We have come to expect vast and manipulative public relations campaigns mounted to influence the voters, who are then supposed to exert influence on elected officials. In an empire, however, the only constituency that matters to people who want things done is the courtiers, and the only constituency that matters to the courtiers is the emperor himself.
Mikhail Zygar, founder of Russia’s only independent television station, relates in his book All the Kremlin’s Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin that on one occasion, wealthy Russians who stood to gain if Russia hosted the 2014 Olympics in Sochi staged an equally vast and manipulative campaign of influence, seemingly targeted at the public, but really targeted at Vladimir Putin. Zygar writes,
[Putin’s] initial reaction was lukewarm. So the bid committee turned to Dmitry Peskov, who was then the deputy of presidential press secretary Alexei Gromov.
It is said that Peskov proposed a low-cost advertising campaign focused on one man: Vladimir Putin. The bid committee produced billboards and radio spots advertising the Sochi bid. Peskov gave clues as to the route that the president’s motorcade took to the Kremlin, as well as what radio stations he listened to while on the move and at what times, and the media buys were targeted accordingly. The slogan for the public (i.e., for Putin) was “The Games We Deserve.”
A stooge caller was hired to call in during the president’s annual live Q&A session with the public and ask about when Russia would finally host the Olympics. It made Putin think that the people really wanted the Olympics and that, moreover, they wanted them in Sochi, so he gave the go-ahead. Al the state TV channels immediately climbed on board, and the bid committee’s money trough became bottomless.
Zygar suggests that this is common in far more important matters than the Olympics: The strongman is regularly maneuvered into his decisions by the persons with whom he has surrounded himself, persons we have imagined to be stooges.
The United States are not Russia. Yet considering the inclination of recent presidents to rule by decree, the eagerness of presidential candidates of both parties to promise to do so, and the suppine acquiescence of the Congress, one wonders when our own wanters of things done will begin following the same strategy.
Or have they begun doing so already?
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