A cult of personality forms when a regime is heavily rely on the use of image building techniques. Such as mass media, propaganda, spectacle, patriotism, and government-organized demonstrations. In order to create a positive, idealistic image of a leader. Most modern cult of personality display five easily discernable factors that sets them apart.
Firstly, most of them are secular. Secondly the subjects mostly are male. Thirdly they target a whole population. Fourth they often use mass media as an instrument. And last factors, they exist in a country where the mass media can be easily controlled. The mass media plays an instrumental role in forging cults of personality; they portray the cult’s subject as a benevolent “guide” for their nation, essential for the transformation to a better future.
Here are four examples of recent personality cults:
Hugo Rafael Chávez Fríaz
Hugo Rafael Chávez Fríaz, the late Venezuelan president is one of the people that building himself around, a cult of personality. Since his untimely death, his followers—known as “Chavistas”—have called his passing as a “transitions to immortality.” And Chavez himself being dubbed as the “eternal commander”; around the time of his death. The reactions were compared to those of North Koreans mourning the death of Kim Jong-Il.
The cult of personality built up around Mussolini, known as “Il Duce,” was in many respects the unifying factor of the regime, serving as a common denominator between the fascist party and Italian society. This helped reconcile Italians with the regime; they were eventually led to believe that Mussolini was a modern Emperor Augustus and that he had improved the Italian people morally, spiritually, and materially.
The cult of personality around former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu was the most pervasive in the Eastern Bloc. Inspired by the cult of personality surrounds Kim Il-Sung. This was done with the help of both of their government officials; and the Romanian media itself. The whole purpose of his personality cult was to make the public opposition’s obsolete. Ceaușescu portrayal is more of an infallible character; that is above criticism.
The cult of personality around Mao Zedong existed from his rise to power in 1949; and continued even after his death in 1976. Characterized by the use of multiple forms of propaganda. Mao was frequently on display in public artwork, and the “Little Red Book” of his quotations ensured that his words were always on hand for citizens, which solidified his appearance as the great saviour and leader of China. Forms of adoration even ranged towards the more absurd, from loyalty dances to mango worship.
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