If you’re a science fiction lover you may have heard the name Jerry Pournelle. He’s written science fiction stories such as the “Janissaries” series and a collection of works that would eventually become “The Prince.” Earlier in his career, however, Pournelle showed his his prowess for political prognostication.
In a short story called “Peace with Honor,” which was first published back in 1971, Pournelle painted a picture of an establishment in dire need of some help if it is to remain in power and keep the other rising political factions at bay.
The president of the United States in the not-so-distant future, President Lipscomb, is going to have a fight of it in the coming elections. His most fierce competition, a man named Harmon, wants to pull out of the shaky alliance the country has with Russia (remember, this was written in 1971). Lipscomb and his following think this will lead to war, and want to win by any means necessary.
The men in the room discuss the situation using real poll numbers, and not the ones they hand out to the media, which is eating out of the palm of their hand. The real numbers have them worried.
“So,” Lipscomb finally says, “What do we do about it?”
“Rig the election,” one of his cabinet members quickly responded. “I give out the popularity figures here,” and displays a chart in which their party, the Unity Party, has a massive majority in the polls.
“Then we keep pumping out more fake stuff, while Mr. Grant’s (another man in the room) people work on the computers… It’s been done before.”
Does that sound at all familiar?
Now, although the story is excellent and I highly recommend Pournelle’s writings to anyone who enjoys a good science fiction read, there are plenty of things that have not come to fruition. But you have to remember: this is science fiction. The hope is that none of this would come to fruition, and yet here we are realizing how familiar the concept of fake numbers from the media sounds.
In the story, American politics plummet to lows almost unimaginable to the 20th century. They become as corrupt as the Democrats are now. In the story, politicians talk about the prospect of rigging poll results so that it seems as though there is no way that the opposition candidates will win.
Remember what the polls said about the odds of President Donald Trump winning the 2016 general election? There was virtually no way, almost everyone said.
How’d that turn out?
Hats off to Pournelle for forseeing how far parts of America could sink.
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