Monday, 14 February 2011

Careers Advice for Would-be Dictators Part 2

Dictatoring is a job which falls in to two distinct phases: getting the job and keeping the job. They require separate skills. Yesterday: Getting the job. Today, part two

Keeping the job.

There's no getting away from it; there is always an element of performance, a willingness to go on the stage when other people won't. It is sometimes said that this is a product of the media age meaning 'as recently as the 20th century'. Not so. The performance element has always been there. Elizabeth I realized that she had to appear at Tilbury even though it meant some risk to herself. There's no suggestion she used a body-double. Which ever version of the speech was delivered, the main thing is she was there, attempting to say what the forces needed to hear.

The duff speaker who will go on stage trumps the good speaker who hides. You cannot do this job if you aren't prepared to go out and hoof it to the best of your ability. You don't have to be a world-class actor; the benchmark is Delia Smith.

Perhaps the public ought not be so enamoured of performers, but they are, so there's no point in railing against it. Resign yourself to presentation lessons; you, the irresistible force, have just run up against the immovable object of public expectations.

Once you've got the speaking thing nailed there are six things which have to have their bumps felt and, yes, they are all trying to kill you. It goes with the territory.

* Power apparatus: that's the armed forces, the secret police and the civilian police
* The judiciary and the bloody lawyers
* The economy
* Furriners
* Parliament or equivalent council
Lastly, depending on your regime
* Turbulent priests

The modern dictator will usually keep a pet council for the look of it. Like any pet you want it fed properly and brushed but it is is the pet and you are the master, so it can get do tricks when told or it will be put in the naughty cell and have its privileges removed.

Likewise, the flippin' judges and lawyers are necessary for "resolving" civilian disputes but they are reptillian in nature and don't respond to training the way the mammalian councils do. The best thing to do with them is to keep them very cold as they are more docile when chilled, i.e. don't keep pumping public money at them. Warm one up only when you need it.

Think of them as Gremlins which, as you know, must never be fed after midnight or allowed to get wet.

A key mistake with managing the judiciary is to give it the idea that it can rule on your decisions. The first rule you need to establish is
"This is not justiciable because it isn't for you to question me, the duly appointed dictator. Back in your tank."
Let the judiciary do the bottom-sifting job they are supposed to do; making public tutting noises about crime. They can encourage your civilian police force stay in line and not taking kick-backs, although they seem myopic about spotting corruption if it wears a white coat or a blue uniform.

The civilian police force is important because they will keep things profitable. It is vital that they are kept from corruption if at all possible because they tend to attack the economically active part of your dictatorship on account of that's where the money is.

Even Vladimir Putin is fed up with the levels of corruption.

The economically active part of your economy is a mix of people who work and those who finance it. Now, the police will have to hamper some forms of work, usually prostitution and drug dealing, and you will have to take a view on whether you want them to do that or if you want them to regulate and control both those activities. Drug dealing and prostitution are going to happen whatever you do, so you'll just have to decide whether to get involved or not. Dictators need not pay any heed to what anyone else says; that's the point of being a dictator. Ultimately what you will be judged by is if you allow these things to become a nuisance.

The turbulent priests are bound to give you an ear-bashing on this point, though. They are also a useful method of social control so you will probably have to put up with their twittering; they are a flock of bird-brained screaming peacocks. Think of them as the intermediate stage of feather boas, hats and pillows. Watch out for the occasional ostrich. Big buggers, can break your arm with a blow of their beak, but even they can be turned in to fans for strippers.

A word on Furriners. It is impossible to give hard rules about this because, as the lawyers say, so much is fact-sensitive. In general Furriners or their friends will have annoyingly large amounts of money which obviously should be yours, so the first aim is to get that money. This means you may have to be nice to them but an effective dictator knows how to be strategically nice as well as ruthlessly unpleasant. It is unnecessarily restrictive to confine yourself to one or other behaviour; just work out where you want to be and then do what is necessary to get there.

The effective dictator follows the rules laid down by St Geldorf: just give us the fockin' money, although not necessarily in those words. Later there can be a settling of scores. Purely as a rule of thumb, if you have to shoot furriners, try to make it the poor ones. Avoid over-using your armed forces. They are a sentimental lot; their loyalty can be relied on until the day they suddenly turn on you.

Which brings us to the secret police. These are your score-settlers and no dictator manages without them. This means they are very nearly your equals and can be a source of opposition. However, they are by nature 2ic otherwise you'd already be floating face-down.

Think of the secret services as a pitbull terrier. Not too bright, very agressive, with some behaviour problems due to a tendency to perceive attack even when there isn't one, but one heck of a killing machine when under proper control. Your job, like any responsible dog worker, is to keep the animal lean and to heel. The dog will thank you for it.

Yesterday: Careers Advice for Would-be Dictators, Part 1, Getting the Job


Jim Baxter said...

Your closest henchmen, with whom you will often be photographed, should all be shorter, balder, and noticeably uglier than even you are.

If any henchman appears to be gaining independent popularity, probably because you had to keep him on for a while after your accession to identify yourself with his popularity in the early stages, he is also likely to be too good-looking.

You should quickly arrange to be the principal pall-bearer at his state funeral. For his assassin choose some deluded stooge who can in turn quickly be liquidated to universal acclaim.

This has the added convenience of justifying you in embarking on yet another random purge – must be random, nobody must feel safe – tracking down and murdering all the many thousands of the assassin’s co-conspirators for years to come, as more and more evidence of how widespread the network of saboteurs truly is comes to light.

Joe Public said...

A useful character trait is touch of paranoia.

After all, everyone's out to get you.

Woman on a Raft said...

Pall bearer, nice touch. And you can comfort the grieving widow.

banned said...

Mubarak sort of followed Jim Baxters maxim by appointing his torturer-in-chief as VP ("this is what you'll get when I'm gone") but failed to follow through with the assasination, hence his demise.

Jim Baxter said...

Mrs Raft,

Thank you. It is not an original idea of course.

You should also name something really poncey after the deceased. a ballet company, say.

Woman on a Raft said...

Poor lamb, he looks all choked-up there.