|The Procrustean model of governance
Daily: The Pulse
As an antithesis to the democratic model of rule, the Procrustean model of governance is
now available, the main components of which are reduced opposition, controlled
society and structured consent.
The neoteric wave of populism brought about a realization of inward looking in many
countries, which may espouse new ideals and resort to shifting goalposts. Despite
displaying a simulacrum of western democracy, Pakistan has a chance to think about
embracing it. Any country has an option to sacrifice democracy and afford a drift from
Reduced opposition is the first component. Engineered elections can play a role in
shuffling positions of political parties on the chessboard of electoral politics. Obtaining
desired electoral results can be made the foremost goal. The rest of the job can be done
by multiple factors such as the bashing of political opponents and their parties through
holding frequent press conferences and by subjecting such politicians to an accountability
process which would never yield results in conviction. Even any credible institution of the
State can stoop low to introducing fake cases including smuggling of drugs such as heroin
to intern the targeted politicians. Any despicable narrative can be sold in the name of
accountability. The meaning of the accountability process can be cheapened to immuring
political adversaries to disgrace them in the eyes of their voters.
Under the model, an accountability process can be turned against the undesired creed of
politicians who can be bedaubed with certain allegations publicly to mute their voice for any
desirable length of time. The accountability authority can lash out at anyone, whether or not
the matter falls into its purview. A kind of disconnect between the targeted politicians and
their voters can be sought after as the prime objective to discredit the politicians. In short,
unwanted politicians can be barred from the political system and, if they happen to escape
the contrived electoral sieve, they can be reduced to an ineffective political lot either
through the actions of the State’s institutions or by heaping ignominy upon the politicians.
The achievable result may be that the post-election opposition remains enmeshed in saving
its own skin and keeps on dashing from pillar to post in a struggle for political survival.
Controlled society is the second component. When the electoral process is just short of
controlling a given society, electronic and print media are a better agent of regulating the
society, especially the parts of society which are credulous. The youth is the major section
prone to gullibility. Illiterate and semi-literate are the next ones. Rural hinterlands may also
be a propitious haunt. Religiously motivated people bordering on bigotry can also be
enthused by looking at the picture being shown to them selectively. The educated section
of society can shrink away to save its financial prospects. The society can remain
contented in a controlled environment, if the economy advances.
Defiance deserves no tolerance. Democratic salience such as the freedom of expression,
the supremacy of the constitution and the observance of human rights may lose relevance
and perhaps the need. Deviation is normalcy, the new normal. Any appetency and clamour
of people for representative democracy matter little. In short, a given society can be
controlled by subjecting its multiple vulnerable sections to certain manufactured imperious
narratives. The achievable result may be that malcontents can be shamed and castigated
as pariahs and quislings.
Structured consent is the third component. The target can be the media, both print and
electronic. For structured consent, the voice of dissenting journalists and disobedient
writers can be muted. Only positive reporting can be made permissible, especially when the
meaning of positive reporting is too abstruse to be known only to the originators or the
purveyors of the term. The model promotes the phenomenon of stilling the tongues, sealing
the lips, and closing the eyes. People may be permitted to hear of current issues, but the
selected sententious ones can be permitted to comment on the issues in public. Instead of
the State’s constitution, the State’s institutions can draw red lines.
Disagreement amounts to insolence bearing the potential of incurring the rage of the
dominant, who are armed with weapons bought with public money and who run dungeons to
imprison dissenters for years without any trial. For the sake of structured consent, a
veridical journalist can be picked up in broad daylight by anonymous lifters or a writer can
be beaten up by anonymous attackers. Houses of journalists and writers can be raided in
the garb of dacoity. Talk shows can be edited or even closed. The sole justification that a
publicist can extend is that the State is in a state of war. Everything is justifiable in love and
When a nuclear power, whether de facto or de jure, fights the fifth generation war on the
media indomitably, the scene may be worth watching – if not worth amusing. Mind-boggling
arguments may appear to construct a novel area of intellect trying to win sciamachy – the
fighting with a shadow. Sapiens can cut to size. Shunning the held customary views, the
society may undergo a phase of re-educating and reinventing itself, though some cynics
may discern a direct relationship between positive reporting and the fifth generation war.
The whole State falls into a state of war. The revisionists prefer to stay in the background.
Positive reporters backed by the twitter posse can lampoon anyone. Though an informal
medium, the twitter handle may become a potent weapon, while the society grows into the
battlefield. The war has to be won at the narrative level if even the State’s institutions and
their cohorts have to churn out fake news. The feint is revered. Even folderol dons the
attire of gravitas. Not the means but the end matters. In short, if the media remains under
control, consent can be structured through winnowing out adverse reporting and
sponsoring positive reporting. The achievable result may be that positive reporting can
instigate conformity and helps win the fifth generation war.
Festooned with three main components – reduced opposition, controlled society and
structured consent – the Procrustean model of governance is readily available to supplant
the archaic tottering democratic model of rule anywhere in the world. Pakistan may be one
of the best testing grounds.
Back to columns in 2020