By Adam Borowski
1. The domestic layer ― the isolated population is subjected to a barrage of words, phrases, slogans, rituals and chants. The regime wants each sentence to evoke a set of specific emotions and images in the population.
2. The elite layer ― the elites are in charge of forming the narrative, which often involves a cult of superhuman personality. The elites ensure there is only one acceptable narrative in a country they control. No regime can survive without an imposed narrative uniting the military, the economy, intelligence networks, science, and whatever else is critical to the regime survival, under a single rule.
3. The international layer ― as the regime elite interact with the outside world, they will denounce any initiative exposing human rights abuses in their country as enemy propaganda. The elite will always deflect accusations leveled against them. The way the elite communicate with the outside world is dramatically different from the domestic dialogue. For obvious reasons, the population controlled by the regime has no knowledge of this. In fact ― as a result of brainwashing ― the population can't conceptualize alternatives to the official narrative.
4. The charm offensive layer ― an unfortunate individual is chosen by the regime to charm the world by sitting on a proverbial high horse, wearing a proverbial tiara. The willingness of the individual to take part in the charm offensive is irrelevant. As numerous examples throughout history show, charming the international community is an extremely effective tactic. A pretty face is a better propaganda tool than a thousand diplomatic statements.
It shouldn't be surprising that defections are a relatively common occurrence. Elite defectors often speak foreign languages, they understand the inner workings of the regime. That's why defectors are absolutely despised by the regime. If the top echelons of society aren't loyal, then nobody's safe. After all, anyone who would want to leave the paradise must be mentally ill. Case in point ― the Soviets would place dissidents in psychiatric hospitals called psychushkas. Kafkaesque and Orwellian combined into a phantasmagoric existence.
No regime emerges overnight. There are always signs to watch out for ― particularly in the socio-political discourse. For example, calling someone we disagree with a Russian bot seems funny, but is actually dehumanizing. The fact people are ready to dehumanize others so easily is a disconcerting trend. How can we ensure freedom of speech in such a convoluted world? It's quite a conundrum. Brave individuals who have managed to escape the clutches of various regimes around the planet often decide to learn English. Stories of wanton genocide and enslavement ― delivered in excellent English ― are a haunting reminder we should never take the freedoms we enjoy for granted.
Adam Borowski (email@example.com) is a technical Polish-English translator, and a business English teacher. He lives in Warsaw.