When Hollywood hit “The Hunger Games” was first released in 2012, it drew extreme reactions from the Thai and Vietnamese governments. The Thai government asked theater owners not to release the film when it premiered, while the Vietnamese government banned it.
Leaders in both countries feared the impact of portraying a young girl, played fabulously by Jennifer Lawrence, who rises up against the president of a dystopian country. They also feared that Western powers, through the film, were trying to incite a generation to rebel against their governments. The film’s president was seen making children fight for the entertainment of the elite. So much for real life corresponding to reality.
Foreign Policy reported the same year on an interesting turn of events in Barnaul, a small town in Russia. When protesters agitating for a local issue were banned, they threw toys in the town square, which forced authorities to ban the toys as well. This did not please the electorate. You can’t go any further, even if you consider yourself a strong man.
Dictators and their would-be cousins have often used their strength to silence protests in their respective countries by any means at their disposal. They also use one of the oldest tricks in the dictators playbook, distraction, when faced with the issues most relevant to the citizens.
The art of distraction has been particularly useful in helping to create nation building, nationalism and the “other” in society. When they can find a minority group, a religious sect, an enemy they can blame for the evils they perpetuate, or their acolytes, they are able to get citizens to fight that “other” who lives among them. .