In 1787, the Empress Catherine II took a long trip to the Crimea along the Dnieper River. She wanted to see how her subjects lived. Not wanting her to see the actual poverty and hardships of the peasants, her lover – and the region’s governor – Grigory Potemkin, had pretty, fake villages of canvas and clapboard built along the way, with his own people acting and dancing the roles of happy peasants. After she visited one, the village was disassembled and rushed down river by barge to be rebuilt further away.
These have become known as Potemkin villages. According to Wikipedia, the term is used today,
…in politics and economics, to describe any construction (literal or figurative) built solely to deceive others into thinking that some situation is better than it really is.
But there’s also the opposite: when it refers to an imaginary construct that is negative: when such constructs are used to divert attention from an embarrassing situation or condition. Or, in some cases, an inconvenient truth.
Politicians have been accused of creating Potemkin villages to embellish situations and put a Pollyanna face on social or political ills. But their opponents – especially during election campaigns – also create their own facades to make the reality look worse. They create shabby Potemkin villages; cardboard slums, ugly-looking facades simply to make themselves look good by making the incumbents look bad.
Collingwood’s municipal election has its own shoddy Potemkin villages. Opponents have created a shabby, fake facade on the economic situation, on the recreational facilities, on economic development and on this council’s many achievements. They would have their followers believe that little if any good has been accomplished this term. They’ve erected not a few of these faux derelicts on social media.
As the Vermont Political Observer blog notes
See,that’s the problem with Facebook: it only takes one person to erect a plausible a Potemkin village.
Here are some of the campaign’s rickety Potemkin villages we’ve all heard during Collingwood’s municipal election, and the more solid truths they attempt to hide: