Claudia Rosett looks at one of the media fixtures of our time:
The Age Of The Celebrity Tyrant
Dictators who cavort like billionaires and draw the tabloid lens.
True to celebrity form, modern despots have their cliques. Between the road shows and house calls in which they now deal as erstwhile equals with envoys of the world’s democracies, modern thugs enjoy advertising their sit-downs with each other. Before the U.N. General Assembly convenes, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez has been variously advertised as heading to Libya, Belarus, Syria, Russia and Iran.
How many of those pit stops Chavez might actually make, as he loops his way toward a provisional speaking slot Sept. 24 on the U.N. stage in New York, we don’t yet know. But it is increasingly obvious that among many of today’s tyrants, there is a camaraderie which serves to embolden them all. Al-Qaddafi has named a soccer stadium in Libya after Chavez. Iran’s regime has awarded Chavez the Islamic Republic’s highest medal of honor. Chavez has lavished praise on Ahmadinejad, celebrating the inroads both can make against the U.S. “as long as we remain united.”
While here in the US we hear Chavez apologists say he was democratically elected, unlike some of the others.
On a related front, although Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir heads a genocidal regime and is under indictment by the U.N.’s International Criminal Court, a Sudanese news service bragged this week that al-Bashir has been invited by al-Qaddafi to an African Union summit on Aug. 31.
Tyrants have usually relied on showboating at home. Whether their fellow citizens believe in these acts or not, there is a certain amount of circus performance needed to sustain the propaganda with which they justify the deprivation and brutality that accompanies despotism.
But these days, with high tech ease, the propaganda quickly goes global.
Claudia’s right on the money. Go read it all.