As the wave of protests spreads across the Middle East and North Africa, a remarkable similarity in the way that governments respond to these demands for democracy has arisen. The world’s dictators seem to be reading the same script. Here is my attempt to re-create this script based on the responses of dictators I have seen.
- Blame foreigners. If you are in the Middle East, best results are obtained if you blame Israel and the US. Throwing in the key phrase “foreign agenda” is a good idea at this point.
- As a corollary to point 1, also blame foreign journalists and spread xenophobia. Also, cut off the Internet and jam satellite signals for news stations.
- Blame anarchists, and criminals for the protests. To make this more plausible, open up your prisons and arm thugs to create the aforementioned anarchy and then blame it on protesters.
- A follow-up on point 3 is to then go into full propaganda mode and tell protesters that they should not protest but should guard their homes from the criminals and anarchists mentioned in point 3. This serves two points, first it diverts attention from the demonstrations and directs it to the security situation and second, it gives the impression that without the dictator in place, there will be no security.
- Tell the world that if you leave, there will be anarchy and the country will be ruled by extremists (this, IMHO, is the most plausible point in their script).
- Threaten those responsible for the “unrest” (i.e., the protesters) with violent retribution.
- When all of the above fails, try to make token concessions like not running for re-elections and disbanding the current cabinet.
- Threaten the people with economic collapse if they do not stop protesting.
- Try to draw sympathy towards yourself by claiming you are a father figure and that you are some sort of national hero — this is usually the last step in the script.
That’s about it. What the regime does after this depends on how bad it was to start with. In Egypt and Tunisia, countries with a long history of political and military institutions and relative freedoms, the government stepped down. In countries like Libya, with no such history, the government appears to be digging its feet in and delivering on its threat to use violence against protesters.
The funny thing is that they expect us to believe this script. It may have worked several decades ago, but we are living in the 21st century. We see through these transparent lies. Someone should tell the dictators of the world to fire their scriptwriters, their lies are becoming increasingly absurd.