by John Grant
Three weeks ago saw the election of a new sheriff in our
town, Sheriff Sharon, and immediately upon his appointment he
instituted a fresh system of law enforcement which has excited
criminologists and sociologists all over the country and brought
plaudits from the highest in the land.
This principle is called Zero Competence, and one cannot but
admire the brio and bravura with which Sheriff has
put it into action.
I was lucky enough to bump into the Sheriff the other day and
have a few words with him on behalf of Entertainment
Geekly. He was supervising a lynching at the time, and that
seemed as good a place as any to start.
I asked him if he did not feel that some among the community
might regard the response of the law to wit, this
lynching, which was being carried out by his deputies as
being perhaps a trifle harsh.
"Whining, complacent, self-satisfied liberals will whinge
about anything, given the chance," he replied as the smoke rose
around the elderly woman tied to the stake. "They do whatever
their Cuban paymasters tell them to do. But anyone who believes
in the traditions that made our country great Peace,
Freedom, Democracy and the Love of God and one's fellow man
will see the sense in Zero Competence. Take this woman,
He waved away a puff of oily smoke that came our way, raising
his voice a little to be heard above the screams.
"To you she may seem just like a little old lady, Mrs.
Greenstein, who's lost most of her marbles, but what she is in
fact" he prodded my stomach with a stiffened
forefinger to emphasize his point "is a suspected
shoplifter. There was a can of Tibbles cat food in her shopping
bag that no one in Shoprite could remember her having paid for
hell, she couldn't remember whether or not she'd
paid for it and so my men were called in. We could have
charged her with Grand Larceny and Theft, of course, and brought
her to trial, but that would have taken months, with no guarantee
of a fair outcome. Much better for everyone and way less
expensive let us not forget the dollars of the taxpayer!
to get it all over with quickly, as my deputies and myself
decided. I'm sure Mrs. Greenstein would have agreed with us as
well if she'd had a tongue left in her head after the
The smoke and the screams were becoming overpowering by now,
so I suggested we moved inside, to the comfort and quiet of
Sheriff Sharon's office, to continue the interview. He looked
reluctant to leave the scene, but eventually assented.
Once we'd settled ourselves, I asked if he could explain the
finer points of Zero Competence for the benefit of
Entertainment Geekly readers, who might have been too
preoccupied of late with ponderous matters like guessing Buffy
the Vampire Slayer's chest measurement to have time to follow the
minutiae of politics.
"Zero Competence is exactly what it says," he replied. "For
far too long the spoon-fed parasites and namby pamby liberals,
butt-fuckers the lot of them, have been expecting any measure of
competence whatsoever out of their elected officials. They've
been expecting the politicians to have the ability to solve
problems and crises using peaceful, diplomatic, political means.
Do they ever pause to think how much pressure this puts on the
politicians? Of course they don't! The people of this great
nation prefer to exercise their democratic right in favor of
candidates who have difficulty working out how to get both legs
into separate holes in their undershorts, then subject them to
the intolerable stress of being expected to have an IQ so high
you can't count it on the fingers of your two hands.
"So Zero Competence recognizes the reality of the situation
rather than the airy-fairy dreams of the bleeding heart so-called
liberals. It assumes that the average elected official has a
total competence factor of zero, and works on from that
I accepted the glass of Ye Olde MacNewark Industrial-Strength
Authentic New Jersey Taiwanese Scotch Whiskey he offered me and
begged him to continue.
"Think of the unfortunate elected official," he said, his
face crinkling into a genial smile strangely reminiscent of
Saddam Hussein wondering what to do with a bucket of acid someone
had given him. "He's still trying to work out if the number of
votes he got is bigger than the number the other guy got
unless he's in Florida, of course, where the datum is less
relevant when along comes some self-styled do-gooder
expecting him to use diplomacy. Diplomacy! What the hell
does the word really mean, anyway? I went all through the Ms in
my copy of Webster's Preschool Dictionary and it wasn't
mentioned even once. It's just a term the fuckin liberals use to
try and blind us to their plot to overthrow the government and
stop child pornography, is all.
"As I was sayin good stuff, this MacNewark, I think
I'll have another bottle your elected greenhorn official
is just at the stage of figgerin how to keep the IRS in the dark
about his kickbacks when some asshole asks him what he thinks
about the Middle East crisis. Middle East crisis? You expect some
guy with no brain and a highly suspect spinal cord to know
anythin about a Middle East crisis? Hell, the last time he looked
the Middle East was in Australia someplace. What hope does he
have of workin out some way of gettin all these people to stop
killin each other?
"And, more to the point" here Sheriff Sharon fired a
couple of shotgun blasts into the ceiling to make sure I was
paying attention "why the fuck should he? He's
prepared to do everythin a democratically elected politician
should do, such as line his pockets, shag a few interns, say that
smokin's good for you and grant permission for the Hudson River
to be used as an anthrax dump. What the hell else should he do?
Start helpin run the country, or somethin?
"So his obvious answer the only answer any honest,
red-blooded man could give is `Go nuke the bastards, and,
er, on your way out ask my secretary to come in here and tie my
I smiled quizzically.
"But that's the principle of Zero Competence applied to
politics," I ventured. "And I agree with it thoroughly," I added
hastily as the Sheriff reached for the shotgun again. "But you're
applying it here in our town to the practice of law enforcement."
"Course I am." He belched. Sparrows fell. "I'm no crypto-
communist traitor to Freedom! I'm as incompetent as the next man
a good deal more so, in fact, or I'd never have got
elected. So I'm applying at a local level the ideas that have
proved so effective at an international level. How the hell can I
tell who's innocent or guilty? And why should I be expected
to? I treat everyone as equal make sure you write that
down about me. Innocent or guilty, I shoot 'em or lynch 'em
anyway. If they're not guilty themselves, they're harborin the
guilty, or sympathizin with them, or they might do. Which means
they're guilty until proved otherwise.
"That's law. That's justice. That's fairness. That's what God
This all seemed completely logical. I was a little nervous,
though, about my next question. I had no wish to be publicly
disembowelled for treason. At the same time, I felt I had a duty
to the readers of this proud journal. So I plucked up my courage
helped in no small measure by the sip of MacNewark I'd had
before my glass had dissolved and plowed ahead.
"At the moment you have Mrs. Arafat of the Community Council
imprisoned inside her backyard outhouse by a platoon of the
National Guard, denied food, water, or any communication with the
outside world," I began.
"Why thanks," said the Sheriff with a plucky grin. "It's good
to know my efforts on behalf of the community are gettin
He took a healthy gulp of MacNewark before continuing.
"Mrs. Arafat may talk about how she wants good relations
between the Community Council and the forces of law and order,
but she has a criminal record."
"And you say you're going to keep her there," I persevered,
"until she stops the people of this town from mounting protests
about irregularities in the matter of your election.
Irregularities" I courageously held up a hand to stop him
from interrupting "such as the way your campaign
supporters machine-gunned anyone who said they didn't want to
vote for you."
"My boys were just exercisin their democratic rights," said
the Sheriff, fingering a hand grenade but allowing me to
"So my question," I blurted, "is just this: How can Mrs.
Arafat stop the protesters, who wouldn't pay her the slightest
attention anyway, if you've blocked off all her communications
with the outside world?"
"That, boy," bellowed Sheriff Sharon, "is her problem!
She is the one who created this situation! It's a simple
enough thing I'm askin of her, a perfectly fair deal: if she
stops the citizens of our beloved burg from rampagin through the
streets protestin about how she's locked up in her outhouse,
she'll get a roll of toilet paper. But she adamantly refuses. She
just hides in that outhouse of hers all day long, beggin pitch
. . . pits . . . shit, this is good whiskey . . . piterfously for
water. Does she think I'm too stupid to realize how inflammatory
water can be?"
"I see," I said. Now that he'd explained it, everything made
All the way home, I pondered on how much Sheriff Sharon's
policy of Zero Competence is needed, and on how much good it's
been doing. In the past three weeks alone, crime rates have
nearly quadrupled; clearly something had to be done, firm action
had to be taken. Sometimes the consequences can be tough to take
such as nuking the primary school but it's patently
obvious whose small hands the blood is on. The protests on Main
Street have escalated from scuffles and occasional acts of more
significant violence to frequent murderous rampages; there's no
answer to that except to strengthen the grip of the authorities.
As I bypassed an impromptu firing squad the deputies
had caught yet another seditious criminal overstaying his time on
a parking meter I thought about how noisy and violent our
town has become of late.
Soon, thanks to the Sheriff and his Zero Competence policy,
all will be quiet and peaceful again.
Very, very quiet.
And very, very peaceful.