Documentary: Five Steps to Tyranny

“Ordinary people do evil acts” is the premise of Five Steps to Tyranny, an hour-long documentary that was filmed in 2001 yet still has relevance. By tracing the roots of evil to everyday behaviors, this film reveals how atrocities like the Rwandan, Bosnian, and Burmese genocides can emerge anywhere people are unaware of — and fail to resist — the shadow side of group behavior. The five steps to tyranny include the following attitudes/actions: 1) upholding an us versus them attitude, 2) unquestioningly obeying authority, 3) dehumanizing others as a precursor to harm, 4) standing by as harm occurs, and finally 5) exterminating the identified “other.” Social psychologist Philip Zimbardo provides commentary throughout the documentary.