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‘Real Dictators’ and their regimes of suffering

Mala Bhargava | Updated on August 02, 2021

Tune in: Produced by Noiser Podcasts, Real Dictators can be accessed on multiple services — Spotify, Reason, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and even on the website   -  IMAGE COURTESY: NOISER

A riveting podcast charts the making of the men who unleashed carnage on the planet

* Listened to with headphones, in the privacy of one’s own head, these podcast episodes are frighteningly proximal and real-life

* Covered so far are Hitler — but only the early years yet, Stalin, Colonel Gaddafi, Mao Zedong, Kim Jong-il, Francisco Franco, General Tojo, and Papa Doc

* Narration is by actor Paul McGann of Dr Who and Luther fame. His voice is spellbinding, capturing your attention entirely

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One would have thought the world had learned its lesson when Adolf Hitler redefined dictatorship and led the planet into war. Fifty million lives lost, by some estimates. And so many of them murdered in unimaginable killing factories. Next door neighbour Joseph Stalin, it is thought, had an even bigger death count on his hands. But humans apparently haven’t had enough. Medieval-style tyrants are in our midst even now, causing intense suffering to millions more. It is perhaps time we understood what makes such people tick. That’s what the podcast, Real Dictators, aims to do.

Produced by Noiser Podcasts, Real Dictators is a fairly recent series, and one can listen to it on multiple services — Spotify, Reason, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts etc, or even on the website. Noiser Podcasts do such a good job of production that their series are like audio documentaries and one can almost see, not just hear them. There is no end of films and books on dictators and evil humans, but the backstories of how they got to be that way are always compelling specially in a relatively new format. Listened to with headphones, in the privacy of one’s own head, these podcast episodes are frighteningly proximal and real-life.

The Real Dictators series can probably go on forever, so many in number are the men, and now and again women, who have set up a regime of suffering. Covered so far are Hitler — but only the early years yet, Stalin, Colonel Gaddafi, Mao Zedong, Kim Jong-il, Francisco Franco, General Tojo, and Papa Doc. A new episode appears every week, currently on is the story of Gaddafi of Libya. Born in a tent out in the desert, Muammar Gaddafi was in no way privileged. But by the age of 27, he had seized Libya — without a single shot being fired. In charting out his remarkable story, the Real Dictators podcast feeds your mind’s eye with rich detail, soundscapes and interviews, bringing alive the period when the tyrant walked the earth, orchestrating the Munich Olympics bombing and the Lockerbie air disaster.

One can start out almost feeling sorry for Stalin, the Russian dictator who wasn’t even Russian. A harsh childhood and a brutal father surely will have shaped his personality. Exiled to Siberia, he had to try and escape the conditions of a place that didn’t seem to have been ever meant for anyone to inhabit. Instead of becoming compassionate, Stalin however became the tyrant the world knows him to be and an unforgiving and shockingly uncaring father to his son, Yakov. Numerous times, the young man tried to kill himself. On learning about it, Stalin is only said to have responded with, “You missed”. Eventually, Yakov did throw himself upon an electric fence, ending his life. His father barely noticed.

The stories of the ‘hidden lives’ of the other dictators are no less fascinating — or chilling, making for hours of absorbing listening. Narration is by actor Paul McGann of Dr Who and Luther fame. His voice is spellbinding, capturing your attention entirely. Unsurprisingly, Real Dictators has won the Gold Award for Best Arts & Culture Podcast at the British Podcast Awards 2021. The judges are quoted as having said, “This podcast had us hooked. The perfect balance of narration, facts and expert opinion set within a dramatic audio production give the listener a heightened experience and allows them to feel like they were at some of history's biggest moments.”

Website: https://www.noiser.com/podcasts

Published on August 02, 2021

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