Oppression can refer to an authoritarian regime controlling its citizens via state control of politics, the monetary system, media, and the military; denying people any meaningful human or civil rights; and terrorizing the populace through harsh, unjust punishment, and a hidden network of obsequious informants reporting to a vicious secret police force.

Oppression also refers to a less overtly malicious pattern of subjugation, although in many ways this social oppression represents a particularly insidious and ruthlessly effective form of manipulation and control. In this instance, the subordination and injustices do not afflict everyone—instead it targets specific groups of people for restrictions, ridicule, and marginalization. No universally accepted term has yet emerged to describe this variety of oppression, although some scholars will parse the multiplicity of factors into a handful of categories, e.g., social (or sociocultural) oppression; institutional (or legal) oppression; and economic oppression.

Authoritarian oppression

The word oppress comes from the Latin oppressus, past participle of opprimere, ("to press against",[1] "to squeeze", "to suffocate").[2] Thus, when authoritarian governments use oppression to subjugate the people, they want their citizenry to feel that "pressing down", and to live in fear that if they displease the authorities they will, in a metaphorical sense, be "squeezed" and "suffocated", e.g., thrown in a dank, dark, state prison or summarily executed. Such governments oppress the people using restriction, control, terror, hopelessness, and despair.[a] The tyrant's tools of oppression include, for example, extremely harsh punishments for "unpatriotic" statements; developing a loyal, guileful secret police force; prohibiting freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press; controlling the monetary system and economy; and imprisoning or killing activists or other leaders who might pose a threat to their power.[3][4][5][6][7]