Lots of villains in media tend to be both incredibly charismatic and highly manipulative. With their powers of persuasion, they can often amass a large following of people.

So, here is my question

How does a ruthless villain sway the public into thinking he is the true hero of the story, no matter how brutal he may be?

For example, the villain I am trying to write is essentially a brutal cult leader with a large following. Outwardly, he's a nice, empathetic person with a great smile and a heart of gold, but internally he's extremely cold, and the world is a den of violence because of him.

He does not hide the fact that he does horrible things. He is simply so charismatic that he makes otherwise good people follow him despite the horrible things he does.

What I want to know is how a villain could manipulate people so easily. Propaganda, brainwashing, and other means could do the trick, but I want to know how a villain could win over the public without even using underhanded methods, just using good old words and intelligence to get people on his side.

  • 1
    "He does not hide the fact that he does horrible things." - not at all, or, like real dictators or aspiring dictators do, tries to play those horrible things down and accuses his opponents of running a smear campaign?
    – Alexander
    Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 3:49
  • 2
    This might be more of a worldbuilding question.
    – DWKraus
    Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 13:16
  • @DWKraus I think this one is too open-ended for Worldbuilding. They're for very specific and practical questions like how much bread it would take to feed a fictional army of ten thousand for three months. Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 14:12
  • You might be right, which is why I gave an answer here.
    – DWKraus
    Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 16:15
  • @DWKraus I see. Thank you. Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 16:58

2 Answers 2


If he is not hiding what he is doing, he must convince people that his victims deserved what happened to them, or were tragic but necessary accidents as the consequence of noble plans.

I seriously doubt that someone that ruthless would not hide his actions as much as feasible simply because it would be useful. Some he would blame on people he wanted to get rid of -- thus justifying other acts, that he does not hide that he did -- and some he would just deny.



Tragically, there are things that need to happen for the kingdom of Heaven to manifest on Earth. Some people will never listen to reason and come to join the truth. And sometimes, the Divine spells things out we may not always fully understand. Take it on faith that this is what needs to happen, and feel joy for those who die in the name of the kingdom of Heaven, for they will be the first to enter the Heavenly gates after the fullfillment.


The cause is just and righteous. Our enemies surround us and thirst for the blood of the righteous. The knives of the sinners lunge at us from the dark. Since the enemy chooses to cloak themselves, we must stab at the darkness. Those foolish enough to be hiding in the shadows may get hurt along with the wicked, but it the price people pay for straying from righteousness.

Set your Face like Flint:

We must prove ourselves to the Divine as worthy, and show that our hearts are willing to make any sacrifice, do any action, to demonstrate our worthiness. Praise the Divine for testing us so, to drive out all weakness from us! The wicked do these things for wicked reasons, yet you cannot do so for good? We must set our faces like flint, and be hard and cold, as strong as steel. Lesser people may follow us, but those in front must be strong. The divine will give you the ruthlessness you need to persevere.

Overly Trusting:

Yes, mistakes are made. But I ask much of my followers, and they deserve my understanding and forgiveness. Sometimes, they do terrible things for just reasons. Perhaps it is my fault - sometimes my instructions are rooted in tongues and parables. They are merely human, and humans are flawed. How can you fail to forgive those who truly believe, even if they keep making the same mistakes? It is in the Divine's hands. We must trust in it.

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