Many times the easiest things is to take your adversaries, put them down a deep hole, and forget about them, but other times it is personally important to make those individuals pay, publicly, for the crime of having opposed you along with anything else you can throw in. It is most helpful in cases when you need to crush free spirits, settle inner regrets, or humiliate the proud and should not be neglected as a powerful part of your image arsenal generally. These are some pointers on how to make the experience go smoothly and have it produce all the benefits you seek.
- The courtroom. The primary setting of your show trial should fit with your overall image, maximizing those points about your self-image that you want to put across to the world at large, while still assuring security against any who would try to break up the proceedings. There are two poles in the drama, the accused prisoner on the one hand, who should look as despicable and contemptible as your stylists can manage, and yourself as avenging justice, whose pronouncements from the high bench project the kind of authority you wish to impress on your audience. Pay careful attention to the furnishings, the lighting, and the sound design as you set your stage.
- The rules. There are rules governing the way one acknowledges the majesty of the court, the way evidence is presented, the way counsel may express opinions aloud or directly to a participant in the trial, and the conduct of spectators to the proceedings. Some villains prefer to keep a tight rein on what happens, scripting every detail according to a master plan they have in mind, while other evildoers seek out the happy accidents that can be brought about by chance and the initiative of the players in the courtroom when the rules are more scaled back. If the rules change midway through the trial, however, in either direction, it is likely that this will be perceived negatively by others, so one should do so with extreme care.
- Those who judge. If you choose to have a jury of the accused one's enemies, rather than passing summary judgement of your own, you should be careful in instructing them how to proceed. If you require a unanimous verdict (of guilty), make that clear to them, and give them some idea of whether this should be after long and agonizing deliberation or after a shockingly short stretch of time only. Ordinarily the description of punishments when your orders are not followed is not transmitted in open court but discreetly.
- Verdict, sentence, and execution. All vile things come to an end, and the particular end you are after in your kangaroo court is marked by the satisfying hammer blows of Guilty, Condemned, and Dispatched. Here there is rather less danger of boring the viewer, so you have license to stretch things out, ramping up the suspense, to a much greater degree than during the evidence phase.
Strokes of genius
- The media. A private little trial may serve well to drive home the point you are making to those immediately in attendance and those who hear about the affair indirectly, but such a thing scarcely merits being called a show trial. Publicists, reporters, camera-persons, audio technicians, and all the other cogs in the media machine must be provided with what they need in the way of press kits and access to those aspects of the trial that you want them to cover. Then make sure to clear them out when you no longer require their attention, as they can be both disruptive and harmful in the normal run of evil business.
- Outbursts. A long recitation of injuries and complaints may get to be a droning bore unless you arrange to re-capture the spectators' attention with an impassioned outburst or two. The sight of a madly gesticulating victim of some wrong or a furious keening wail coming from a relative of the accused stirs up the blood, and also serves to reinforce the notion of your fairness to a fault, to allow things that are manifestly Against The Rules to take place. All according to plan, of course.
- Post-production. Once it is all over and the defendant has gone off to meet his or her awful fate, you have the opportunity to manage the aftermath, both in the larger court of public opinion and in your official account of the trial of the millennium. Skilled technicians can edit out the flubs and the less-than-compelling parts of the drama and inject a slickly enhanced element to the high points of the show trial, which can then be disseminated through your distribution network to become the official story.
Traps for mere fools
- Haste. If you are in a big rush to execute those you hate, there is nothing wrong with that, but a show trial is probably not what you are after. The whole point is drawing out the spectacle to an extreme, milking the situation of the condemned to the utmost, not simply sticking a gun barrel in his or her mouth and pulling a trigger. That is what the authors of all those screeds against established supervillainous practice miss when they castigate this one or that one for indulging in elaborate revenge fantasies against the hero instead of simply dispatching them as soon as they fall into their clutches. As we all know, there is more to being evil than just dispatching everyone one dislikes upon sight.
- Shiny bald spot. Best covered up with a periwig.
- Muddy vocals.
Precious and needful
- Jeering masses.
- DNA analysis.
- Selection of confessions.
- Leg irons.
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- Image credit jailhouserock by Skelekitten
- Image credit Gibbet, Guildhall, Leicester, England by rchappo2002
- Image credit Three Amigos by Anna L Conti