HowTo:Organize a Show Trial

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Uh oh! No one likes a boring show trial! If your judges look like these, you need to rethink your whole strategy!

You awake, refreshed and alert after a long night's deep sleep. But something is troubling you... something you've forgotten... Oh, no! The Leader ordered you to organise a series of bogus trials to discredit and destroy his enemies, and they start tomorrow. And you totally left it until the last minute! How do you even run a show trial, anyway?

Don't worry, Citizen/Comrade/Mr. Gonzales, we're here to help.

Step 1. - Identify Political Enemies[edit]

There are basically two ways to go about this one. The first is to examine the words and actions of various people to determine if they're enemies of the Great Leader. The second is just to guess. The second is generally considered to be better, since people who are genuine enemies of the state know that you're coming and have their guards up; random people are a whole lot less effort.

Another possibility is listening to the Great Leader, and seeing who he complains about most. In the short term, this is can earn you some brownie points. However, if you eliminate everyone who is more irritating to the Leader than you are, then you become his bitterest enemy by default. Better leave a buffer zone there of a few people who yawn during the Leader's speeches, or who use his coffee cup and don't wash it.

Step 2. - Arrest the Accused[edit]

You don't have to do this yourself, you know; the Secret Police will do that for you. I know the head guy did it in that Princess Amadala is Bald movie, but really you should just delegate. You didn't spend all those years working your way up the ladder just to do all the work yourself; am I right, or am I right? Take some "me" time; take the afternoon off and go play nine holes. You'll be a more effective Show Trial guy when you get back, believe me.

Step 3. - Accuse the Accused[edit]

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You might want to use this.

This one can be tricky. After all, you can't have a show trial without show. Manship. As such you need an interesting array of charges. For example, why accuse someone of running an underground anti-government publication when you accuse him of witchcraft and canibalism? That way, public sentiment is strongly against the accused and the poor folks on the jury won't have to read the publication in question. Have you ever read an underground anti-government newspaper? Talk about snoozeville. They don't even have crosswords.

Another gambit, going back to the carefree days of the Moscow Purges is to accuse everyone of terrorism. Stalin accused Trostky and his supporters of terrorism, and astonishingly the charges stuck. In reality, Trotskyites know nothing of bombmaking and kill their enemies by boring them to death, and their weapon of choice is a ridiculously large placard covered with tiny writing.

Nowadays, terrorism is still a good accusation, even though 95% of people who have committed a terrorist act are now dead. However, the accusation is so overused, it can be difficult to make your case stand out while using it. For novelty value, try some of these underused crimes:

  • Simony - the act of paying or attempting to pay for offices in the hierarchy of the church. Attempting to pay for government offices is called Alviny, whilst trying to bribe your way into a military position is known as Theodorey.
  • Claim Jumping - gold mining is a big industry in your country, try accusing traitors of the act of taking over someone else's mining claim, whether by force or by stealth.
  • Laying Hands upon a Tribune of the People - Pros: since by ancient law, the person of a Tribune is inviolate, you can skip the trial and go straight to execution. Cons: will not work outside of Ancient Rome.
  • Piracy - You might want to save this one for a special occasion. There hasn't been a show trial of this nature since Captain Kidd, so you could be onto a winner here. If you're smart, you'll suggest that all the gunpowder aboard the accused's ship was for making bombs, and then you can up the stakes with a charge of terrorist piracy.

Step 4. - Merchandising[edit]

Fanta - the Official Beverage of the Reign of Terror!

Phew! All this persecution is hard work! Don't you deserve a little reward for all this effort? Hint: you do!

Back in Emperor Nero's day, running a show trial was its own reward, since the prosecutor got part of the victim's wrongdoer's estate. In this more enlightened time, you have to think of a better way to make a buck. Here are some ideas!

  • Sponsorship - illegal incarceration, torture, false confessions, contempt for the judicial process... you just can't buy that sort of publicity! Any business worth its salt will pay through the nose to get a taste of this whole hill of beans. Wow, that metaphor was more mixed than mixed nuts and mixed drinks mixed up in a mixer, and then served at the other sort of mixer mixer.
  • Miniature guillotines - cheap and easy to make, you can sell these for a pretty sou, most of it profit. Along these lines, you can also sell knitted renditions of the coats-of-arms of executed aristrocrats.
  • Little books - Red or otherwise, depending on the nature of your dictatorship. The Leader will probably want to write it, but if you're clever you can get the distribution deal.
  • Complete Showtrial DVD - this other stuff is tried and true, of course, but you want to be on the next wave, don't you? Double your money with a showtrial DVD followed by a special "Collector's Edition" with a cheap mini-documentary, some bloopers and a dull "Minister for State Security's Commentary"

Step 5. - Choose Judges[edit]

Care must be taken to choose the right judge, lest some semblance of honest jurisprudence prevail. Try members of the Leader's family, or failing that, your own. Your brother in law nearly got his law degree, didn't he? He'd make a good judge. And when he's pulling down a judge's salary, he'll stop "borrowing" money off you. If you're lucky. If it wasn't for your sister, you'd paste him... Stop that! You're wandering off track.

Step 6. - Show (Trial) Time[edit]

Now all the hard work and effort pays off, as the accused terrible terrorist/ traitor/ heretic/ aristrocrat/ capitalist/ communist/ nazi/ zionist/ infidel/ outfidel/ pirate/ other criminals confess their crimes. They can then be sent to prison/ the chair/ the autos-de-fey/ the guillotine/ Siberia/ exile/ the gallows/ smitherines/ Hell/ Davy Jone's locker Ah! As Chairman Mao himself frequently said "I love it when a plan comes together!"

Step 7. - In case of emergency[edit]

But what if it all goes wrong? What if, in spite of everything the verdict comes back "not guilty"? What steps should you take?

My advice would be "bloody big steps".