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:-