Modern so-called democracies claim that they rule by the people’s consent: government by the people, for the people. This is what “demos” means. However, the reality is somewhat different. Thanks to the PR industry, spin and so on, governments are always trying empty the contents of what democracy essentially is and raise up a sham in its place. This hollocracy, shamocracy, demockracy – call it what you like, I simply call it “mockracy” – assumes the cloak of democracy while underneath they continue to serve the interests of the powerful.
Here are the nine cornerstones of “mockracy”:
1. Setting up impossibly high entry barriers designed to ensure inequitable results.
(i) If the trains are late, the railway company compensates passengers. However, the compensation applies only if trains are more than half an hour late. Because most delays are less than a half hour, very few travellers are ever compensated.
(ii) The electoral first past the post system is another example of high entry barriers. Just as the train in the first example has to be over half an hour late on each occasion for the compensation system to be triggered, so the number of votes for a particular party has to be over a certain amount in each constituency for these votes to count. The total number of hours late per year, or the total number of votes cast in the country, is irrelevant to the result.
(iii) During an information session designed to help the unemployed receive training for highly sought after jobs, we are informed that professional divers are much in demand. Oh really? How do we sign on to receive training? Er, there’s a waiting list of four years! (This actually happened to me.)
(iv) The UK Government has announced a deal between the CBI (representing industry bosses) and the TUC (representing the unions) whereby agency workers will gain near equal rights with regularly employed workers – but only after 12 weeks (3 months). This will lead to employers deliberately laying people off after 2 months and 29 days (www.johnmcdonnell.org.uk, 21 May 2008).
2. Related to no. 1 is “Going through the motions”, which can take any number of forms. Here are some of them:
(i) Promising a government enquiry, but only in the future, when the enquiry’s findings will be too late to affect current policy (e.g. Gordon Brown’s promise to hold an enquiry into the war in Iraq).
(ii) A document is released under the Freedom of Information Act – but all the crucial information is scrubbed for “security” reasons: there is no information left.
(iii) Delaying compensation until after the victims have died. Several victims of lung cancer due to asbestos exposure died before they could receive compensation.
3. Transferred inefficiencies: cutting an essential service in the name of efficiency, resulting in for example the closure of local post offices or hospitals, necessitating more travel on the part of the individual. The government then claims to have made efficiency savings, but the net result is more travel, more time wasted, and more pollution, congestion and emissions.
4. Reverse decision-making. The result is fixed in advance, and the “process” by which the decision is “arrived at” is altered to fit the preconceived result.
(i) Conducting an enquiry or consultation process the outcome of which is rigged from the start. For examples, just google “whitewash”, “Butler” and “public enquiry”.
(ii) The “Downing Street letter” provides a classic example. The real reasons why Bush and Blair decided to go to war in Iraq (access to or control of the oil: see Greg Palast, Armed Madhouse) had nothing to do with the publicly stated ones. Instead, “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy [of going to war in Iraq]”. Anyone who still doubts this should look at:
5. Related to 4 is reverse representation: you complain to your MP about an issue and (s)he responds by explaining government policy. So instead of making a representation on your behalf to the government, the process is reversed: your MP acts towards you as a PR representative on behalf of the government.
6. Treating every problem as if it were a PR problem. Is a government policy unpopular? Common sense would suggest that the policy may be wrong. However, to save face the government claims that the policy is disliked because it has been presented in the wrong way (the Tories under Thatcher claimed this).
8. The myth of good intentions.
The myth of good intentions is the supposition that politicians may be incompetent, inept or merely unfortunate, but they mean well and they have our best interests at heart, bless their cotton little socks. When governments are caught with their trousers down, they will fight tooth and nail to defend the notion that their members are honourable and that the crimes the committed were mere “mistakes”. This is graphically shown by the case of Dr David Kelly, the British scientist who was found dead after he was named as the source of a claim made on BBC Radio that the British government had “sexed up” some dossiers detailing Saddam Hussein’s programme to acquire weapons of mass destruction, in order to bolster the case for war against Iraq. As soon as the claim was made, Alistair Campbell, the Prime Minister’s communications chief, went about fuming with righteous indignation, as not the competence, but the integrity of his boss had been impugned. Desperate for distraction, the Downing Street Gang instigated a hunt for the source of the leak, shifting the debate from the question “Is it true?” to “Who dunnit?”
State crimes are often rebranded as “mistakes”, another variation on the “good intentions” theme. This is intended to belittle the disastrous consequences of reckless or violent acts (especially wars) by claiming that if only the policy had been implemented in a different way the disaster could have been averted. If only the Iraqi army hadn’t been disbanded, if only the USA and the UK had put sufficient numbers of troops into Iraq, if only British troops had been properly equipped, etc. This sort of reasoning merely clears the way for subsequent adventures, this time carried out “properly”.
9. Outsourcing acts that are illegal if carried out by the government itself
(i) After 11 Sept 2001 the US government paid ChoicePoint to snoop on its citizens (Greg Palast, Armed Madhouse, p. 39).
(ii) The US government has outsourced torture and detention of terror suspects to other countries where torture and detention without trial are likely to be unopposed.