There have been many pyramid schemes from commercial scams to chain letters.
A single terrorist wants to take over the world. He has a gun and threatens two people that he will kill their families if they don't threaten two more people each.
If they refuse he kills the person (not necessarily their family) and goes on to threaten another person until he has two terrorised victims willing to carry out his orders.
If they agree to threaten two others he requires hard evidence that they have done so.
He now has evidence that they threatened to kill people and uses this to blackmail them if they refuse to carry out further orders.
This method is passed down the chain which will grow roughly exponentially.
Eventually he is boss of a huge number of people and can pass more and more violent commands down the chain using blackmail and threats to ensure obedience.
What will stop this criminal and his terrorised followers from attaining huge power - eventually enough to destroy government?
As requested in the comments, I will give a more detailed explanation of the structure. Here is a start. I'll refine it later.
Mr Big selects two vulnerable people who are unlikely to contact the police, perhaps petty criminals or drug addicts he finds on the street. He observes them for a while to find out where they live and who they care about - especially children. Wearing a mask he threatens to kill them and/or their family unless they obey him.
If they aren't already addicts, his first orders are to take highly addictive drugs. He oversees this at gunpoint. From then on he supplies them with drugs but allows them to build up debts for this.
To start with the orders aren't too bad - they involve committing minor offences but requiring evidence they have been committed.
When they are addicted and entangled in criminality he orders each of them to threaten two more people in exactly the same way. He gives detailed instructions. Most importantly they have to prove with hard evidence that they have carried out these threats and created new addicts.
Mr Big now has hard evidence that the people immediately below him have threatened death to others. No-one has hard evidence that he did anything.
At this point Mr Big instructs his two subordinates how to be Mr Bigs themselves to people further levels below them.
All evidence of wrong-doing gets retained at each level and copies are passed up the chain to be kept in Mr Big's library.
At every level, people are being (a) threatened (b) made dependent on drugs (c) blackmailed by the person immediately above them. No hard evidence passes down the chain, it only passes up. If anyone gets arrested then the person immediately above sends anonymous evidence to the police of their threatening behaviour to people below them.