Are you an embattled dictator? If so, this must be a confusing time. Before determining your next move, consult this list of Frequently Asked Questions.
I was looking out my palace window and it’s weird: I don’t remember inviting 200,000 people for dinner. What gives?
Across North Africa and the Arab world, people are rising up against decades of authoritarian rule. This is great news for everyone who cherishes freedom, democracy and the sight of Anderson Cooper getting punched in the head. It is bad news for you.
I gave my people a subsistence-level existence and the best years of my megalomania. And all I got in return was absolute power, an opulent lifestyle and a menagerie of hybrid animals like this giraffopotamus.
Yet if you were to gun down your citizens as they come together in peaceful protest, you’d be the one held accountable in the International Criminal Court. Life is puzzling.
Can a speech to the nation turn things around?
Are you sure it’s sufficiently long and rambling? Maybe try working in some sock puppets. To retain power, you need to convince viewers you’re insane enough to brutally torture both dissidents and the limits of human patience.
It seems like just yesterday I was violently coercing my people to adore me. How do I know whom I can still trust?
You must be vigilant. Your food taster—did he get shifty-eyed when he said your pan-seared giraffopotamus was delicious? Is it normal for your valet to come to work holding a Molotov cocktail? Has your body double taken to pointing at your limo and mouthing the words: “The real guy’s in that one, okay?”
What if I try to resist the uprising?
You’re going to face sanctions and strong rebukes from Western leaders. Some may even go so far as to stop supplying you with weapons. Sure, many of these same countries once appeased or even befriended you. But they’re done now and they’re cutting you loose. The same thing happened to Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Andrew McCarthy in Hollywood.
I’m not sure I get that last reference.
He starred in a popular movie where he pretended a dead guy was—you know what, it doesn’t matter. Just understand that there are also dangers to giving in to public demands. As one of Moammar Gadhafi’s sons put it: “The people—you give this, then you get asked for that, you know?” He’s right. You start giving people basic rights and pretty soon they’re going to be demanding things like an economy. Where will it end?
Anything I shouldn’t do?
Don’t shut off the Internet. It’s better to make the Web even more irresistible. Maybe create a viral video that cuts you into hilarious outtakes from Black Swan. That way, people will never go outside. Little-known fact: the president of Tunisia would still be in power today if his grandmother knew how to rap.
How do I know it’s time to go into exile?
Every tyrant is different. Some like to exit with the dignity of a brisk walk. Others prefer to wait and flee at a pace better suited to the Benny Hill theme music. Either way, take comfort: there will always be a place for ruthless autocrats who refuse to be held to account. Someone has to coach college football.
Being a despot is all I know. What am I supposed to do with my life now?
Think of this as an opportunity. Sure, dictatoring has been a blast, but there are other adventures out there for aggressive A-type personalities who hate their fellow man. For instance, you can work as a golf course marshal. And the way things are going, we may soon have enough ousted autocrats to make the best season yet of The Apprentice.
Trump: The challenge was to sell ice cream sundaes on the street in the middle of winter. Moammar, what was your strategy?
Gadhafi: I give free sprinkles to lure in customers. Then I shoot them.
Trump: You’re fired! Those sprinkles cost me four bucks.
How am I going to survive in the real world? I don’t even know how much a loaf of bread costs.
Bread is free. Just announce your current location and a fresh loaf will be delivered right away by a mob of your citizens.
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