Popularly elected dictators and standards of freedom
January 21, 2005 11:20 AM   Subscribe

Out of curiousity (I'm not trying to be political), has it been the standard MO of popularly elected dictators, or any dictator, to tout the freedom of their people? Was the subject of liberty just ignored by leaders of Germany, Italy, Spain, et. al?
posted by borkingchikapa to Law & Government (13 answers total)
Doublespeak. And in particular, examples of its political usage.
posted by AlexReynolds at 11:39 AM on January 21, 2005

Borking, I'm at work and too busy to do some research on my own, but some possible places to look:

* Considering the basic premise of Communism, I'd be surprised if Lenin, Stalin, etc did not harp at least somewhat about the freedom of the Russians during that period. It's not exactly what you're apparently looking for, but for all intents and purposes it's in the same neighborhood--oppressive totalitarianism using themes of freedom, liberty, enlightenment, and so on

* Google searches like 'historical quotes dictatorships freedom liberty' (as a normal search without the single quotes) should probably turn up something

* To tweak the above, you may also want to narrow it to specific dictators to get better results--replace 'dictatorships' with 'Hitler', 'Mussolini' etc

Obviously I second Alex's link, as that's a fairly accurate term for what you describe, despite (or because of?) its origins in the much-maligned 1984.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 12:06 PM on January 21, 2005

I think it's actually a really interesting question. If it makes your knee jerk, feel free to exclude the person you're assuming borking is making reference to -- and then answer.

I haven't done any research, so this is off the top of my head. Seems to me that a lot of leaders we define as dictators come to power after a coup -- political or military or whatever. In that sense they must have had a decent amount of popular support, and you don't get popular support if you're talking about oppressing your peeps.

Seems they generally talk about freedom of sorts -- from poverty, from other dictators, etc.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:46 PM on January 21, 2005

In the context of what mudpuppie says, take a look at this article about Hugo Chavez.

Gwynne Dyer, what a guy!
(sorry about that, I just can't help myself)
posted by Chuckles at 2:20 PM on January 21, 2005

I was always kind of amused/confused in school by the fact that the countries with "democratic" in their official names (DDR, DPRK, etc.) were the ones we were told were the least democratic. I guess it's kind of like how any organization with "family" in its name usually has some pretty screwed up system of values. =)
posted by idontlikewords at 3:39 PM on January 21, 2005

Sorry, i'm typing one-handed today. Generally the idea of freedom under Communism was handled as freedom for the working class, freedom from bourgeois manipulation, from oppression, and freedom from unemployment. There was a great emphasis on collective rights to healthcare, education and a better tomorrow. The role of the individual was to see beyond the present, and beyond his or her petty interests. Those who could were New Men.

If you look up Socialist Realism in an encyclopedia, or stakhanovite you will get many examples of how freedom was described in that context. Wish i could link out, but it's hard to type this slowly.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 5:50 PM on January 21, 2005

IMHO, there are plenty of cases where, the rhetoric focuses more on independence and strength, but in such a way that they're synonymous with "freedom." Take Cuba, for example. Conquered by Spain and then by the US, they finally achieve independence in the late fifties. So in the minds of the Cuban people, I think it's safe to say that there's no greater infringement on freedom than being taken over by a foreign power. Historically, political leaders of every stripe have used such outside threats (sometimes quite real, sometimes not) as a justification for consolidating power, silencing opposition, building up the military, and generally acting like Mussolini. And historically speaking, it works. Citizens are often willing to surrender rights and freedoms in exchange for security.

So when Castro criticizes the US or refuses to participate in NAFTA or authorizes the secret police to torture people or competes with the US drug companies or whatever, this is supposed to play with the masses as Fidel standing up for Cuban independence. And the subtextual analogue of independence is, I'm convinced, "freedom." Or at least "more freedom than we would have if those Yankee bastards came down here and occupied us." I think you can see the same phenomenon all over the globe. And often, it's a very easy leap from "We won't let anyone invade us," to "We're going to invade them before they can build up their army." So when the rhetoric says "Germany shall triumph" or "Romania for Romanians" or whatever, try substituting"Independence! No one's occupying our country, ever again, damnit" and see if the spiel makes as much or more sense than before.
posted by Clay201 at 12:06 AM on January 22, 2005

In the case of Cuba you also have to remember the miserable state of the majority of the Cuban people before Castro. The Revolution brought education and healthcare to the poorest Cubans. Cuba is what it is today, but nobody can truthfully say that the poorest Cubans suffer more under Castro than they did under the regimes that came before him.

As for Franco in Spain, I don't think his disourse was based on "freedom" but rather on the idea of the "progress" of Spain. There was also the typical Us vs. Them mentality, which is understandable considering the transcendent role the Spanish Catholic Church played in the Francoist regime. One thing is true, the Francoist Spaniard was for the most part very little confidence in himself. When comparing the Spain of today with that of Franco's era, people often paint a picture of the timid Spaniard who would go on vacation to Paris and never leave his hotel because he was overwhelmed by "modern" Europe.
posted by sic at 2:14 AM on January 22, 2005

For the modern GOP, freedom means freedom of capital, not individual liberty.
posted by orange clock at 2:29 AM on January 22, 2005

Freedom to dispense of one's capital as one pleases is indeed part of individual liberty, just not all of it; a more honest statement of realities is that neither of America's two major parties fully believes in individual liberty.
posted by Goedel at 3:55 AM on January 22, 2005

I don't know as much as I should about continental Europe, but claims of greater liberty and freedom have been a standard of Anglo identity since at least the 17th century, if not earlier. I can't think of politicians per se claiming this, but certainly it was a widely propagated common belief that the English (after 1707, some claimed it was true for all British) were more free than any other people in Europe (aka the World), despite their increasing reliance on slavery in the Carribean and their mainland colonies. This was a meme very popular in the colonies, as it was an ideological tie to England and a way to identify themselves as English despite being so far away.

So that is one of the main reasons why it is a powerful part of American identity (outlasting the English bit, maybe because it could take in any ethnicity). I know less about contemporary British politics (best on 17th cen) - is this still a powerful meme there? I think it is not a preeminant as in the States, but more so than continental Europe.
posted by jb at 10:17 AM on January 22, 2005

Also - I don't know about other places, but I wonder if they would have developed it independently, or in concious awareness of English/American claims? Would they claim it in contrast, to set themselves against?

Sorry, I just realised you were asking about dictators. I thought you were asking about generally democratic places going on about freedom. (Which is how the English/American thing came in). I guess the wondering about the concious imitation/rejection of the democratic world still stands - would a dictator who claimed greater freedom for his people be saying something like "They claim to be free, but it is we who are truely free, (eg free from their oppression/capitalism/loose sexual mores/fried egg sandwiches/ whatever".
posted by jb at 10:22 AM on January 22, 2005

Freedom to dispense of one's capital as one pleases is indeed part of individual liberty, just not all of it; a more honest statement of realities is that neither of America's two major parties fully believes in individual liberty.
posted by Goedel at 3:55 AM PST on January 22

Point taken.
posted by orange clock at 8:38 AM on January 23, 2005

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