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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Pestritto

Tyrannical Minds

Updated: Dec 19, 2021

Tomorrow, Dean A. Haycock's latest book, TYRANNICAL MINDS: PSYCHOLOGICAL PROFILING, NARCISSISM, AND DICTATORSHIP, will be officially released!  I always love reading pop science and Dean's book feels especially compelling given today's atmosphere, so if you are interested in learning more about what Kirkus calls a "compelling analysis" of how psychology and situation combine to create despotic leaders and learn more about "the big nasties with fascinating portraits of history's greatest villains," then this is the perfect read for you!

Dean will have a featured blog on Psychology Today as a spin-off of the book, which is super cool!  He is also the author of MURDEROUS MINDS: EXPLORING THE CRIMINAL PSYCHOPATHIC BRAIN, which Publishers Weekly said was a "fascinating page-turner" and Kirkus praised as "[p]art true crime, part neuroscience and a page-turner from start to finish...[in which] these tricky issues [are explored] in accessible and insightful chapters that break down the science behind the data while using narratives of high-profile provide chilling real-life examples of criminally psychopathic behavior."

Be sure to pre-order your copy of TYRANNICAL MINDS today and read on to learn a bit more about it and the author below!

First off, tell us a bit about this book and yourself!

I’m a medical and science writer. I have a background in neuroscience and frequently write about the brain and psychological issues.

Tyrannical Minds, Psychological Profiling, Narcissism and Dictatorship is an examination of the psychological traits common to tyrants. It discusses how intelligence agencies profile foreign leaders and how accurate and trustworthy those analyses might be. It also examines both sides of the controversy surrounding the mental health of Donald Trump, who has been “profiled” by amateurs and professional mental health care providers.

What kind of research did you have to do for TYRANNICAL MINDS and how did you decide what famous despots to include?

I tracked down as many psychological profiles of foreign leaders as I could. Most were declassified. Other sources alluded to classified reports. I also read about the approaches government and intelligence analysts use when profiling subjects. I read memoirs and texts on political psychological profiling. I interviewed those sources who would talk to me. I was in touch with CIA representatives and former employees at the beginning of my research, but they soon "ghosted" me, so I relied heavily on psychologists' reports, interviews and published histories of psychological profiling.

Is this book similar to your previous title MURDEROUS MINDS at all and how?

Murderous Minds concentrated on criminal psychopathy, one frequently observed psychological feature of many, if not most, tyrants. In this book, I explored additional psychological traits common to tyrants including narcissism, Machiavellianism, paranoia and the belief that they are uniquely qualified to dominate and lead their nations—the messiah complex.

Are all dictators tyrants or do some not technically fall under that category?

Dictators have absolute power over their people. A dictator who uses that power to help his or her people is not a tyrant. Most dictators, however, are not benevolent. They are Machiavellian, cruel, psychopathic, murderous, narcissistic and often paranoid. These dictators oppress their people and deny them freedom. They are tyrants.

Can you tell us a little bit about how government intelligence services all over the world analyze or psychologically profile political leaders?

They gather as much information about their subject as they can. They study films, statements, speeches, and writings by and about their subject. They interview people who know or have interacted with the leader they are trying to profile. They place his or her behavior in the context of the person's culture and the past and recent history of his or her country. They examine the person's family history, childhood, past behavior and decisions. All of this information is compiled to create a psychological, political profile.

You mention that many of the tyrants you discuss had great respect for one other...can you mention some particular figures who revered past dictators and why?

Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein practically regarded Stalin and Hitler as role models. Muammar Gaddhafi also admired these tyrants. They admired the "strongman" aspects of Hitler and Stalin.

Who is your "favorite" tyrant?

I despise them all equally. Some are remarkable in their ability to achieve and remain in power. These tyrants, like Stalin and Mao, were very intelligent as well as brutal and repressive. Bumbling tyrants like Hitler and Idi Amin were less intelligent and did not last as long in power.

Where do you think Trump falls on the spectrum of autocratic leaders?

Trump is not a dictator, tyrant or a fascist. He does, however, have authoritarian tendencies. His past statements indicate that wishes he had much more power than the U. S. presidency provides the chief executive. He has repeatedly expressed respect and admiration for strongmen such as Russia's Vladimir Putin and others. His personality and actions are so dominated by narcissistic features, however, that he lacks the Machiavellian, manipulative, deceptive skills so readily demonstrated by strongmen like Stalin and Mao during their rise to power. If, however, his followers and the politicians who support him gave him more powers than the U. S. president is legally entitled to, his past comments strongly suggest he would embrace them.

What is the biggest takeaway you hope readers have after finishing your book?

Dictatorships can happen where you don't expect them to. Germany was once the world's leader in science, literature and intellectual thought. It later produced Hitler. Italy was a world center of culture and art. It later produced Mussolini. Japan emerged from its isolation to embrace foreign cultures. Later it produced a militaristic dictatorship. Under the worst historical and social conditions, countries can fall into dictatorships. The U. S. government's separations of powers with three ostensibly equal branches of government is one of the best systems for preventing the emergence of a dictatorship, providing enough of the population opposes the emergence of an authoritarian leader. There are plenty of would-tyrants waiting in the wings to step into power when a society weakens enough to allow them to.

What kinds of topics/information will your blog on Psychology Today cover?  Do you hope to go more in-depth with any ideas only covered briefly in the book?

It will explore and expand upon the material in the book. Unfortunately, there is plenty of material concerning authoritarian leaders in history and in current events to provide plenty of material for the blog.

Finally, according to this quiz, which dictator are you?  I got Josip Broz Tito!  Also, to everyone else: take this quiz, too, and let me know who you got in the comments below or let me know if you are resisting the tyranny of standardized quizzes ;)

I would be very concerned if you got Stalin. Very concerned. Tito has been described as a "benevolent dictator." He was credited with holding the disparate peoples of Yugoslavia together--you saw the bloodshed that engulfed the former Yugoslavia after his death-- while managing to fend off Stalin's and later Soviet leaders' desires to exert control over his country.

I couldn't finish the quiz. After researching this book, I couldn't bear to answer many of the questions like: "Which are you more likely to become? Right-wing fascist or Left-wing Communist?" The obvious answer is neither, but the tyrannical quiz wouldn't let me continue without choosing one of the limited options. I resisted the quiz.

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