Bad and dangerous if not mad

March 23, 2011 at 7:49 pm (Guardian, Rosie B, war)

One of our most prolific commenters here has drawn attention to this piece from Richard Seymour.  He doesn’t want us to see Gaddafi as a mad dictator or even a particularly bad dictator it seems:-

The defence secretary Liam Fox has insisted, against British army opposition, that Gaddafi would be a legitimate target of air strikes. Assassination, whatever else may be said about it, would leave Gaddafi unavailable for negotiations. . . [Also unavailable to order his army to kill civilians.]

In situations like this, the usual affective repertoire is unleashed. Gaddafi is a “Mad Dog”, the Sun, the Mirror, the Star and the Daily Record inform us – an epithet first applied by Ronald Reagan when the latter bombed Gaddafi’s compound, among other targets, in 1986. He is “barking mad”, they say. Jon Henley in the Guardian went further – not just “barking mad”, but “foaming at the mouth”. “Cowardly Colonel Gaddafi,” the Sun almost alliterated.

I grant that Gaddafi is a dictator whose determination to hold on initially seemed to defy reality. Yet the reality is that he has shown every sign of being a canny operator, from his rapprochement with the EU and US to his outmanoeuvring of the rebels.

Hmm, Richard S, if you had been Gaddafi’s advisor wouldn’t you have told him, listen, tone down the rhetoric.  Don’t go and make ranting speeches where you denounce the citizens of your own country as being rats and high on hallucinogenic drugs, and that you‘re going to kill a large number of them.  This kind of raving is reminiscent of Hitler – and once you convince the American or British public that you’re Hitler, they will support their leaders when they start bombing you out of power.   So I don’t think he’s been that canny.  If he’d been that canny he would have been talking sweetness and negotiations and listening to justified complaints and then started swooping down on his opponents and stuffing them into jail.  Also, is “outmanoeuvring the rebels” the same as “having a trained army and much better weaponry?”

Besides, such language has connotations which overflow its formal significations, and does important ideological work in the context of war. . .

You mean, calling the enemy a bad bastard?  Well, he is a bad bastard, isn’t he?   Are you saying he’s not?

I’ll grant Richard S that the gung-ho bloodthirstiness of the tabloids is nauseating.  I have serious misgivings that this operation could go terribly wrong in all sorts of ways.  But while Gaddafi may not be mad in the way the simple-minded tabloids like to portray him, he’s a dangerous, nasty fucker, and if those he is attacking are calling for help it seems horribly callous not to help if we can.

I knew there would be a Downfall parody of Gaddafi, so here it is:-

7 Comments

  1. modernityblog said,

    “The demonology is intended to make such ridiculously convoluted tales more plausible. And it has a long history in the annals of British war propaganda. “

    Seymour does have a point, but sadly his lack of introspection means he can’t apply it universally.

    Seymour via his own blog and his own organisation, the SWP, are perfectly capable of indulging in demonology when it suits their own political needs, and they do it constantly.

    Now Seymour sheds crocodile tears for Colonel Gadaffi, the billionaire dictator that has held power for 42 years, through intimidation, murder and massive bribes.

    It’s a shame that Seymour chose Gaddafi to be the object of his pity, as dictators hardly need or require our sympathies

    Still I suppose that’s what we should expect from him, Seymour is more of a contrarian than an insightful political thinker, once you wash away his post-modernist waffle and jargon.

  2. Morto Che Parla said,

    “Hmm, Richard S, if you had been Gaddafi’s advisor wouldn’t you have told him, listen, tone down the rhetoric. Don’t go and make ranting speeches where you denounce the citizens of your own country as being rats and high on hallucinogenic drugs, and that you‘re going to kill a large number of them. This kind of raving is reminiscent of Hitler – and once you convince the American or British public that you’re Hitler, they will support their leaders when they start bombing you out of power. So I don’t think he’s been that canny.”

    Whatever he says, the press in Britain will paint him as Hitler anyway. The discerning among the British public have probably worked out the hypocrisy behind the tabloids painting Gadaffi as Hitler, but not mentioning anything about any of the other regional regimes.

    Papers like The Sun are not designed to convince the majority of their readers, they are designed to browbeat and scare the sensible majority, while giving encouragement to the loudmouthed minority.

    Also Gadaffi *was* intelligent in claiming Bin Laden was behind the rebels actions. When this operation inevitably leads to a surge in Islamism and the Balkanization fo a once stable state, millions of right-wingers, Camerons own constituency, will remember Gadaffi’s words, and blame Cameron.

    “I’ll grant Richard S that the gung-ho bloodthirstiness of the tabloids is nauseating.”

    It’s no more gung ho than this blog. In fact this blog is probably worse to its fixation with smearing and dehumanizing *all* opposition to the bombing, whereas The Sun has only done that to Gadaffi himself.

  3. Rosie said,

    Seymour via his own blog and his own organisation, the SWP, are perfectly capable of indulging in demonology when it suits their own political needs, and they do it constantly

    Yeah. I don’t suppose it would take much trawling through the Tomb to find as much abuse and dehumanisation of everyone from the Labour Party to the Israelis as ever the Sun produced about Gaddaffi. I find Seymour’s clogged writing hard going but what I’ve read of it wasn’t short of vituperation, often scatological.

    • Tim B said,

      “Yeah. I don’t suppose it would take much trawling through the Tomb to find as much abuse and dehumanisation of everyone from the Labour Party to the Israelis as ever the Sun produced about Gaddaffi.”

      Not just that – as I said in the comments section of his article, if you look back on Lenin’s Tomb you can find an article where he himself calls Gaddafi ‘crazed’ and lays into him. Of course that was a month ago – I guess things change completely when someone of Richard’s political complexion suddenly finds that NATO is on the same side as him.

  4. Morto Che Parla said,

    “wasn’t short of vituperation, often scatological”

    hmm, reminds me of someone who replied to me in this thread.

  5. Jeff said,

    The little hitler himself lol

  6. A month is a long time in some politics « Shiraz Socialist said,

    [...] Thanks to TimB in the comments. [...]

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