So Aleksei Navalny has been formally barred from running in a fake election, ostensibly because he was convicted of fraud in a fake trial.
You could hardly ask for a better metaphor to illuminate the current Kremlin regime.
Welcome to Vladimir Putin's Russia.
It's an illusory world where courts pretend to decide matters of law, when in fact they are settling matters of politics; and where the pomp, circumstance, and rituals of competitive elections are imitated, even though the result is a foregone conclusion.
It's a collective hallucination in which legislatures pretend to be independent deliberative bodies, when in reality they are appendages of the executive.
And sometimes the illusion gets lethal, like when the Kremlin's little green men gin up a fake insurgency in eastern Ukraine -- one resulting in very real death and very real destruction.
But the thing about the collective hallucinations that prop up authoritarian regimes like Putin's is that sooner or later they end.
Sooner or later, somebody says the emperor has no clothes -- and sooner of later a critical mass of people begins to believe it.
Which brings us back to Navalny.
It's highly unlikely that Vladimir Putin and his cronies fear that Navalny could defeat the Kremlin leader in next year's election.
The regime has proven itself quite adept at getting the results they desire.
But what they seem to fear is Navalny's ability to break the Kremlin's spell and end the collective hallucination that has preserved and protected this regime.
And that, more than anything else, is what makes him dangerous.