“Okay,” you announce as you turn to the small group of like-minded individuals stood with you, “he will be here any minute.” The members of the group nod. You had hoped there would be more of you, ready and willing to protest, to point out to other people just what I am like.
When you approached people to gather their support there was a mixture of reactions. A handful immediately agreed and they were vocal and enthusiastic in their support. Others explained that they had other things to do on this day and would not be able to participate in the protest. You emphasised the importance of the protest not only to you but in sending out a message to the others who would be watching but they were unmoved.
The apologies seemed genuine as they explained how they had an existing engagement or they could not let somebody else down. There was also a group of people who agreed but come the day of the protest they were nowhere to be seen. Still, there are five of you and with a concerted effort you should be able to make sufficient noise to attract my attention. The banners and placards should get the message across as well. You have secured an excellent vantage point which means as my car pulls up outside this prestigious building I will have no option but to walk past you and your small band of supporters.
There is a nervous excitement in your stomach as you contemplate at long last being able to give me a dose of the truth and also to let the wider world know that I am not the wonderful person I pretend to be but someone altogether more despicable and darker. You have managed to attract the interest of a couple of local news channels who are setup nearby, cameramen and reporters clustered together waiting to cover the event.
You promised them revelations about a prominent business man and you cannot wait to see the reactions when you reveal the truth. For too long you have suffered at my mouth and hands and now it is time for some justice. You heft the placard in your hand which has “Serial Abuser” daubed on it in large letters. A banner has been draped across the wall. It is a professional-looking banner which declares – “Abuser Alcoholic Adulterer Aggressor”.
You glance at the other placards held by your supporters which detail a range of truths about me which will no doubt infuriate me when I see them and realise they are being broadcast to a wider audience. As you are checking over these placards you notice that a lot of people are streaming into the square. There were some passers-by as there usually are along with people sitting down for lunch on a bench but there are far more people now striding across the square and they are doing so purposefully as they head towards where you are.
“Who are this lot?” you ask. Your supporters turn to see the many people who are now streaming into the square. You notice that they are carrying their own banners and placards.
“It looks like we’ve attracted some additional support,” says one of your friends.
“Excellent,” you smile, “it looks like word has spread.”
“Hey look, there’s Angela, she has decided to come after all,” adds another friend.
“Yes and Tina and Paula. In fact, there’s quite a few of them who said they were busy have turned up. Fantastic!” another friend remarks.
You call out to Angela, waving at her. She turns her head in your direction but rather than the warm smile and enthusiastic return wave you were expecting she shoots you a haughty look and turns away. You halt waving, arm still in the air, puzzled by her reaction. You see Angela nudge Tina who also turns your way and she aggressively pushes the placard she is carrying up and down. You see the word “Hero” written on it Paula’s placard is also then displayed with the words “Golden Boy”.
“What’s going on?” asks a friend nervously. You watch as the group who you thought were friends that you can rely on take up position a little distance away from you. You contemplate going to speak to them but they are soon obscured by the other people who have flooded into the square. You recognise a few faces, some are friends of mine, others are colleagues of mine you have met once or twice and they all carry placards, signs and banners. You feel a sense of dread creeping over you as you look at the writing on them,
“A true gent”
“A brilliant friend”
“Pillar of the community”
Compliments. A sea of painted and printed compliments that are now being waved in the air as you find you are surrounded by scores of my supporters. You see the television crews panning their cameras across the crowd of eager and enthusiastic people who are chanting my name.
“What is going on?” you wonder aloud. You try to fight down the spreading sensation of anxiety, drawing on the determination which caused you to come here ready to unmask me.
“We need to make ourselves heard,” you announce and turn to rally your supporters only to find they have gone.
“What?” you say to nobody in particular. The placards decrying me lie on the floor and you look around trying to spot your friends who were stood there just a moment ago ready to protest and show me for what I really am. You see one of your friends across the way and you try to push through the mass of people but it is no use. Your mouth falls open as you see your friend now enthusiastically waving a placard which reads “I love you”.
Fuming you turn back to the wall to find a man tugging at your banner.
“Hey, leave that!” you shout at him.
“What did you say?” he asks aggressively.
“I said to leave that banner.”
You push your way to him and try to remove his hands from the banner.
“This is coming down,” he says, “such awful things to say about a great person.”
“What are you talking about?” you say.
“This,” he jabs a finger at the banner, “all lies.”
“No they are not, believe me I know exactly what he is like.”
“Hold on a moment, you are that psycho who has been stalking him aren’t you?” asks the man as a moment of realisation washes over him.
“Me a psycho? Is that what he has been saying about me? That isn’t a surprise. He is the psycho, do you know what that man has done to me? He has put me through hell.”
“Ridiculous. It is just jealousy on your part. You were nobody before he came along and he gave you so much only for you to be cheat on him. You should be ashamed of yourself you whore!” spits the man.
“More lies!” you shout back, but he is not listening as a huge roar erupts from the crowd. You forget about the banner and instead you lean across the wall vigorously waving your placard as my car sweeps into view. The car stops and two black-suited men leap out, wearing sunglasses and they sweep their gaze around the crowd before I get out of the car, immaculately attired, waving at the assembled throng with a broad smile across my face. The cameras swing round and focus on me as my name is chanted in unison. You do your best to make yourself heard, screaming the truths about my real nature as loud as you can but it is to no avail as the chanting of the zealous and appreciative crowd drowns you out. Your frustration mounts as you watch me soaking up the adulation. I walk towards the crowd, flanked by the two men who continue to scrutinise the sea of smiling faces. Hands are thrust out, eager to touch me and I shake hands with people, acknowledging these well-wishers, moving along the crowd until I reach you. I halt and look at you and unleash that brilliant smile, my eyes lighting up, just the way they did all that time ago.
“Hello, how good of you to come, so lovely to see you here,” I say.
“I’m here to let the world know what a bastard you are!” you shoot back.
“Hey, there’s no need to be like that,” admonishes a lady to your right.
Before you can speak I put up a hand and reply,
“It’s okay, this is Victoria, we know one another, I made her life hell.”
“See?” you announce, “at last he is admitting what he has done. That is why I hate him.”
“You hate him because he made your life swell?” asks the lady in a confused voice.
“No, he said he made my life hell, he did, he was awful to me. Tell her, tell her what you did,” you insist. I continue to smile and turn to the other woman.
“It is true, I shoved her, I would beat her, I insulted her and caused her harm,” I say.
“At last, at last, finally,” you announce with a joyous look on your face.
“Yes well, I would look happy too if he said that to me, you lucky lady,” continues the lady next to you.
“He said ‘I loved her, I would treat her, I insulated her from harm’ he is such a good man. I wish he were mine.”
“No, you are not listening properly, he did not say those things at all,” you protest.
“This man is a monster. He made my life a misery and he still tries to do that. Don’t you?”
“I make your life unbearable,” I confirm.
“He said he makes your life unbeatable,” chimes in a man from behind you, “Lady, I don’t know what your problem is but we are here to thank this wonderful man for being part of our lives, you need to take a hike.”
“Yes, clear off, we don’t need troublemakers like you,” adds another voice. One of the black-suited men wrenches the placard from your hands and snaps it over his knees as you feel yourself being pulled and jostled. You are hauled backwards as the crowd surges and closes the gap where you once were stood. You can see me grinning and waving at you, eyes glinting in delight until I have disappeared from view and you fall backwards onto the hard stone of the square, expelled by the crowd. You feel the tears of anger and frustration along with that familiar sensation of despair as you lie on your back breathing heavily.
“Come on, up you come,” says a voice. A hand takes yours and you are pulled to your feet by an old man who is surprisingly strong given his advanced years. He guides you to one of the benches away from the crowd and its raucous support.
He lowers you to the bench as you wipe away the tears.
“Why don’t they see him for what he is? I don’t understand.”
“Ahh, such is the problem when you run into a demagogue,” sighs the old man, “I am afraid you did not stand a chance. Do you think this lot just turned up on spec? Not at all. This mob has been recruited and fashioned for months now. He has been sowing his charm all around and you have to admit he is charming; you fell for it yourself didn’t you?”
You nod slowly.
“So is it any wonder all these people did as well. You are sharp, independent and intelligent and you were taken in. Some of these people cannot see further than their own noses.”
“But I saw my friends supporting him, even my brother as well, why would they do that when they know how badly he has been treating me?”
“Oh he is clever alright. Your brother gets business from him so he is not going to pour scorn on that, not with the economy being the way it is. Your friends? Well, they are not really your friends are they? Two of them have designs on him themselves and couldn’t wait for you to be cast aside. The others all think he is wonderful because that is all they have ever seen and when they are fed such a daily diet they tend to end up believing it.”
“But I told them what he did, I showed them the nasty messages.”
“I know, but he got in first. He told them about your temper and your ability to fly off the handle and of course they have all seen that at some point, so it added up for them. He is very persuasive.”
“I know, but how did he get so many people to support him, look at them,” you wave an arm in the direction of the crowd.
“People like success and they want to be associated with it. Many of them don’t like to think for themselves or get embroiled in aggravation, so it is easier just to bleat like a sheep and follow the crowd. He knows this and he has done this many, many times. You did not stand a chance.”
“But it isn’t fair. I mean, he was actually telling this woman in the crowd what he had done and she twisted it so it sounded like he was saying good things about me.”
“Indeed, he is an expert at twisting the truth so you seem like a crazy person and he remains the golden one.”
“I know, I just wish people would listen and see it.”
“They won’t or only a few will. He invests a lot of effort in cultivating his façade of respectability so that it is near impregnable and he uses this to crush you when you think you might be able to expose him for what he is, as you have seen today. You met the façade and it drowned you out, sucked away your supporters and spat you out.”
“Excuse me for asking, but how do you know all this?” you ask curious as to who this helpful stranger is.
“You aren’t the only one who has seen through him you know? I did too and it got me where you are now.”
“You know him?”
“Oh absolutely, not that he has much to do with me, save when it suits him to turn the mob against me when all I have tried to do is help. Talking of which, we need to leave, he will be going inside soon and then his supporters will be looking to exercise the power of the mob and we don’t want to be still sitting here when that happens.”
“Can’t we challenge them, persuade them, show them what he is like. Now there are two of us, they might listen?”
“They don’t want to know. It is easier for them that way. That is why they cannot see it. The result of a blindness and unwillingness created by his manipulations and their innate failings. Come on, it is time to go.”
And go you should.