Patronizing The People Into Revolt


by Chris Bodenner

Hitchens is heartened by the perpetual dimness of dictators:

None of them ever seems to master a few simple survival techniques: Don't let the supreme leader's extended family go on shopping sprees; don't publicly spoil some firstborn as if the people can't wait for him, too, to be proclaimed from the balcony; don't display your personal photograph all over the landscape; don't claim more than, say, 75 percent of the vote in any "election" you put on. And don't try to shut down social media: It will instantly alert even the most somnolent citizen to the fact that you are losing, or have lost, your grip. ...

I remember thinking, of the Egyptian "elections" of last fall, that President Hosni Mubarak would have gotten more respect for simply canceling them than for pretending to hold them in the insulting way he did. Something similar applies to the "green" rebellion that followed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's most recent plebiscite: Everybody already knew that things were "fixed," but this time the mullahs didn't even trouble to pretend that they were not fixed. It's possible that people will overlook outright brutality sooner than they will forgive undisguised contempt.

(Photo: People tread on a placard featuring President Hosni Mubarak in Tahrir Square on February 1, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. By Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)