Gaddafi’s UN address: A handy bag of tricks?

Muammar Gadaffi’s recent speech before the United Nations was a masterpiece of drama. Angry, rambling and brutally honest he cajoled, bullied and hectored his audience for what seemed like days rather than a mere hour and a half.

Muammar Gadaffi’s recent speech before the United Nations was a masterpiece of drama.

Angry, rambling and brutally honest he cajoled, bullied and hectored his audience for what seemed like days rather than a mere hour and a half.

You could have watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy in the time it took the Libya strongman to deliver his speech, and those films would have seemed less fantastical in some ways than the content of his speech.

Despite-or because of- its’ lack of subtlety and the refusal to deploy the polished eloquence of the typical statesman, many have hailed Gadaffi as a hero for taking no prisoners (so to speak) and challeng the big powers head-on.

It is noticeable that the visceral drama of Gadaffi’s speech has turned him into a sort of swashbuckling heroic and noble figure.

Gadaffi was playing to the gallery, but it was not the gallery of statesmen who were probably seized with a sudden attack of indigestion once he got going in earnest.

In that sense, his speech was a roaring success.

He did not set out to mock and lecture the delegates in the room, but to educate the man on the street.

It was a somewhat twisted version of theatre and it seemed somehow fitting that his translator supposedly threw in the towel before the end of the speech and had to be replaced.

Not many statesmen can claim to have incapacitated a UN translator through sheer verbal excesses.

I enjoy a bit of unexpected drama as much as the next man, but I was left a bit unmoved by the whole affair.

As much as we like to turn politics and the machinations of global affairs into a fluffy drama and comedy, they are the very opposite.

They are a deadly serious business. Perhaps we occasionally need some respite from that seriousness, but Gadaffi’s vaudevillian act was as distasteful as it was compelling.

What does the assassination of John F Kennedy have to do with the imperialism of the superpowers or modern day racism? I am none the wiser.

His scattergun approach- throws a million things into the mix and see what works- was not the kind of thing that inspired any kind of confidence. In fact, it could be argued that he trivialized the debate this way.

Somewhere buried deep in that endless monologue were some valid points and genuine grievances.

To find them however, you had to shovel your way through enough verbal material to overwhelm not just a lexicographer, but a historian as well.

There was also enough dramatic flair to suggest he was bidding for an Oscar nomination at the very least.

It was a somewhat cheap bag of tricks with which to dazzle his wider audience, but it worked for many of them.

It is somewhat unfortunate that Gadaffi preferred to be the showman rather than make his mark in a more substantial way.

And his bombastic approach is not even original in this context- plenty of others including Fidel Castro, Nikita Khrushchev (who famously used his shoe to drive one of his points home) and Robert Mugabe have deployed the same tactic.

Not surprisingly it is usually one preferred by despots who feel they have nothing to lose.

It is surprising that Gadaffi who has supposedly been trying to atone for his past excesses could seek to put himself in that company.

minega_isibo@yahoo.co.uk

The author is a lawyer and regular contributor with The New Times

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