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Feature Story November 6, 2007
 
FANTASY ELECTIONS
The eXile plays the Kremlin's hottest game
 
 

Russia's fledging democracy is distinguished by two characteristics: "managed democracy," in which the election's contestants and its outcome are tightly controlled by Kremlin strategists and their PR alchemists; and Vladimir Putin. Emphasis on the Putin. Since most of you reading this story are neither Kremlin strategists nor Vladimir Putin, that means that you are a regular spectator of Russia's "managed democracy," as alienated from the upcoming elections on December 2 as a modern day American football fan is from the NFL team to whom he pledges his fealty.

Over the past two decades, the NFL has become too much of a business increasingly removed from the rugged mud and filth of its origins; its players grew too rich and eccentric. The result is that the average middle-class, overweight, unhappily-married, American football fan grew increasingly alienated from his most important means of distraction, so he started turning to something more immediate to get his bloodlust on, such as Blood Sport or right-wing talk radio. How to save the NFL from irrelevancy? This is where the age-old combination of American ingenuity and American male misery joined forces to come up with the perfect distraction from wretched reality: it's called "Fantasy Football," and it allows millions of football fans to step into the role of the very people who ruined the sport: NFL owners. Since NFL owners are the only people left with a connection to football, it follows that only by becoming a "virtual" NFL owner can fans feel the thrill of the game again. And it's worked: thanks to Fantasy Football, interest in the NFL is back and more intense than ever.

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Click to enlarge.

Which brings us to Russia's managed democracy. Ever since Yeltsin shelled the White House and rewrote the rules of democracy, Russians have grown increasingly alienated from elections, which they feel less and less connected to. This is a problem not only for Russian citizens, but also for the Kremlin democracy-managers who need to keep the citizenry interested and distracted. The solution to this problem is simple: Fantasy Elections.

Here's how it works. In your Russian office, form a Fantasy Elections Commission with up to six other colleagues. Each of you will be a Kremlin manipulator, creating your own political party; call it whatever you want. What matters isn't the name of your party, but the politician you draft into your party list. Each player can choose three top politicians to head their party list, and three regular-listers, who come in handy if one of your "troika" players defects, drops out, or dies from a radioactive California roll.

Drafting Day is the most important day in Fantasy Elections. In American Fantasy Football, usually you have either a "serpentine draft" meaning that whoever chooses first in the even rounds chooses last in the odd rounds, etc; or "auction drafts" in which "team owners" begin with a fixed amount of "salary money," and then bid against others for hot players.

In Russian Fantasy Elections, we propose two types of drafts: the "Kalashnikov draft," in which the first player to bring a weapon into the office on Draft Day chooses whoever the fuck he wants; or "kompromat draft," in which players use compromising material they've collected on their colleagues' personal lives, including tape-recorded telephone conversations, bank transactions, and photographs of sexual liaisons, and then auction off their kompromat in exchange for politicians and draft order.


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