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A personality cult or cult of personality is a system in which a leader is able to control a group of people through the sheer force of his or her personality and is often portrayed as a god-like figure.
Where the personality cult is about a head of state, criticism of that person is generally prohibited, and state-sponsored media are employed to ensure that the masses are given a consistent picture of the person's perfection. That picture is likely to be a literal picture, and the image of the leader is typically plastered over much of the visual landscape.
New surfaces may be produced for no other reason than to present that image, as satirized with the balloon bearing Joseph Stalin's image in an empty field in the 1994 Russian film Burnt by the Sun.
- Donald Trump (USA): "I alone can fix it" 
- Li Hongzhi (China): self-proclaimed "Main Buddha of the Universe"
- Mao Zedong (China): Literally worshipped. Had loyalty dances and inspired a cultural revolution because his relative power in the Communist Party was shrinking.
- "Big Daddy Xi" Jinping (China)
- Juan Domingo Perón and his wife Eva "Evita" Perón, with her fans Peronists or Peronistas (Argentina)
- Alfredo Stroessner (Paraguay)
- Alberto Fujimori and Keiko Fujimori of Peru, along with several Fujimorist political parties
- Rafael Leónidas Trujillo (Dominican Republic)
- Gamal Abdel Nasser, Hosni Mubarak, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (Egypt)
- Augustus Caesar (Roman Empire - though his worship as a god after his death takes the cake)
- Emperor Caligula
- Napoleon Bonaparte (France)
- Saddam Hussein (Iraq)
- Ayatollah Khomeini (and by extension, Ayatollah Khamenei) (Iran)
- Benito Mussolini (Italy)
- Emperor Hirohito (Japan)
- Francisco Franco (Spain)
- Getúlio Vargas (Brazil)
- Muammar al-Gaddafi (Libya)
- Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (Zaïre) — his concept of authenticité eventually became synonymous with his kleptocracy
- Adolf Hitler (Nazi Germany)
- Kim Il Sung (eternal president even after his death), his son, and then his grandson (North Korea) — Hitch loved to make fun of this
- Vladimir Putin (Russia)
- Atheism-is-Unstoppable 'Devon Tracey'
- Vladimir Lenin (Soviet Union)
- Joseph Stalin (Soviet Union)
- Fidel Castro, even though he disliked the concept and his last wish was that no statues would be erected in his honor and no streets or cities be named after him (Cuba)
- Jean-Bédel Bokassa, later Emperor Bokassa I (Central African Republic)
- Park Chung-Hee (South Korea)
- Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir (Sudan)
- Hafez al-Assad and his son, Bashar al-Assad (Syria)
- Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali (Tunisia)
- Saparmurat Niyazov (Turkmenistan)
- Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (Turkey)
- Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Turkey)
- Nicolae Ceauşescu (Romania)
- Augusto Pinochet (Chile)
- Hugo Chavez (Venezuela)
- Ali Abdullah Saleh (Yemen)
- Ayn Rand and her Randroids (USA)
- Charles Manson and his "Family" (USA)
- G Edward Griffin (USA)
- Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam)
- David Koresh and the disaster we know as Waco (USA)
- Jim Jones and his equally disastrous "Kool-Aid drinkers" (USA)
- Ronald Reagan for Republicans and John F. Kennedy for Democrats, and the Founding Fathers in general (USA)
In pop culture
For various reasons, the idea of a personality cult is entering pop culture spheres, sometimes as just another set piece (such as in "Cult of Personality" by Living Colour in 1988), but sometimes it's a major element of a movie. An example is the German film The Wave (originally made in 1981 and remade in 2008). The movie, based on the social experiment of Ron Jones, is about a German teacher who attempts to show his high school students what fascism is. As a result, he accidentally creates a personality cult that leads to large amounts of vandalism, an attempted murder, and a suicide when the instructor (Wenger) tells his students that the experiment is over. The 2001 German thriller film Das Experiment is somewhat similar.
- "On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences" on Wikipedia
- Burnt by the Sun, IMDB
- Personality vs. Party, National Review
- "Xi Jinping: the growing cult of China's 'Big Daddy Xi'". Telegraph.co.uk. 8 December 2014. Retrieved on 5 October 2015.
- Muriel Mirak-Weissbach (1 May 2012). Madmen at the Helm: Pathology and Politics in the Arab Spring. Garnet Publishing Ltd. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-86372-457-2. https://books.google.com/books?id=RHYCBzgt0sQC&pg=RA2-PA1.
- Neville Teller (28 September 2014). The Search for Détente:: Israel and Palestine 2012-2014. Troubador Publishing Ltd. p. 315. ISBN 978-1-78306-592-9. https://books.google.com/books?id=IAwdBAAAQBAJ&pg=PA315.
- Is Castro’s battle to avoid a personality cult destined to fail? (2016-12-05) France 24.
- A portion of people reading this article will be probably thinking "Why not Obama?" Simple: looking back from today, it was a very short one. The most important element of a personality cult is the usage of authority to perpetuate artificial 'apotheosis'; you don't want videos [Gawker.com: archive.is, web.archive.org such] as these lying around. American society has an unusual tendency to mythologize Presidents (ironically, even worse than today's constitutional monarchies), and over time ignore the very things which make them human. But who knows what will happen in 50 years to the legacy of the first POTUS who transcended the barriers of race. (We'd like an objective account, thanks.)