Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Arts & Culture

THE DICTATOR'S PLAYBOOK

Benito Mussolini giving speech, Italy 1935.
Courtesy of Getty Images
Benito Mussolini giving speech, Italy 1935.

"Saddam Hussein" airs Tuesday, May 5, 2020 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV + PBS Video App

Stream the series now with KPBS Passport!

THE DICTATOR’S PLAYBOOK, a six-part series, examines the historical, sociological and psychological foundations of 20th century dictatorships, and provides fresh insight into six brutal men who impacted world history: Kim Il Sung, Saddam Hussein, Benito Mussolini, Manuel Noriega, Francisco Franco and Idi Amin.

Advertisement

“These dictators were all unique in time and place,” said Michael Rosenfeld, vice president for National Programming at Twin Cities Public Television. “But they engaged in tactics that transcended borders and decades, sometimes even learning from one another. Each hour in the series is a detailed biography, but we highlight the methods these men used to establish their dictatorships, from purges to propaganda to targeted violence. And we explore the impact on the people who lived under these regimes, who often paid a terrible price.”

Banner of the missing people in Spain under Francisco Franco's rule. (undated)
Courtesy of Alamy
Banner of the missing people in Spain under Francisco Franco's rule. (undated)

Through historical context and analysis, the series explores how these dictators functioned, how they influenced each other, and why they succeeded or failed.

As different as these men were from each other, they followed a series of essential steps, from seizing power to eliminating enemies — an unwritten “dictator’s playbook.”

Manuel Noriega with supporters in Panama. (undated photo)
Courtesy of AP Images
Manuel Noriega with supporters in Panama. (undated photo)
Advertisement

“This series takes a deep, historical look at six men whose lives and careers have greatly impacted the 20th century, with far-reaching consequences that are still resonant in conflicts and movements across the globe today,” said Pamela Aguilar, senior director, Programming & Development at PBS. “It is a thoughtful examination of how these rulers gained and kept power, and ultimately, what led to their success or failure.”

Idi Amin Dada in the summit of Uganda in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Jan. 10, 1976.
Courtesy of Getty Images
Idi Amin Dada in the summit of Uganda in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Jan. 10, 1976.

While focusing specifically on the individual dictators and their countries, each one-hour episode asks a series of questions that allows viewers to understand the politics and psychology of dictatorships, including:

  • What drove their thirst for domination and control?
  • How did they seize and wield power?
  • What forces rose up against them or resisted them in secret?
  • How were they seen and accepted by other countries?
  • How did they finally come to the bitter end?
North Koreans bow in front of statues of Kim Il Sung and successor, his son Kim Jong Il. Pyongyang, 2015.
Courtesy of Getty Images
North Koreans bow in front of statues of Kim Il Sung and successor, his son Kim Jong Il. Pyongyang, 2015.

EPISODE GUIDE:

Episode 1: “Kim Il Sung” aired Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thursday, Jan. 10 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2 - Witness Kim Il Sung’s transformation from guerilla fighter to brutal dictator of North Korea. How did he build the most controlled society on earth and launch a dictatorship that has lasted for three generations?

Episode 2: “Saddam Hussein” repeats Tuesday, May 5 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV - Learn how Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq with an iron fist for almost 30 years. To maintain power, he used fear, intimidation and violence like few other dictators in history, but he made the fatal mistake of believing his regime could take on the world.

Episode 3: “Benito Mussolini” aired Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thursday, Jan. 24 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2 - See why Benito Mussolini was considered a pioneer among 20th century dictators. From undermining judges to indoctrinating children, he forged key tactics for seizing power. He also created fascism, an ideology that would plunge Europe into darkness.

Episode 4: “Manuel Noriega” aired Wednesday, Jan. 30 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thursday, Jan. 31 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2 - Watch Manuel Noriega rise through the Panamanian military to become chief of intelligence – and then, military dictator. He spied for the United States, but in the end, money laundering, drug trafficking and political crimes led to his downfall.

Episode 5: “Francisco Franco” aired Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thursday, Feb. 7 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2 - Learn how Francisco Franco used the tactics of colonial war to win control of Spain. Driven by a deeply conservative vision, he used torture, murder and incarceration to transform Spanish Society.

Episode 6: “Idi Amin” aired Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thursday, Feb. 14 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2 - See how Idi Amin used lessons learned in the colonial British army to build a powerful dictatorship in Uganda. Through a combination of populist charm and brutal violence, he ruled for eight years – until his strategic blunders brought him down.

Watch on Your Schedule:

With the PBS Video App, you can stream your favorite and local station shows. Download it for free on your favorite device. The app allows you to catch up on recent episodes and discover award-winning shows.

The series is currently available to stream on demand with KPBS Passport, video streaming for members supporting KPBS at $60 or more yearly, using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn how to activate your benefit now.

The series DVD is available to purchase at ShopPBS.org.

Join The Conversation:

PBS is on Facebook, Instagram and you can follow @PBS on Twitter.

Credits:

Produced by Cream Productions in association with Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. and PBS. Series producer: Matt Booi - Cream Productions.