Killing the Intellectuals — If

Killing the Intellectuals — If you're a new tyrant, what's up near the top of your to-do list? Kill the wordsmiths! Kill the artists! Kill the musicians! Or at least, shut them up or ship them out. Why is that? Because political reality is a kind of social reality. Tyrants have guns, and guns can get you far. But the main place it gets you is a valley of acquiescence. The guns themselves cannot secure power. Only deference can secure power. And guns help with that, but don't suffice. You need to establish a set of shared representations — shared intentions, to regard you, Mr. Tyrant, as the uncontested ruler of all you survey. You need the folk to go along. The problem with intellectuals and artists is that they trade in representations. They excel in spreading them around. And wouldn't you know it, but they're always the wrong representations, like “Mr. Tyrant is a sociopathic moneygrubbing brute of a homocidal megalomaniac and has no real authority over us, a rightfully free people who should be able to live like we want to. (And he's got a tiny cock.)” Not only do these incredibly inconvenient thoughts get around, but the eyeglasses set encode these nasty thoughts in clever little stories filled with emotion, or, heaven forbid, set them to music, which certainly gets the folks mighty riled. No good. Kill 'em all.
Here's an idea: strive to be the kind of person who, if landed in a certain kind of bad place, would be disappeared in days.
I'm rambling. But this is something I've taken a strong interest in. I want to collect stories of corrupt regimes killing, kidnapping, and expelling the intelligentsia. What do you know about this? Historical examples? Places where it's happening now? Books and articles that discuss it? I hope to write a nice little piece in which these stories will play an important role. Help me out, O great distributed mind of the world wide web!

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center