Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Politics As Unusual

"Politics will eventually be replaced by imagery. The politician will be only too happy to abdicate in favor of his image, because the image will be much more powerful than he could ever be."

Politics is a filthy business. Lucrative, but filthy. People who devote centuries of their lives to diplomacy, conspiracy, compromise and slander, those who truly live or die by the skillful turn of a phrase, the deft manipulation of a trend, or seizing the opportunities before them are not necessarily quite the same as the image that they project. During the mumbo-jumbo daze of Prehistory, politicians were intrinsically conflated with their images and candidates were horribly punished and penalized for violating the hypocritical taboos of the time by setting aside their adopted persona as though it really were a mask and not the real person. This is an insane and untenable position. It is considered by many leading scholars to have been a major contributor to the entire underpinnings of the Toxic Age.

The very thought of a politician having to subject themself to public scrutiny of any sort is laughable and can be a duelling offense in some parts of Riskail.

Politicans conceal their personal identities behind masks and hoods. They are protected by law from unwarranted invasion of their persons or their affairs. Every one of them works through their proxies, their simulacra and agents.

Politics are a subtle, delicate art, not a crass form of commercialized entertainment. Politicians are professionals, many having trained and studied for centuries to achieve their level of influence and degree of mastery over the vicissitudes, minutiae, and schemes of others. These are powerful people, from any number of walks of life, who have put their time in and fought and persuaded and negotiated their way to positions of Authority and Trust.

Each politician is tracked as a number, until they achieve a suitable enough bit of notoriety as to gain a name from amongst their followers and constituents. They do not represent territories nor borders--those are functions of the Locality, Municipality and Deep Infrastructure. They represent only those who voluntarily pledge their votes, shares or interests to them. They act as representatives who begin at the grass-roots level and only progress so far as they are able to get results and make an impression.

Character Assassination is a very real hazard in politics as it is literal. Strong enemies and weak friends can destroy a politician's reputation, damage their career and even derail that particular identity to the point that it withdraws from the process and the individual can either begin anew, with a fresh identity, or leave the whole thing behind.

A politician's stock in trade is the manufacture of images that appeal to large groups of people. Images that encapsulate opinions, express values and guide the responses of constituents and anyone else exposed to them, depending upon personal susceptibility or vulnerability. Politicians send out fantastic, larger-than-life simulacra, holicons and synthetic surrogatti that take on the carefully crafted pseudo-persona and cartoon personalities that are traditional and expected by the electorate and the masses. Even Revolutionaries field avatars, dupes and other forms of useful idiots and media-puppets.

The Public expects a show. Politicians deliver. Their images and characters wage ideological gladitorial combat within the media, across vidramas, commershiloops and other forms of free access programming. Events are staged, concerts and rallies are organized, with each attendee lodging a vote or filing an opinion just for having gone to the show. Bands that want to break the big time often have to make a deal with various politicians. Those that go over well have a future in media relations and PR, those that don't or who prove problematic, often find themselves on the skankiest rafter-tavern and outhouse circuit never to be seen nor heard from again. Woe betide those idealistic bands that won't play along with the Local politicos...unless they can outperform those same politicians. Many of the more serious travelling bands employ their own poltical advisors just in case. Others wing it, hoping that an aw shucks personality and a few hundred or more screaming fans might get them by the worst of it. Sometimes it even works.

Demogogues and rabble-rousers stir up the masses and navigate the tumultuous seas of public opinion in the hopes of rising fast to positions of power before their fame or notoriety wears out. Celebrities try to influence things, but are rarely successful as anyting other than opinion-mongers and policy-hacks who'd don the mask and hood if they really knew what they were talking about. Tribunes walk along the lower Tiers, the special districts, the less organized Arrondissements, especially along the waterfronts. Each one them is a direct embodiment of a completely arbitrary political consensus. Influence peddlers take requests from all comers and quote prices based partly on intuition and partly on the traditional formula of how best to fleece a sucker, which is not to say that they are fraudulent, they're not, it's just that the influence bought is often not worth what was paid for it. But then, what would a poor person do with a smidgen of influence? They haven't any social capital to work with, nor any connections or even any sort of background in these sorts of's probably better to leave it all to the professionals, don't you think?

The most successful politicians take up residence in gated communities like the fabulous planetary estates only accessible through the historic Courtyard of Daldrume.

No one knows who any of these polticians really are, they could be you or me or that person over there. They could be anyone, anywhere. And that is what makes the system work, according to the Traditionalists. It's what makes the Secret Police effective, according to the students protesting alleged abuses of power by burning effigies of unpopular teacher assistants down by the Misericord Canal.

There are no Secret Police.

That is an unsubstantiated  rumor.

Go about your business.


  1. I wonder if (a la Starlin's Dreadstar) if groups have completely manufactured a candidate for office?

  2. Thanks for reminding us about Dreadstar--an excellent graphic novel/comics series(multiple series) by a raving genius.

    All candidates are manufactured in Riskail, but they are the work of politicians who, even though they are anonymous, masked and protected, and those politicians must participate directly in the process.

    There are levels of overlapping complexity in operation here. The politicians manufacture the images used as candidates. Some candidates take on a life of their own--even get subverted by memetics or viruxes sometimes. But the candidates are all entirely fictitious images manufactured, promoted, and directed by the politicians.

    We'll see if we can explain this more clearly, probably through some fiction, since that seems to help make it more grokkable sometimes.


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