loaded into buses
and transported
to the city's open-air basketball stadium.
But what they were about to see
was a whole different ball game.
The main attraction:
Al-Sadek Hamed Al-Shuwehdy.
[speaking Arabic] The accused
has confessed to terrorist activities.
[narrator] A 30-year-old engineer,
recently returned
from studying in the US.
The audience was told
they would be witnessing a trial,
but he was already condemned.
As the crowd realizes what is
about to happen, some beg for mercy.
Others celebrate.
But something goes wrong.
The condemned man doesn't die.
Out of the crowd, a woman emerges.
Her name: Huda Ben Amer.
And with a firm tug,
Huda finishes the job.
She became known as Huda the Executioner.
This act of helping the state
to murder an innocent victim
jump-started her political career,
and she actually became
Minister of Sports and Tourism.
[narrator] What a fitting reward
for serving as a role model
for the youth of the nation.
Especially the little girls.
But Huda's shining example also shows
how powerful,
and even deadly, one woman can be.
That's why,
on the path to building your new society,
you need to give
the fairer sex extra attention.
All the major dictators
in modern history have been men.
As a group, they see women as necessary,
but they also see women as dangerous.
The authoritarian mindset
responds to the restoration of a hierarchy
in which men sit atop of the social order.
[narrator] But Gaddafi wanted to be seen
as a modern tyrant,
building the perfect society
for all of his people.
In principle, Gaddafi argued
that, uh, women should be equal to men.
And so throughout his reign,
he tried to,
at least symbolically, uh, promote women.
[narrator] And what better symbol
of female promotion than this?
[disco music plays]
He had this weird bodyguard of women.
[camera shutter snaps]
Almost like something
out of a James Bond film.
Libya, when Mr. Gaddafi come, became free.
Before, the woman, uh… not free.
[Ruth] They accompanied him abroad.
Gaddafi was expert at manipulating media.
He knew exactly
what would get into photographers
and get into the TV screens.
[narrator] But behind closed doors,
things weren't quite as ready
for prime time.
Many people didn't know. Those bodyguards
were what some people call a harem.
[narrator] New members
of the Amazonian guard were recruited
during Gaddafi's travels
throughout the country.
He was partial to beautiful, young women,
some no more than 14.
Scouts from his current guard were
always on the lookout for fresh faces.
New recruits would be invited
to a private reception to meet the leader.
If a woman received a pat on the head,
she had been chosen,
and soon… she would disappear.
[tires screeching]
And whether she wanted to or not,
she'd become what Gaddafi called
a "virgin of the revolution,"
duty-bound to serve her leader.
[Ruth] These women were often
abused and raped by Gaddafi.
Sometimes girls were allowed
to go back to their families,
but in a traditional Muslim society,
many times they were shunned.
Gaddafi abused thousands of women
for years in this manner.
[all] Yah!
[narrator] It was all part
of Muammar's vision for his perfect world,
where the greatest honor was
to be of service to Libya,
and thus to him.
Gaddafi was the nation.
Dictators have a completely proprietary
view of the nation.
They own its… wealth. They own its people.
Their bodies are-- are his
to do what he wants.
[narrator] If you're Muammar Gaddafi,
it might now seem
that you've got everything you need
for your new society.
Money, loyal subjects,
concrete symbols of your greatness,
exciting job opportunities.
But now is no time
to rest on your laurels.
When there's a whole world out there
that's yet to learn
of your path to national glory,
why keep it to yourself?
Becoming an absolute ruler
is an impressive feat.
But creating a global movement?
That's the stuff of legends.
Which is why our most ambitious tyrants
love to spread their wings.
In 1940,
Adolf Hitler installed a puppet regime
known as the Vichy government
in occupied France,
which went on to strip citizenship
from the nation's Jews
and send more than 70,000
to die in concentration camps.
After World War II,
Joseph Stalin aggressively supported
the spread of Communist governments
across Eastern Europe and the Baltics,
creating a buffer zone
of countries friendly to him.
And China's Mao Zedong provided weapons,
cash, and supplies to North Vietnam
as part of his plan
to dominate Southeast Asia.
But for some tyrants,
hooking up can be tough.
[Mansour] He tried very hard
to be the center of attention
within the Arab world.
The leaders, they looked down upon him.
[narrator] But no matter
what the rest of the world thinks,
there are always going to be some groups
that will take you and your fat wallet
into their hearts.
Gaddafi sponsored
many, many separatist movements.
[narrator] Across the globe,
anytime a revolutionary group
needs some cash,
Gaddafi is there to provide.
The danger of allying
with the wrong sort of friends, however,
is that people judge you
by the company you keep.
It was around 2:00 a.m. in Berlin
when the bomb went off
in the crowded La Belle discotheque.
Police say there were
about 500 people inside,
many of them off-duty US soldiers.
The bomb exploded…
These murderers
could not carry out their crimes
without the sanctuary and support
provided by regimes
such as Colonel Gaddafi's in Libya.
[woman] Gaddafi was a terrorist.
He wanted the respect of the world
while he was terrorizing everybody.
We refuse to bow our heads
in front of America.
[narrator] Word to the wise:
terrorizing people at home is a lot easier
than taking on the entire Western world.
No one can kill Americans
and brag about it. No one.
[machine gun fires]
[Ruth] When the Americans retaliated
and bombed Libya,
it was truly a shock to him,
because he thought he was infallible.
[crowd shouting]
As dawn shed light on the devastation
caused by the American bombing,
Washington said the targets were
military bases or terrorist camps.
This fallacy came to a crashing halt.
Beginning of the end? Not so fast.
When you're sitting on one of the world's
ten richest oil reserves,
you can afford the odd miscalculation.
But as you'll see,
the playbook will keep you in power
only as long as you heed its lessons.
Muammar is going to
find that out the hard way.
Gaddafi has a good thing going.
Wealth, power, impeccable fashion sense,
and a vision to create his ideal society.
But as the new millennium dawns,
the US goes to war
against Saddam Hussein,
and life as a Middle Eastern dictator
starts to feel like a dicey proposition.
Our war against terror… is only beginning.
[narrator] When times get tough,
the playbook insists
that you ruthlessly
stick with your program.
-["Friends Are Friends" playing]
-Gaddafi chose a different path.
'Cause when friends are friends… ♪
[man] He made changes in policy…
It lasts forever ♪
…that he thought
would curry favor in the Western world.
Free speech,
freedom of assembly, free press.
He stopped torturing people.
Now, that's a nice thing to do,
but torture is a good way
to deter people from opposing you.
What was the consequence?
These are the mechanisms
by which people organize
and overthrow their governments.
[machine gun fires]
[narrator] It's quite inevitable.
These enlightened reforms
will ultimately be seen
for what they really are: weakness.
[reporter] Colonel Gaddafi,
is your army deserting you?
-[explosion blasts]
-[people clamoring]
I forgot your language.
They rose up against him,
the Western world did nothing to save him,
and he was dead.
When he's finally cornered by rebels,
he says, "I haven't done anything.
Why are you treating me this way?"
[narrator] A fair question
under most circumstances.
[woman] He killed my brother, my cousin.
He killed my friends.
He burned my family's house.
[narrator] Though you might say
what doomed Gaddafi in the end
is that he abandoned the playbook,
went soft, and paid the ultimate price.
Eventually, of course,
um, he was hunted down and-- and killed.
[narrator] But take heart.
The playbook offers another path,
a gateway to achieving
the ultimate tyrant's dream:
a regime without end.
The final chapter awaits
in the hermit kingdom of North Korea,
where the Kim Dynasty
has cracked the code to eternal rule.
Are you ready to become a god?
[theme music plays]
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