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Kim Jong Il and How to Be a Leader

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2011 has been a tough year for tyrants. Mubarak: deposed. Ghaddafi: assassinated. Now North Korean autodidact Kim Jong Il has taken the long dirt nap. Yes, he looked like a cross between Dennis Taylor and a baby, but (if his public relations material is to be believed) what he lacked in democratic proclivities he more than made up for in golfing skills.

But in a sense, twas always thus. Dictators have always been a rare and persecuted breed. In the 20th century, 77% of all dictators had at least one assassination attempt made against them. Saluting military parades from a balcony while embezzling most of your country's GDP seems, increasingly, like a dying art.

Kim Jong Il's son and successor, the purportedly shy Kim Jong Un, inherits a ticklish situation. How do you replace a man touted as irreplaceable?

I believe I have the answer. Well, answers.

Over the past few years I have been studying the ancient tradition of despotism. As an author and performer, I'm particularly fascinated how one person can convince an entire nation to do his or her bidding. In the absence of giant hypno rays or superhuman bulletproof giants, at first glance this seems utterly inexplicable.

And this, in a sense, is the good news. Like so many leaders before him, Kim Jong Un gives every impression of being a pudgy, feckless nitwit way out of his depth. This is how I feel every single day. The bar for bending an entire nation to your iron will is set reassuringly low.

On the other hand, I've never believed that power corrupts. I believe that power reveals corruption; power is a necessary condition for corruption, rather than a cause. And that's a hopeful view of humanity, in some ways, because it suggests that it's possible for a person to have power, and remain honest. It therefore follows that, if you get into power, you can't expect corruption to just fall into your lap. Corruption is a choice. You have to work at it.

I am convinced that the science of making people do what you tell them can be distilled into a series of simple rules. I see them in action every day, as a lone comedian tells a room of 200 people to sit down, shut up and listen - and they do. I see them in the headlines every morning, and throughout the pages of history. With my help, you will see them too.

What you do with this knowledge is up to you. You may wish to use these ideas to recognise and oppose tyranny wherever you encounter it. You may wish to use them to ruthlessly crush your family, friends and co-workers. If you are Kim Jong-un, you will probably want to skim-read for tips on how not to get shot in your first six months (hint: bulletproof your lectern and use your family members as decoys).

So yes, the wicked witch may be dead, but this only means that a number of vacancies for wicked witches have become available. Now is the perfect time to start training as a paranoid oppressor. Sign up here.

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