INSTITUTE FOR POLITICAL HYPOCRISY
“The Institute for Political Hypocrisy” is a satirical lecture-as-performance by me as a representative of a fictional organization whose stated mission is to “help hegemons fabricate the rhetoric, the image and the aura necessary to maintain the illusion that they are democratic societies while they act in ways that are antithetical to democracy.” The mission statement says, “If you are a fledgling nation or polity who wants to develop into a full blown democratic hegemon, we will help you create a shimmering ‘creation myth’ with any parts of your nation’s history that contradict this myth (slavery, genocide, colonialism) expunged.”
Much of the performance is spent selling “democratic creation myths” with overtones of scientology or “self-help cults,” only this organization is to help whole countries benefit from the hegemony of “liberal democracy.”
For $27.99 one can purchase the colorful tale of revolutionary heroes overthrowing an autocratic regime and starting a republic.
For $19.99 we help you construct a national anthem that tells the narrative of how your republic was born and reaches a climactic denouement.
For $7.99 we can help you choose your national colors and design a flag that involves a convoluted esoteric story about how these colors are related to the birth of your republic.
My performance elucidates four stages of training that every democratic hegemon goes through:
1.) ERASURE (erasure of history of indigenous people exterminated or other factors that don’t fit one’s democratic “creation myth”)
2.) HISTORICAL AMNESIA (“forgetfulness” of assassinations of foreign leaders, invasions, and overthrows of democratic regimes all over the world)
3.) MYSTIFICATION (create a smokescreen or fog that obfuscates one’s imperialist intentions)
4.) DEMONIZATION OF THE “OTHER” (demonize world leaders of countries who threaten Western hegemony: Khomeni, Gadaffi, Noriega, Castro, Arafat, Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Osama and Putin)
Much of the challenge of the performance is about inhabiting the language of advertising while simultaneously collapsing that language unto itself and causing that language to betray itself. The performance also deals with Barthes’ notion of mythology: ways of thinking and doing that masquerade as nature emptied of their historical specificity, imbued with a patina of inevitability and timelessness (in this case, of democracy). Myth is an airless vacuum, things that seem already fully formed, assumptions so internalized they don’t need to assert themselves as something distinct from what would already be taken for granted as true.