The day after Muammar Qaddafi’s death, I spent my entire work hours unable to escape gruesome images of his captured, then dead body. The more horrid the videos being uploaded on YouTube got, the thicker my skin grew. By the end of the evening, I was eating some disgusting form of junk food while watching Qaddafi beg for his life on the giant TV screens in the newsroom.
I know this much to be true: Qaddafi was a monster unlike any other but even he deserved better than this ─ this being the weird fetish nature of voyeurism we’ve witnessed in his death. People lining up to have their photographs taken with a corpse has got to be a new turn in the way deaths of dictators are celebrated.
This isn’t the first leader’s brutally mauled corpse I’ve seen but I do hope it’s the last. In 1996, the Taliban in Afghanistan ─ perhaps the most vile of the lot ─ dragged the castrated, broken boned, body President Mohammad Najibullah through the streets of Kabul before publically hanging him from a traffic light. That was well before the world had access to the internet like we do now and also when international media outlets seemed to show editorial restraints. In 2003, we all saw Saddam Hussein’s hanging, even if we didn’t want to, simply because everyone was showing it and there was a consensus that it was a good thing that the bad guy had gone.
We were spared the images of Osama bin Laden’s corpse, though there’s truth to the saying that “seeing is believing” and I know lots of people around the world who dispute bin Laden’s death for this reason.
But unlike Hussein, whose death we knew was coming as he stood in front of the noose, Qaddafi’s final moments are disturbing because we’re glued to the TVs waiting to figure out what his fate will be. These images crossed a lot of lines of decency and were hot topics of debate in our newsroom too where opinions were divided on whether it was appropriate to show them. After all, these were not images we had filmed ourselves …
On a personal level, most people expressed disgust at the manner in which Qaddafi was treated ─ thankfully we have been spared the actual murder though I fear perhaps I may have spoken too soon. However, there was a consensus of sorts that the images were necessary, much like Hussein’s, to convince people that the despots were indeed dead. Years of brainwashing and living in fear take a toll on a people that can’t be reversed with announcements of death; it needs to be seen.
Bury any conspiracy theory before it can be hatched so to speak.
However, if that is the motivating factor behind these images getting the air/online time, suffice to say that they have served their purpose. Now it is time to bury the man who, for all his evil, does not deserved to be treated like a trophy in death.