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This references a general idea that intellectuals are supposed to be responsible in their social and political opinions, but has a more general application to the phenomenon of such people becoming (at best misguided) sympathizers of the Evil Overlord du jour. In fiction, this is a good variation on Not Brainwashed. Given that they tend to reference actual totalitarian governments, dystopian works often have the heroes interacting with this type, who tends to have power in a paradoxically anti-intellectual state.

Examples of Intellectually Supported Tyranny include:

Anime and Manga

  • Kiyomi Takada has this kind of vibe in Death Note, being an important example of a sane Kira supporter who is established to be on the same intellectual level as Light (albeit only academically). In her profession as newscaster, rather than helping to secure society against the Kira-cult, she becomes one of its major propagandists.
  • Diethard in Code Geass is another journalist example of this type, becoming a propagandist for Anti Hero with Good Publicity Lelouch/Zero. He's motivated by discontent with the entrenched Britannian aristocracy, but ends up as a more negative version as ultimately, he's really looking for an interesting Magnificent Bastard to follow and thus defects to the side of Prince Schneizel, who is even more so a Villain with Good Publicity / Devil in Plain Sight.



  • Aldous Huxley's Brave New World has a rare example of this character as the Evil Overlord himself, in Mustapha Mond. Also unique though is that he comes across as more complex/likely to be right than other examples.
  • Fahrenheit 451 has Beatty, who is Da Chief for the Firemen and typically of a dystopian novel, is a well-read intellectual devoted to his job of burning books. It's implied in the novel and more explicit in some adaptations that at heart, Beatty hates himself for what he has become.
  • This type is very common in literary works with 19th-century anarchist characters, the originators of the Terrorists Without a Cause idea. This character is generally someone with a good knowledge of chemistry who applies it to arm the anarchists with explosives.
    • In his novel Under Western Eyes as well as at least one short story, Joseph Conrad has a character called the Professor. It's been noted that this was a somewhat unfair presentation of one of Conrad's friends from the Rossetti family (the same as Dante Gabriel and Christina), who, while politically radical and a chemistry expert, was not involved in terrorism.
    • The play The Firebugs (also translated as The Arsonists) has the title pyromaniacs aided by a character identified only as Professor.
    • In Ragtime, one of the sons from the main family of wealthy WASPs starts out by making fireworks and ends up in this role in the actual anarchist movement (e.g. with Emma Goldman), but is presented sympathetically, more along the lines of He Who Fights Monsters. This contrasts with other "Professor" characters who lean in the direction of simply enjoying things going boom despite a basis in radical politics.
  • In The Wheel of Time, the leader of the Forsaken was once a philosopher - and since the Dark One will destroy time forever if he succeeds and gets to keep trying until he manages, decided to throw his lot in with the winner.
    • In fact, almost all of the Forsaken were intellectuals before the Bore was opened. Balthamel and Be'lal were not, but the Forsaken include a doctor, a geneticist, a composer, a university lecturer, a psychiatrist, two academic mages studying the nature of magic, and the aforementioned philosopher. The others are mostly well-versed in history, literature, and magic, amongst other things.
    • Keep in mind that these are the surviving Forsaken, during the original War of Power the term Forsaken was used to describe any Channeller who sided with the Dark One. These thirteen Forsaken survived out of sheer luck, being in Shayol Ghul when it was sealed.

Web Comic

  • In The B Movie Comic, Professor Dr. instantly supports captain Emo's tyrannical regime. This whole trope is lampshaded in The Rant.

Real Life

  • Accusations of this trope get thrown about pretty much anywhere, especially in the US (due to the Red Scare). One legitimate historical instance of it was the formation of the Soviet Union, which had a significant backing of intellectuals and scholars (such as Marx himself) who penned essays which often condemned the system that had allowed them to grow up priveleged while around them people of lower class toiled in poverty. Recursively, the intellectuals who did not support Bolshevism (or branched off in support of Menshevism) were considered bourgeoisie traitors.
    • Many intellectuals who supported the Bolshevik revolution did not support the Soviet Union, however, which is another example in itself. I'm not sure if "hindsight is always 20/20" or "out of the frying pan, into the fire" is more appropriate.
    • It should also be noted that in some cases the intellectuals themselves were in fact the ones who became the actual political leaders. Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin, Benito Mussolini and Mao Ze Dong all wrote their own theoretical works before they seized power in their countries.
  • Eugenics. Boy, howdy! It was mostly an intellectual movement. When the Nazis started their sterilization plans, American eugenists even said "The Germans are beating us at our own game!" This went to the point that one Polish-born American eugenist, Edwin Katzenellenbogen, was stuck in Germany during World War One, and, after a circuitous route to avoid Hitler, helped Those Wacky Nazis.
  • Fighting communism was used as a rationale for a great many horrid dictatorships in Latin America.
  • Modern example today might be China. First, it is (in)famous for its human rights record that could be considered tyranical. That is tends to jail "intellectuals" who critize the government makes sure that the intellectual who are left are supportive of the government (or at least keeping their criticism quiet). And the Party itself, the ruling political body of China, can make a decent claim to being an Intellectual Body due to the entry and promotion requirements. Not every peasant in China has a college degree after all.
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