Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Mad Dogs and Englishmen posted by Richard SeymourMe in The Guardian on the subject of war propaganda:
The air strikes on Libya are, under the terms of the UN resolution, supposedly intended to protect civilians and result in a negotiated settlement between Colonel Gaddafi and the rebels. This has resulted in some controversy, as air strikes devastated Gaddafi's compound – Bab El-Azizia, the presidential palace abutting military barracks in Tripoli. 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. But a "compound" – what could be wrong with bombing such a facility?
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. Besides, such language has connotations which overflow its formal significations, and does important ideological work in the context of war. It might help to look at an example of this at work...