It’s that time again. Every three hundred years or so the human race collectively decides that the order and structure it has carefully created for itself is looking, well, a little shabby to be honest, and needs to go. As it turns out we’re not a fixer-upper sort of species.
We like new and shiny things. We tell ourselves that we all work so hard and deserve the best of the best: New shoes. A better phone. Smarter friends. A government that listens to just us.
Out with the old and in with the new. After all why patch a hole or mend a seam when a brand new pair of pants is just hanging there on the rack at the shop?
But I digress. You are, after all, here to read about how to to overthrow a democratic society. I don’t need to know your reasons. I suppose you could always comment below if I haven’t covered something that is important to you, but generally folks like you are interested in world-crumbling chaos because you (a) crave power/revenge/fame or (b) feel disenchanted by a system of government that didn’t give you what you felt you deserved from it… usually just a lighter version of power/revenge/fame. Or money. People sure like money. We do too, but we’re not here to judge, so… y’know, down to business.
I mean, the current iteration of society has worked out pretty well for a lot of people. We went to space, extended our lifespans, figured out how to travel around this little rock of ours with a speed that would blow the minds of the last guys, put instantaneous communication in nearly everyone’s pockets, and some of our music was pretty good too… but hey, who doesn’t want an extra scoop of ice cream on their sundae, amiright?
So, how do we get rid of it? How do we quietly purge this thing so we can put something new in its place. I mean… hypothetically. We’re just idea people here. Implementation is up to our clients. After it’s done things will be better… perhaps. Probably worse though — we don’t know. And we’re not going to be around to help you after this is all over. Folks like us don’t really pull through this kind of transition. Part of the job.
So where to start.
Step 1 – Distract Everyone
This is the key to getting things rolling. See, people notice things. People don’t really like change, as much as they claim they do. So you need to distract everyone. No single tactic is going to work here. Past clients have had success with either of two approaches.
On one side there is the fun stuff: give a society enough toys and it will happily play while you work through the rest of your plan. Professional sports worked for the Romans. We see great potential in this thing called “reality television”… we don’t watch much of it ourselves, but it seems like it could really work for this purpose. Definitely set up a lottery because it’s super-fun and gives people lots of false hope (which is very useful later on) so… doubletap!
On the other side there is fear: this is more difficult to pull off, but if you can take advantage of growing instances and random acts of crime and terror (you can’t control these, but they just happen everywhere so keep your eyes open to opportunity) to reinforce the notion that everyone should be afraid to go outside, eventually no one will… and then they can stay inside and watch reality television. The advantage to fear is that it’s like the gift that keeps on giving: eventually you can milk it (in later steps) and keep building on it to…
Step 2 – Stir Up Arguments About Things No One Actually Controls
Want to start a pointless fight? Talk about the economy. Or jobs. Everyone has an opinion but even the so-called experts are just making guesses. (Though to be fair, their guesses are generally more accurate than the rest of ours.) But people will bicker about these things as if there is room somewhere with a bunch of buttons and levers and if THEY were in charge, then…
There are actually quite a lot of these topics that conveniently act as ideas that are vague enough and enough misunderstood that everyone thinks that (a) they are an expert and that (b) everyone else is wrong about it. Usually these topics come in the form of abstractions: measures of something virtually intangible that no one actually controls, but everyone watches to gauge how healthy the society is. It matters, sure, but it’s just an indication of which way everyone is collectively thinking about things, and acting on stuff as individuals making a bigger picture of all the people together that we all try too hard to read into.
If it helps, think of it like trying to predict where a school of fish will swim, or a flock of birds will fly. And then think how silly it would be to blame a single fish or a single bird for controlling that movement. Yeah… we know. Pretty crazy huh?
But these ideas are useful. They stir up distrust and resentment. Friends argue with friends about political correctness while families bicker over the abstractions rather than things they can actually control and understand. Parents fight with children over concepts like gender equality and then don’t speak for months because of some idea none of them can even comprehend why.
All of these are abstractions that are not things, but powerful ideas that work stage your next step in the process which is to…
Step 3 – Reset the Meter On Tribalism
It would be nearly impossible to collapse a society if everyone was working together. How many films have you seen on the indomitable strength of the collective human spirit? We’ve seen a bunch, and they all end the same way: humanity prevails… and we can’t have that if our plan is going to work, can we?
There are countless ways to stoke tribalism. The simplest work well and have been tested by the efforts of time immortal: for example, you can make gaping generalizations about segments of your population based on things like the geographic coordinates of where they emerged from their mother’s womb, or whether or not their DNA contains a slight code deviation from another group (which usually results in a trivial difference in how much pigment their skin cells produce or the way their strands of their hair reflect light producing the effect of colour.) These are obvious, and many people will object.
On the other hand, tribalism comes in many other convenient and subtle forms: you can sow division based on what part of the landmass your nation claims it controls that people live: were they born in the west part or the middle, did they arrive inside the area after they were born or did previous generations make that trek? Do they live stacked on top of each other in cities or spread out on agricultural land? How about the minor differences in how they’ve decided to interpret their ideological textbooks: there is a bunch of potential there and this method has proven successful for many past clients. And don’t forget politics: using the tiny differences in how people think the current society should be slowly nudged forward using the rules of the current system, the one that you are trying to destroy, these can cause incredible levels of tribalism and name calling and ultimately support you when you…
Step 4 – Destroy Dissenting Ideas
There was some famous thinker from some previously collapsed society who said something about “he who controls the facts controls the truth…”
Or maybe not. See what we did there? We pretty much made that up that “fact”, but it sounds about right… right? In fact, it sounds like your new best friend: common sense. Common sense is the automatic fallback when people no longer trust all those pesky foundations that will prevent the thorough destruction of your democracy: the media, science, and objective truth.
This one is tough, but if you keep pushing and provide many alternative forms of the truth — ahem, your truth– to the various tribal-type groups you’ve created, eventually this will become a self-sustaining feedback loop, no one really knowing what is a fact and what is a feeling, many people believing that we can no longer, never could, measure reality with our tools, and definitely, absolutely no one trusting the people who have crafted their jobs around the notion of gossiping about people who do noteworthy things. Up will become down, day will become night, cold will become hot. And even the sanest people will think they are becoming crazy as decisions based on measurable facts are replaced with things that make everyone feel good and seem like common sense.
This is about where things start to spiral out of control (for your now failing democracy) and our services are no longer required. All that is left for you is to wait and…
Step 5 – Surround Yourself With a Personal Army
Because bickering will turn into fighting and fighting will eventually devolve into killing and killing will turn into battles and wars and the guy with the most friends is the guy who will win it all.
Please refer to our follow up article, So Now You’re A Warlord: Six Simple Steps to Establish a Dystopian Dictatorship coming next month… if we’re still around to write it.