If you gain power over a country, what do you do next? Politics aside, there are millions of possible answers to that question, and the answer depends on where your values lie.
If you’re a pandering, spray-tanned game show host who appeals to the lowest base instincts of the uneducated masses, you might choose to focus on the “problem” of Syrian refugees flooding into our country…oh, sorry. I said “politics aside.” My bad.
I have a problem with impulse control. You should see the shit that I delete! Which reminds me – Mr. Trump, turn down the Lee Greenwood/Toby Keith mix you’ve got on repeat and pay attention: there’s a little arrow on the right side of your keyboard. If your tiny thumbs can reach it, that’s a backspace button…it allows you to delete the nonsense you brainstorm in your first draft so you don’t accidentally expose your inner workings to 7 billion humans at once.
But I digress. I’m a professional digresser, actually. I digress more before 9 am then most people do all day.
If you’re hawkish, you might look to beef up “underfunded” parts of our defense apparatus. If you’re more of a dove, you might channel that same money into international aid and diplomacy.
If you’re a die-hard supply sider, you could reduce regulations and lower taxes to make creating and growing businesses more lucrative. If you’re a bottom-up kind of person, maybe minimum wage and low income tax credits to boost spending makes more sense to you.
Care about the parks? Boost their budgets and turn more federal land into protected sanctuaries. Care more about using the natural resources? Privatize and sell off some of our federal land to companies.
You get the idea. There’s no “wrong” answer to the question. In a democracy, we believe that the majority should choose what to do with our collective nation’s resources. As a constitutional democracy, we’ve built in a few ways to make sure the minority in that vote doesn’t get trampled in the process.
Now, lets say you’re…how shall I say it…a steaming pile of…no, that’s not quite right.
Let’s say a few really bad dudes who are hell bent on derailing the Republic for their own personal gain have their hands shoved up your ass and are working you like a god damned puppet. Yeah, that’s more accurate.
You’ve gained power, which means they’ve gained power, too.
You’re about to start enacting some blatantly pro-bad guy, anti-good guy kind of stuff. It’s the kind of stuff that people are going to object to, even the people who voted for you. The kind of policies that will help oligarchs get more, well, oligarchy. The kind of plans that reduce our shining city on a hill to a dilapidated strip mall in a once-thriving suburb, where your landlord Dmitri is making great money while all of the tenants struggle mightily.
A few executive actions here, a few quickly-passed, lobbyist endorsed laws there, and you can get a lot of your puppetmasters’ goals on paper.
But 240 years of democracy has indoctrinated 330 million people with this sense of entitlement to control the levers of government…and that is going to be tough to reckon with if you want this to go smoothly.
You’re going to need a way to quickly identify potential rabble-rousers. You need to know who has the potential to incite rebellion. You need to know who subscribes to ideals that are incompatible with the new regime’s vision.
Sure, some of them are easy to spot. They are carrying signs, shouting, wearing pussy hats, and burning your visage in effigy. You’re going to need some ways to make their protests less effective…but the fact that they constantly protest everything kind of waters down their effectiveness for you. Maybe just let them play out for now. They’ll get tired of shouting after a while.
But what about the ones that aren’t so obvious? What about the teachers who teach their class about the ills of the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the Industrial Workers of the World? What about the dads who encourage their daughters to study math and science, take birth control while they explore their sexuality, and run for political office? What about the priest who connects political oppression to the exact admonitions of Jesus, encouraging his parishioners to ignore our mean-spirited leaders and instead help the “least of these?”
Their normalcy makes them harder to spot and more effective in persuading others to resist your coming changes. You definitely need a way to get ahead of these ne’er-do-wells.
But wait, it’s not just the rank-and-file opposition you need to worry about. There are established leaders on the other side. Leaders who already have constituents. Leaders who already lead committees. Leaders who are presently hard at work in their state legislatures, eyeing a run for a seat in Congress.
You’re going to need a way to derail, eviscerate, and delegitimize these folks. Their whole job is to defend the Constitution and it’s protections for the people, so you don’t want to go at them in the ring…they’re pros. You’re going to need to keep them out of the ring altogether if you can.
What if there was some way to find out what anyone was thinking? Catching someone doing something means they’re already talking about it, writing about it, organizing about it, and then actually doing it for a while until you catch them. That’s too late. We need someway to find out what they are thinking before it gets to that point.
And for those up-and-coming politicians and already-elected leaders we want to knock down? We could hire private investigators to dig up dirt on them, but that takes a lot of time and money. Not to mention, there are thousands of them we’d need to take on. We need a way to cut them off at the knees that is fast and cheap.
Just then, a little Russian bird flies into your office and perches upon your shoulder. You’ve had some bad luck with birds, so you naturally flinch, but then realize this bird isn’t a living, breathing symbol of the country you’re screwing, so you’re safe.
You know all the book references. You read the best books, believe me. No one reads more books than you. The little Russian bird says just one word to you. One word.
You know about the Internet – it’s the thing that you use to send out tweets at 6 am from the executive toilet. What’s this bird talking about?
Yeah, yeah – the Internet – it’s that thing where everyone can find the naked pictures of your wife, posing in exploitative fake lesbian scenes for money. What about it?
This bird is failing and overrated. Sad!
“Okay, fuck. I’m just a bird, trying to be clever and subtle, but I see subtlety doesn’t work on you. Imma spell it out, mkay? Find a way to use the Internet to figure out who your enemies are, and to dig dirt on people you want to delegitimize. Got it? Fuck, you’re dense.”
By god, that’s a good idea! You always knew that this bird was going places. That’s why you invited him into your office, you have great intuition and always make great decisions.
“But you didn’t invite…but…never mind, this isn’t worth it.”
Your puppetmasters chime in and tell you about legislation they’ve already initiated. Legislation that seems, on its face, to be a simple “pro-business” move. We’ll allow internet service providers to collect and sell browsing history of their users.
By doing this, we’re subtly changing the nature of the privacy expectation between the users of the internet and the companies providing internet access. We’re converting private data into business records that are part of for-profit transactions. Not only does this mean we can buy anyone’s browsing history, it means we can subpoena them when they’re harder to get at.
You don’t understand any of this, because it’s complicated, and because you are only half listening while playing Flappy Bird on your unsecured Android phone.
Recognizing the all-too-common pattern of “uh-huh…yeah…uh-huh,” the puppetmasters realized they need to sum this up for you.
“This legislation is going to make you a fortune.”
You perk up. Money? You like money. Go on….
“Once you sign this bill, we can quickly run searches to find out who is out there trying to undermine your authority.
We can use that data to craft bills to derail them. We can use that information to throw them a lesser victory to guarantee your success on the more damaging bills. Delegitimize their most vocal and best leaders. Trample them before they take root.
Got a Senator who’s giving you trouble? What if I told you we could produce proof that he watches gay porn? Researched several articles on coming out as gay to family members? Downloaded Grindr?
Got a reporter you want to shut up? What if I told you we could produce proof that she does a lot of reading on bipolar disorder and schedules weekly appointments with a psychiatrist?
Got a religious leader who is getting a little too influential? How about we publish his browser history, showing his repeated searches for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and inpatient rehab options?
Get the drift, sir?”
You get the drift, 100%. This is genius. You should tweet about this! No, you remember Rickey’s advice from earlier in this blog post…we can’t let our inner workings out so easily. This one needs to stay a little quiet to work.
Let’s hope no one catches on before we get this tremendous weapon into our arsenal. This one could be the one that lays the groundwork for all of the other things we’re going to do.
“Looks like we’re ahead of the game, sir. No one seems to be paying attention to this. They’re all focused on Russia, Mike Flynn, Ivanka, Melania and Barron, Mar-a-lago, golf, fake news, and a million other distractions we’ve put out there to keep them occupied.”