Once upon a time, far off in the future, there was a World in which there were several political parties, free speech, and fair elections. However one fabulously wealthy man had managed over time to accumulate the largest part of the World’s holographic broadcasting system, such that just about everyone heard and saw the news of their World only as authorised by him.
His name was Palmer. He had come across the depths of space from another planet entirely, and his power was such that all the major political parties were obliged to court his favour. Before each election their leaders would discuss their platforms with him, seek his views, offer to modify their positions in exchange for the support of his many holo-channels. For they knew that if they did not do so, their parties would be trashed by his vast army of story-weavers and could not hope to win the popular vote. (Those story-weavers were masters at building and wrecking reputations, and they were utterly ruthless.)
So Palmer controlled the World, giving and witholding power as he pleased, and he didn’t do this by killing people, or locking them up, or using force, because he didn’t need to. If you control the news of a world – if you can determine the way a world sees itself – then you control that world.
But then one day a strange thing happened. Palmer’s organisation slipped up. Right out in public view, his workers were caught behaving in a way that everyone could plainly see was despicable. The curtain was pulled aside for a moment, and the people of the World could see that their news – their entire understanding about what happened beyond their immediate ken – was being fed to them by a pack of ruthless and deceitful crooks, who cared about nothing but their own self-interest, and the interests of their master Palmer.
It was a rare rare opportunity. Soon the curtain would close again. Soon this very episode would itself have been worked over, repackaged and re-presented to the people of that World by Palmer’s master story-tellers. So what happened then, was that….