The Guide to Dismantling a Dictator

• ~500 words • 2 minute read

Strategies for non-violently overthrowing dictators has been at the forefront of my mind since November 8th, 2016. That might seem like an overreaction, and I hope I can look back at this years from now and feel that way. But I'm not optimistic.

Maybe it's an overreaction because there's much in the way that prohibits Trump from going full dictator. Maybe it's an overreaction because it's more accurate to describe him as an aspiring dictator than anything else, and the U.S. system of checks & balances would keep him from achieving the technical definition.

But so much of what he's done is right out of the dictator's playbook. His treatment of the press. His propensity for not simply ignoring or deflecting any critcism, but actively and vehemently rising to in opposition, no matter how petty or strange — a pathological need to lash out at anything remotely critical of him, to the point where the vast majority of those he defines as "his enemies" reside in his own country and are the very people he's sought to lead.


I suppose if you're a cut-throat businessman it's a good approach for making money, or at least putting on the appearance of wealth and success while you shuffle around dubious foreign investments like a game of three-card monte and sell chintzy ties from the Gordon Gekko collection.

As man purporting be a leader and representing the best of us Donald Trump is reprehensible. My disdain for him goes beyond left/right politics. As Americans, we should all be embarrassed and ashamed. Donald Trump is an intellectually uncurious narcissist, the embodied antithesis of leadership. Someone like that is fit to lead nothing but his own self-interest, and now we're all along for the ride.

On Saturday I Googled "How do you stop a dictator?" out of curiosity. I found a lot of articles about dictatorships in Africa, but also near the top of the heap if found a documentary called Bringing Down a Dictator about the nonviolent protests in Serbia during the Milosević era that lead to his downfall. It was at the perfect intersection of my interests: Serbo-Yugoslavian history, in researching my family roots, and my daily pondering of what we can do about Donald Trump.

Though I don't know how the tactics highlighted in that documentary would scale to a country of 320 million some 18 years later, I still recommend watching it. I also recommend watching Srdja Popović's TED talk in 2011 on the same subject.

There are plenty of well-meaning people saying we should give him a chance and hope for the best. I don't see why. He's shown precisely who he is. The question is: do we wait until he does something truly despicable to act or start preparing now to head it off at the pass?

I'm trying to compile resources on this topic:

Recommendations welcome.