Manipulating Chaos for Political Gain


The challenge of overlooking history lies in the risk of failing to discern the recurring patterns that it reveals. I have provided several articles on this phenomenon over the years, but there is another pattern that we should probably discuss. It is a pattern of tyrants and authoritarians and how they manipulate chaos for political gain.

A tyrant or authoritarian is essentially a person or group that is highly oppressive or unjust. They are characterized by favoring or demanding absolute obedience to authority and oppose, resist, or oppress individual freedom and responsibility. However, these leaders don’t just show up one day. Like the old saying about the frog in the pot, it happens over time, and those subjected to it often don’t see it coming until it is too late.

Adding to this complexity is the subtle nature of authoritarian progression, which often escapes the awareness of followers. It’s a universal inclination for individuals to resist perceiving themselves as the “bad guy.” Sometimes, this is attached to the Dunning-Kruger Effect, as people tend to be overconfident about the things they do not fully understand. Consequently, this resistance extends to how they view their allegiance or “side.” Accordingly, certain warning signs go entirely unnoticed or unexamined, hence the overconfidence. Similarly, this willful lack of awareness also prompts individuals to rationalize transgressions that are identified by victims, justifying them for the various reasons offered up by their leaders.

Thankfully, there are always warning signs to be considered. In retrospect, they are often easy to see. However, if someone is willing to step away from their denial, they can usually see these signs for what they are before things begin to fall apart. Niccolò Machiavelli, a distinguished Italian diplomat, philosopher, and politician of the Renaissance period, has bequeathed a wealth of invaluable insights into these historical warning signs and patterns. Unfortunately, for reasons you will discover herein, many never received this essential lesson.

Nonetheless, we must understand that there are always nefarious schemes afoot. Some people simply thirst for power, and they do not care who they hurt in their endless pursuit of it. Of course, at the same time, most tyrants usually follow the same playbook to achieve that power. Interestingly, these malevolent tactics seem to draw inspiration directly from Machiavelli’s cautionary words. However, regrettably, in the wrong hands, the words meant to warn and shield us can transform into a blueprint for manipulating those who remain unaware. The good news is that you and I have access to this playbook right now. Unfortunately, those who reject history (and education in general) tend to miss the warnings and are typically not equipped with the necessary shield. Let’s fix that!

Recognize that true understanding is born from careful examination. In this spirit, I offer a contemporary reinterpretation of Machiavelli’s wisdom in a modern context. So, let’s pretend that you want to take over a nation and become a tyrant. Here are twelve tactics used to manipulate chaos to achieve your authoritarianism. We will lay the foundation, examine the tactics, and then do some critical self-reflection.

Using Chaos for Power Acquisition

Foundation: True Power or Pseudo-Power

You have a decision to make. Do you want true power, or do you want the ego boost of position? Remember, the head of the snake can always be cut off. However, if the people cannot find the snake and don’t know where to look for it, it is free to slither where it chooses. Lesson number one: true power makes use of figureheads. Figureheads will be the temporary face of power and will leave when politically expedient. While these figureheads will have some positional power, they will also be accountable to those who have their eyes on them.

Again, those with true power can slither where and how they choose. They will hide themselves under a complicated web of figureheads. They block inquiry under a veil of “necessary secrecy.” They sell it to the people as “national security” or for “their safety.” They slither under the cover of a mind-numbing bureaucracy that establishes unpopular rules that benefit their plan. The more complex and convoluted they can make the bureaucracy, the more insulated they become.

Lesson number two: almost all forms of power can be traced back to ideas or visions. Ideas are often the catalyst for change and the driving force behind the pursuit of power in various domains. The side with a solid vision has the most power. You must sell an idea. In other words, you must understand that true power is found in a collective that is beholden to an idea or vision. Therefore, you must draft your vision and chase it accordingly, ensuring that all elements of the culture point in the direction of the achievement of that vision or idea.

However, the key is in the contrast. This truth also demonstrates a vital tactic regarding organizational culture. To make room for the new vision, a tyrant must first destroy and replace the existing idea or vision. So, what is your vision of this new nation? What does success look like in this takeover?

Let’s assume you’ve clearly defined your vision. Know that even when clearly defined, this takeover will not be easy. However, while it may take some time, it is achievable. In fact, this is typically done with twelve basic tactics. Let’s get to work.

Tactic 1: Objurgate and Limit the Means of Self-Defense.

If you want to gain absolute power, you must eliminate your obstacles. To do this effectively, you will need to eliminate or reduce the number of those who will resist or defend the established power or vision. Hence, it behooves you to take the means of defense from those who might step up to defend themselves, their ideas, the existing vision, or their institutions. However, it is best to manipulate these people into voluntarily giving up their defense tools because loud confrontations will alert the other defenders, which is counterproductive to Tactic 4. Therefore, you must repeatedly demonize the means of defense and never let a tragedy go unnoticed by the collective. Use credible figureheads to call such efforts “Common Sense,” and use the perception of safety as your reasoning. Use seizures as a last resort or in extreme cases, but keep that option available for “security purposes.”

Tactic 2: Support and Defend Criminals and Murderers.

Personal responsibility should only be pushed upon those you seek to take power from. Things will soon become more difficult than they could imagine, which will force them to compromise their principles to survive. At the same time, you need to pamper those who support your efforts to ensure dependency.

Defend agents of chaos and make it easier for them to spread fear and disorder in alignment with Tactic 11. Indoctrinate the masses with the idea that these agents of chaos are not responsible for their actions because they are the victims of circumstances outside of their control – circumstances thrust upon them by the group you wish to remove. In other words, encourage criminal behavior from your supporting classes and present your opposition as the reason for such behaviors. Tactic 2 lays the groundwork for Tactic 3 & 4.

Tactic 3: Undermine Trust in Institutions

Remember that current institutions were established in alignment with the original vision. Discredit and undermine the public’s trust in these key ideas and institutions, such as the Constitution, law enforcement, education, the judiciary, and the media. This can be achieved through disinformation campaigns, baseless allegations, and promoting conspiracy theories.

Ensure inept individuals are placed in key positions and limit (not eliminate) the number of the truly educated in your ranks. The small number of truly educated will understand the hopelessness, become disillusioned, quit, and then help inform the masses of this dysfunction, which will provide credibility to the idea of dysfunction and further erode trust in these institutions. This will ultimately prompt a desire for change, which you will provide them when the time is right.

Similarly, encourage ignorance and employ or support any measure discouraging investigation, education, or exploration. This will rapidly ensure that complex matters are oversimplified or ignored. Simultaneously, alienate those who do explore or sense trouble by belittling their concern and ensure that any of their findings are minimized or ridiculed as “ridiculous” or “conspiracy.”

Tactic 4: Divide and Conquer

Exploit and exacerbate existing divisions within society, whether they are based on political, ethnic, or socioeconomic lines. Focus on identity politics, as this is easily exploitable due to its instant identifiability. Encourage polarization and create a “us versus them” mentality to weaken unity – ensuring the “us” side is your side collectively. This will help to destroy attachments to any strong unifying principles that you do not provide. Always paint your opposition as “extremists” and “dangerous.

Belittle the foundational narratives that initially brought the people together and call them “outdated.” Destroy the established national identity and unity by using Rome as your guide. In that, note the natural result of social and political change that came about with the introduction of the Visigoths, Vandals, and Huns and how that shift ultimately contributed to the weakening of the empire via the disruption of national identity.

Tactic 5: Suppress Opposition

Reward, empower, and further indoctrinate your political support. They are eager to receive. Suppress and intimidate political opposition and dissenting voices. Paint patriots as “trouble-makers.” Use legal or extra-legal means to silence critics, which can include censorship, harassment, or even physical violence. This will foster a culture of self-silence as most people will wish to avoid the hassle. Use the momentum to pass legislation that furthers your cause, but be patient and do so at a steady pace. Remember that too much too soon will elicit concern and caution.

Encourage acts of alignment from supportive businesses. This will lay the groundwork for anocracy. Punish opposition harshly while only punishing your supporting class lightly, noting that completely avoiding punishment for your supporting class will alert the masses and generate a unifying effect. At the same time, this will encourage loyalty via favoritism while further alienating the opposition.

Tactic 6: Foment Economic Instability

Hire and promote the supporting class regardless of ability or merit. Alienate the opposition and hinder the advancement of the resistance. Doing so will distract them from personal struggles. Belittle the merit of self-reliance and limited government and offer programs encouraging dependency and compliance. Introduce economic policies that generate uncertainty, inflation, or inequality, which can lead to economic instability, food instability, and social unrest.

This instability can be exploited for political gain as people will turn to you for the solutions to the problems you have created. Those solutions are provided in Tactic 12. Loyalty increases from those who partake. Moreover, economic chaos provides an excellent opportunity to double down on such policies, which will only advance the agenda. Always appear shocked when people get angry about a failed policy but continue forward under the guise of confusion. You can simply state that your efforts have not had enough time to work and push forward.

Borrow money to fund your accent to power. Pay for this via increased taxes. Make your loans more affordable by devaluing the currency where possible. These steps will also help to ensure that the means of self-reliance are limited or eradicated among the opposition who continue to play by the rules (that you establish). Moreover, this will also ensure that the majority are reliant and that holdouts are weakened. Continue by alienating those with money or power by aligning them with your opposition – unless you can frame allies with power and money as those rewarded for their participation and compliance. Similarly, you should proactively reward compliant businesses willing to participate, as this will encourage others to follow for similar rewards. This also opens up the door for steady employment of your followers, which only encourages more loyalty. Moreover, this will also exacerbate the desired “us versus them” mindset.

Tactic 7: Manipulate Elections

Provide the illusion of choice by ensuring that any political side is beholden to the establishment and ensure the false choice by promoting individuals hand-selected and aligned with your agenda. If someone is not aligned, control their exposure via Tactic 9. If necessary, rig or manipulate elections to ensure favorable outcomes. This may involve voter suppression, gerrymandering, ballot-stuffing, extensive propaganda, or even tampering with electoral processes. Of course, it could be as simple as ensuring that the selections you provide are aligned with your vision.

Ideally, you will want to ensure that your people are the ones counting the votes, or you can use rigged machines to create the perception of fairness. Don’t worry if this creates distrust in some, as this is expected and in alignment with Tactic 3. However, if such manipulation is suspected or might be exposed to the masses, point the finger at the opposition and use Tactic 9 as your vehicle.

Tactic 8: Cultivate Loyalty within Security Forces

Ensure the loyalty of key security forces, such as the military and law enforcement, by placing loyalists in key positions or providing incentives to maintain their support. Root out or alienate those who oppose your agenda or merely support foundational values. Indoctrinate existing forces to forget about foundational values and to enforce your policies as a priority. This will naturally exacerbate Tactic 3.

Reward the loyalists accordingly to encourage more of the same behavior. Ideally, compliant behavior should become the foundation of the institution’s culture. Punish or eliminate those who resist or encourage ideas that are not in alignment with your agenda. Celebrate aligned heroes within the ranks that present themselves, as this will help to foster confusion regarding trust in these institutions. Similarly, demonize citizens who take the law into their own hands. Call them irresponsible.

Tactic 9: Control the Narrative

Maintain a tight grip on the media and communication channels to control the narrative. Use propaganda to shape public perception and minimize dissenting voices. Use astroturfing to demonstrate public support of your initiatives and take the “bullhorn” away from the opposition where possible. Publicly and harshly punish those attempting to blow the whistle while completely avoiding the topic of what has been exposed by the whistleblower.

Highlight negative or tragic events whenever possible, as this will highlight the need for your security forces. However, if the supporting class carries out the tragic event, reframe the event in your favor, minimize it, or ignore it. Remember to paint your supporting class as the victim and place emphasis on the opposition. This uneven coverage passively stokes Tactic 4 and will make it appear as though the opposition is a very big problem.

Adjust your narratives to ensure alignment with previous tactics, reward the supporting class and businesses where possible, empower agendas that encourage more of the same, and alienate those who question. Similarly, you must label any dissenting truths the opposition exposes as conspiracy theories and move on. Pay as little attention to such voices as possible, as such attention only provides credibility to the discovery and may expose you to the masses.

Tactic 10: Takeover Education

Control education where possible by hiring teachers who align with your agenda. Alienate the schools and teachers that don’t comply, especially institutions that are privately funded. Ensure that History and Civics are limited in scope, revisionist, or simply over-emphasize the narratives that support your cause.

Ensure that Critical Thinking and Philosophy emphasize philosophical approaches that limit inquiry or question authority, but that also emphasize your solutions. Minimize, contort, or eliminate Ethics and Moral Philosophy. Align Human Rights and International Law coursework to support the agenda and the supporting class while providing examples of why your opposition is the reason for such issues. Align Psychology, Sociology, and other Social Sciences to exploit social inequalities and uneven power dynamics (preferably identity politics), with your opposition or scapegoat as the central reason or focus.

Teach conflicting ideas to breed confusion. Use technical jargon in important topics to make students feel ignorant in those disciplines. Exploit the Dunning-Kruger effect by providing brief overviews of foundational narratives to ensure overconfidence with limited exposure. Sow the seeds of division in society and within the home using courses that suggest that family or traditional norms are a source of the problems faced or are outdated. Remove historical reminders of the established vision from the public eye, but keep divisive reminders where possible and use Tactic 9 to create controversy regarding these reminders, as this will support Tactic 4.

Teach Economics and Economic Policy that aligns with Tactic 6. Tolerate or even encourage apathy and intellectual laziness, as this will make Tactic 9 more effective while also setting the stage for acceptance of Tactic 12. Remember: knowledge is power. Be careful about power distribution via education and ensure that access to foundational information is limited or obscured.

Tactic 11: Promote Fear and Insecurity

Emotion drives and molds bias. Fear is the ultimate emotion. Keep the population in a constant state of fear and insecurity. Previously listed tactics will help in this endeavor.

Remember that if their means of self-defense are removed or limited, tragic events will be exacerbated, and the fearful will have no choice but to ask you for protection from the agents of chaos you created or that are under your control. While challenging, this can be achieved through the manipulation of information, the spread of rumors, and the use of actual or staged events or crises.

Use Tactic 9 to highlight moments of social proof that align with your agenda. Continually highlight the crime in your messaging and always minimize the heroes not under your control. Tactic 9, controlling media and information is vital. This will expedite the achievement of power transfer.

Tactic 12: Provide the Solution

Take every inch provided, but give up nothing. Be patient. Victory is found in the long game. Continually suggest that your hands are tied but that solutions can be had with more power and resources. Eventually, the people will give up both, hoping that the pain will stop.

Once you have acquired the necessary power, you will offer up your new vision to replace the established vision that you have manipulated to fail. You can use your experts and scholars to support and sell your new vision. Thanks to the people’s ignorance and lack of understanding of the old vision, this should be a fairly easy transition. However, once achieved, you must eliminate the experts and scholars who helped in this process, as they will soon become your biggest and most vocal critics once the truth is realized. Keep your loyal figureheads in place for your own safety until total power is achieved.

Critical Reflection

Indeed, if someone seeks power through Machiavellian tactics, these are the steps (either some or all) they’d likely take. History demonstrates that some do it better than others. However, we see such tactics the world over to varying degrees. Perhaps this is your warning because the outcomes are known. However, this warning has been here for hundreds of years. Perhaps this is the danger of voluntarily removing yourself from continuous education. The silver lining is that it can be stopped before it gets too far down the road. However, it’s usually not that easy.

To counter these nefarious tactics, which can absolutely undermine or even destroy a free nation, freedom-loving people can do several things. First, people need to stop the denial. Too many times, people are more apt to deny the possibility of tyrants and say to themselves, “This isn’t happening,” or “Not in my lifetime.” Charismatic tyrants seek power; they usually get it, and bad things happen. Hence, a nation must defend its foundational vision and never allow alteration for the illusion of “safety.

Of course, people of good conscience must be willing to speak out against deceptive and oppressive agendas. This will be difficult or even dangerous at times, but it is necessary. Additionally, they must prioritize transparency, TRUE education, and a strong, independent judiciary. However, this demands open access to information (even conflicting information), fostering critical thinking through education, and ensuring the legal system is free from political influence.

Education is paramount. Anyone who says otherwise is either indoctrinated or an agent of chaos. Remember that knowledge is power and that power is transferred via continuous education. This is similar to how true expertise is achieved via continuous learning – especially post-graduation.

Also, remember that accuracy has no party. Choose schools, professors, and mentors who are not beholden to those in power on any side. There are plenty. If for some reason that is not possible, practice continuous self-education, but ensure that you include the materials of your opposition, as this illuminates the necessary contrasts and allows you to understand what you are up against. Also, know that all education is worthless without critical reflection. Regardless of what you learn, ask yourself, “What did I just learn? What does it mean to me? How can I use this to my advantage? And what else would I like to learn about this?

Avoid toxic tribalism and attempt to bridge with thinkers, even those who may have succumbed to such indoctrination efforts. Remember that these individuals are not your opposition. Instead, they are merely victims of a mighty machine. At the same time, understand that you will not be able to bridge with everyone. Individuals have varying degrees of susceptibility, and some will be too far gone to retrieve. Cut your losses and find others.

Similarly, understand that you rarely reach people by “telling” them accurate information. By telling them or arguing with them, you merely encourage a defense of their misconceptions and beliefs. Instead, you must pose compelling questions that allow them to see various truths for themselves.

Additionally, liberty-minded citizens and leaders must actively engage in learning about and upholding our foundational values, advocating for responsible governance, and fostering a united, informed citizenry that can resist the attempts to sow division while avoiding the temptation to succumb to things that “sound about right.” Remember that if you find yourself overly emotional about something, there is a good chance that you are being manipulated.

And finally, nobody can provide your security better than yourself. Remember that “organizationally-provided safety” may sound nice, but initiatives to achieve it typically lead to decline. Hence, freedom-loving people must never relinquish their ability to defend themselves against tyranny. More importantly, these people must always be willing to stand in liberty’s defense – before – not after it is too late. And if the argument is that such environments increase various dangers, then reflect upon the words of Thomas Jefferson – “Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem.”

The people must prevent or remove those in power who do not adhere to these directives.


Please understand that the tactics provided here are merely a contemporary interpretation of Machiavellian principles in that they prioritize the acquisition and retention of power through specific means. The tactics provided are adapted and modernized to convey a specific message about the risks of the rise of authoritarianism. My intent is to educate and raise awareness about the potential dangers of certain political behaviors and strategies used by authoritarian leaders. History was my guide.

Additionally, please understand that I do not believe that Machiavelli’s works were intended to be a handbook for tyranny. Instead, I see his work as a warning and a realistic examination of politics and governance. Indeed, they are much more nuanced than the simple list that I have provided here. I simply appreciate his warnings and encourage everyone to know his works, particularly “The Prince” and “The Discourses on Livy.” If you would like to learn more, please check out my article Machiavelli “The Prince” – Was It A Warning?