Dictatorship Blog: November 21 2015

“The pen is mightier than the sword” … countless variations on this adage have appeared in numerous places throughout history. It might be due an update for the technetronic age: perhaps the “ipad is mightier than the drone” (answers on a postcard!!).

The statement expresses a dichotomy that is key in political philosophy, moreover. In its latest version, the saying was uttered by a fictional Cardinal Richelieu in a play entitled Richelieu, Or the Conspiracy. Richelieu was a master of the media in his day and emphasized the dissemination of information favourable to his ministry.

The dichotomy is that of auctoritas (authority) and potestas (power). While overwhelming military force (power) and even technical expertise seem decisive, this will fail to subdue a people if not backed by legitimacy and underwritten by law.

A prime example of this relates to colonialism. Despite the economic, military, and technical gaps between colonizing countries and the countries they colonized the latter still made a break for freedom. That is because the auctoritas was weak.

And, probably, even the pen or the word processor can’t compensate for some deficits in authority.

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