The Lynching of Mouamar Gaddafi
The Symbolic Order of Western Barbarism
by Jean-Claude Paye, Voltaire network, 16-4-2013
The display of the lynching of Mouamar Gaddafi exposes our societies for what they are. These gruesome images show that the objective of the war on Libya was not only conquest, leading to the plundering of oil or of Libyan assets, but also, just as was the case in the Crusades, the destruction of a symbolic order, leaving room for the sheer enjoyment of an act of killing…
When watching the broadcast images of the lynching of Mouammar Gaddafi, our political leaders manifested a strange pleasure. “Strange Fruit”… These images remind us of the images of the hanging of Saddam Hussein organized on the day of the Eid al-Adha, the feast of the sacrifice..
Through images, the will to power becomes unlimited… It echoes the continuous violation of the order of Law that can be observed since the 9/11 attacks.
Nina Simone: Strange Fruits
Dehumanisation increases the will to power
The way Gaddafi’s body was treated is a token of the tragedy the Libyan people went through. Instead of being buried on the same day as required by Muslim rites, his corpse was displayed for four days, before being buried in a secret location in spite of his wife’s request to the UN that she may retrieve the body. …
The NTC’s decision to deny the family the right to funerals and to display the corpse aimed at suppressing the signifier of the body and retaining only the image of death.
The order to derive orgasmic pleasure from the image of the murder suffers no boundary. The fetish perpetuates compulsive repetition… Its function is to increase the will to power.
A sacrifice that creates psychosis
Lynching as an image is a Western tradition. When they photographed their victims, the members of the Ku Klux Klan already produced the human sacrifice as a show. The treatment granted to Gaddafi is part of this “culture.” However, it is different in one respect. The staging of the KKK’s actions was highly ritualized. It mimicked some underground social order.
Here, the mobile phone pictures are free of any signifier. … These images show a world which is continuously collapsing. They put us in a state of dread and create psychosis. They destroy whatever relation there was to fellow human beings. They prevent any social relation, any symbolization.
The sacrifice of a scapegoat
These pictures show the killing of a scapegoat. Through the repetition of the sacrifice, they introduce us to a compulsive violence without object. …
Each sacrifice leads to another. The destruction of Libya must be followed by the one of Syria, of Iran… Violence becomes infinite and foundational.
As in Christian statements, the commentaries of the media about the pictures of the murder of Gaddafi transform the scapegoat into a person that “wanted to die that way”. He is not the victim of an exterior attack, he is said to have obeyed an inner law. His execution is not supposed to be the result of his resistance, but the accomplishment of a personal destiny.
Images of orgasmic pleasure
Images of the lynching of Gaddafi [..] reintroduce us to incestuous violence… The imperative order to share in orgasmic pleasure overrides any political consideration.
The most significant illustration is provided in the interview in which Hillary Clinton receives the images like some offering: she shares her exhilaration in front of the lynching: ‘We came, we saw, he died!’ she said on CBS.
The violence inflicted onto the Libyan ‘Leader and Guide’ was also the moment other Western leaders chose to express their pleasure at how successful their initiative had been. ‘We are not going to cry on Gaddafi’, said Alain Juppé.
He must die, though it is
not our intention to kill him
Statements by our political leaders [..] confirm that the elimination of Gaddafi was the true objective of this war, not the protection of people. The text by Barak Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron, published in The Times, The International Herald Tribune, Al Hayat and Le Figaro on 15 April, mentioned that “[our objective] is not to remove Qaddafi by force. But it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power.”
So, his violence would lie essentially in the fact that he did not give up power while it was inconceivable that he should stay. …
The media confirm that “dictators always end up like this”. Lynching becomes the very proof that the tortured was a dictator. … It testifies that its authors are victims and that this assassination belongs to a sacred order.
Barbarism that acts
beyond any Rule of Law
The murder of Gadaffi, this enactment of the victims’ revenge, results in his not being tried. Substituting such images of lynching to a trial at the International Criminal Court means that instead of being stopped by speech, violence becomes infinite…
Our political systems slip into a permanent state of exception which accompanies the emergence of an absolute power that acts beyond any Rule of Law.
Beyond any Rule of Law
People become things
Human rights and Western democracy are grounded in the “dignity of man” aspect. Dehumanization (or dehumanisation) describes the denial of “humanness” to others.
Dehumanization often ignores the target’s individuality (i.e., the creative and interesting aspects of his or her personality) and prevents one from showing compassion towards stigmatized groups.
In Herbert Kelman’s work on dehumanization, humanness has two features: “identity” — a perception of the person “as an individual, independent and distinguishable from others, capable of making choices” and “community” — a perception of the person as “part of an interconnected network of individuals who care for each other”.
When a target’s agency and community embeddedness are denied, they no longer elicit compassion or other moral responses, and may suffer violence as a result.
The Holocaust during World War II and the Rwandan Genocide have both been cited as atrocities predicated upon government-organized campaigns of dehumanization, while crimes like lynching (especially in the United States) are often thought of as the result of popular bigotry and government apathy.
Anthropologists Ashley Montagu and Floyd Matson wrote that dehumanization might well be considered “the fifth horseman of the apocalypse” because of the inestimable damage it has dealt to society. When people become things they become dispensable – and any atrocity can be justified. (Wikipedia info)
“Many Americans don’t know anything about the outside world. The majority have no concern and no information about other people. They could not even find Africa on a map.” Gaddafi, 3-8-1986