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Qaddafi Watch: Sham demonstrations reinforce sad state of Libyan government


Anything Qaddafi-related always grabs my attention cause the guy was basically like the Boogie Man when I was a kid (see post, 8/31/09), and of course everybody remembers how "the Libyans" were the stock 80s movie terrorists (see Back to the Future). So for that reason--and not because I'm a foreign affairs junkie--I've been paying attention to the Libya stories, especially the one in the New York Times today http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/11/world/africa/11tripoli.html?_r=1&ref=world

The story essentially exposes Qaddafi's sad attempts at staging public relations photo-ops, and shows how he ends up appearing lamer and more desperate than a used car salesman on Fourth of July Weekend. Not only does The Good Colonel decorate hospital beds with fake blood, but he stages "rallies" that, from the photos in the Times, look more like a bunch of students hanging around for a smoke break, likely wondering when they'll get paid for their time.

The front page photo, in fact, is really something worth checking out: a man in a badly-matching sweatsuit and leather jacket dances with a picture of Qaddafi in front of his face, while some smoke bombs--nearly approximating actual fireworks--go off behind him. The funny thing is: there doesn't seem to be an audience. Of course, they are probably off-camera, all 25 of them, standing around cheering half-heartedly with guns poked against their ribs.

For a third-world dictator, these kinds of shenanigans are nothing more than another day at the office. Hell, even for a recovered third-world dictatorship, these kinds of things aren't out of the ordinary. I remember attending a few demonstrations in Buenos Aires, thinking I was participating in genuine acts of protest, only to find out later that 3/4 of the "protesters" had been bussed in from around the country, bribed by the promise of a free meal and $100 pesos, or whatever the case may be.

This reminds me of a saying by novelist Mark Helprin to the effect of "only old cats and dying empires insist on ceremony." When the Roman Empire was crumbling, they started giving out ridiculous titles like "Beloved Caesar of the Roman People and Protector of the Sacred Roman Empire that Will Never Die," and that sort of thing. In fact, to my knowledge Qaddafi is sometimes known as "Brother Leader and Guide in Libya's Socialist Revolution" or some such nonsense.

The more ceremony you need to validate your existence, the more inadequacies you're covering up. That seems to be the lesson here. So if (and when) we start referring to our President as something like Great and Powerful Beseecher of All Free Nations and Pollinator of Democracy...watch out.

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