Given the recent worldwide furor over election irregularities in Iran, here’s some advice for Iran’s rulers on how America’s rulers successfully avoid such public relations disasters. Since even official US government statistics admit that the ratio of Public Debt to GDP for America is 60% compared to only 25% for Iran, America’s banksters clearly have much to teach Iran’s mullahs in how to exploit and impoverish their people for generations to come without fomenting a revolution in retaliation. The secret, obviously, is to maintain the form of democracy without the substance.
First and foremost, in American elections, the presidential candidates of the major parties are hand-picked by the financial elite that runs the country, so that the new "reform" President follows the same policies as the previous "traditionalist" President. By this pretense of choice in candidates, our rulers can appear to conform to the popular will without having to compromise their agenda.
The Iranian democratic experience shows that paper ballots can be efficiently counted by hand in mere hours, but in America we use complicated ballot counting machines which often malfunction and confuse election results for weeks on end, until finally the Supreme Court flips a coin. This heightened sense of drama is useful because it creates the emotional impression in the public mind that it really makes a difference as to who recites from the presidential teleprompter.
In the name of election reform, America is now transitioning to voting computers that produce no paper trail whatsoever. In a world that made sense, such complete lack of accountability would trigger universal accusations of intent to rig elections, but the fraudulence of the candidates cancels out the fraudulence of the voting machines and so there really isn’t much to complain about.
If despite the sanitization of election results our sleepy citizenry should wake up and decide to publicly protest, they will be confined to cramped holding pens known as "Free Speech Zones," where they are protected from the danger of being noticed.
What if protest crowds in America burst out of confinement onto the streets and become unruly? Then the police are authorized to use tasers, which can be just as lethal as guns but are officially declared "non-lethal," which means that if you are harmed by excessive shock it’s never the cop’s fault and you must have really been asking for it. Since tasers are bloodless, they provide little opportunity for martyrdom photo-ops.
Speaking of media, American government is far ahead of Iran in terms of filtering the news. In America, the police routinely confiscate the cameras and cell phones of bystanders in the vicinity of an act of police brutality. This is technically illegal, but any show of resistance will bring charges of "’interference" with police business.
As for Twitter, the phone companies (guess who controls them) will happily comply with government "requests" to monitor personal phone communications so that Homeland Security can take appropriate action against troublemakers. Such surveillance is illegal, but that simply means the government issues amnesty and promises not to break the law again unless it feels like it.
I don’t know the status of civil rights in Iran, but here in America the regime creates a disincentive for anti-government protests by infringing upon certain minor constitutional rights, such as the right not to be tortured into making false confessions. That the Iranian regime recently released a foreign journalist whom it accused of being a spy — rather than waterboarding her until she confessed to being a spy — indicates that Iran has a long way to go before its human rights record matches that of the United States.
These examples are just a brief summary of some of the many techniques that our ruling elite employs here in America to maintain the illusion of democracy while blatantly operating the biggest empire the world has ever seen. To be sure, the recent protests in the streets of Tehran are a distraction, but in keeping with the lessons of modern American democracy, there’s nothing wrong with Iranian democracy that a shipload of tasers and waterboards can’t fix. With a little hard work and a lot of hypocrisy, the mullahs can make over Iran’s democracy into just as much an admired sham as is America’s.
Of course, the Iranians will still have to exchange their increasingly valuable oil for our increasingly worthless dollars, or our government will find an excuse to bomb them back to the stone age no matter what they do. Admittedly, that’s not much of a choice, but you hardly need Dick Cheney to tell you that if democracy could actually affect government policy, it would be un-American.
Joe Schembrie [send him mail] is a science fiction fan who lives in Bellevue, Washington.