The Death Of The Killer

The leader de facto of Libya, Muammar al-Gaddafi.
The most shocking of all images of Gaddafi - as a sane, smiling human being

I.Doubt.It is pleased to announce that we for one will not be showing you pictures of Muammar Gaddafi’s damaged corpse. Why so squeamish, some ask. Are we too sheltered from death? I think not. We all come across plenty real death in our lives, not least our own, and we are saturated with incredible amounts of fake death in the guise of entertainment.

It’s just decency. I think all humans feel that the dead deserve a measure of respect. As far as we can tell even our closest relatives like homo erectus, who used tools and fire and probably spoke, did not do anything with the bodies of their dead. Nomads, they simply moved on, leaving corpses where they lay. With sadness no doubt, but without ceremony. By contrast all humans, even those who have no belief in an afterlife, treat the bodies of the dead with a special respect – when they can. It appears to be an instinct, one unique to our species.

So when we turn images of real dead people into a lurid form of quasi-entertainment, parading them for shock, sales, or triumphalism, it is quite literally dehumanising.

I’m not surprised that they killed him of course. It’s a war. Should we care that they did? Yes. We should always care that the right thing is done. And I don’t think it was here. Gaddafi died in custody. According to the BBC, acting Prime Minister Mahmoud…

…confirmed that Col Gaddafi had been taken alive, but died of bullet wounds minutes before reaching hospital.

It remains unclear just how and when Gaddafi got those bullet wounds.

Nonetheless this is good news for Libya, and I hope an example for the rest of the Middle East. In Tunisia and Egypt, leaders stepped down in the face of mass protest and are alive to this day. Gaddafi clung to power, and was shot in the belly and head. That may give other dictators – like, say, Syria‘s Assad –  something to sleep on.

The War Against Humour

Ali Ferzat replies to his critics

I was going to call this a worrying trend. But no, it’s not. When I think about it it’s an exciting trend, a real sign of hope.

Governments throughout the Middle East are starting to take jokes seriously.

Pakistan has banned telling anti-government jokes by text or e-mail. On the streets of Syria, noted political cartoonist Ali Ferzat was attacked by pro-government thugs and beaten up, with particular attention paid to his hands.

What does it mean? Well, it shows that Ralph Steadman wasn’t entirely right. One of Britain’s most famous cartoonists of the 1960s, Steadman gave up political caricature because he came to think that politicians were so monstrous in their craving for attention that they saw satire as a form of flattery. Perhaps they only pretended not to be hurt, but they did a good job of it, offering to buy even the cruellest drawing. No wonder he despaired.

But while that may happen where leaders rule by popularity, they take a very different attitude when they control by fear. Nothing undermines fear more than ridicule – that’s why some of the best jokes come out of the most horrific situations. Laughter restores perspective, shrinks giants, drives out darkness. And laughter will win.