On the day that revolutionaries entered Tripoli, the sight of Libya's state television anchor, who appeared onscreen holding a gun and threatening destruction and doom, whilst vowing to fight till the bitter end to protect the headquarters of Libyan State TV, seemed humorous and worrisome at the same time. It posed a number of questions: Was she really serious in her threats? Has the brainwashing and ignorance reached that extent, or was she compelled to come out on camera due to pressure exerted on her, or threats made against her from the regime's cronies?
The tide of change across the Arab World has so far brought about the end of three long-serving leaders, whose people rose up against them in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya respectively. Two other leaders in Syria and Yemen are still clinging on to power, despite the ongoing bloodshed. These leaders symbolize an oppressive era in modern Arab history, and the doors have now been opened for a new path, where the features are still taking shape. Following the dramatic developments in Tripoli, all messages and signals issued yesterday by a number of countries and politicians urge others – of course it is clear who is intended here – to learn a lesson from these incidents, and not oppose the will of their people. Otherwise they may meet the fate of Qaddafi who could still face a tragic end, and whose whereabouts until this moment are still unknown, whilst some of his sons have been captured.
This tide of change will also sweep away the breed of media and intellectuals who have served as a choir promoting the actions of these authoritarian regimes, either for personal benefits or out of ignorance. This media choir championed the theories, wisdom and foresight of tyrannical leaders. It helped to mislead and nullify public opinion, as well as circulate ludicrous theories about conspiracies hatched against such "great leaders", who "deserve far better than that".
Leaders as such, regardless of their image, orientation, and degree of eccentricity, have left their imprint on Arab policies as they led the region from one defeat to another over a stretch of several decades, whilst adopting fiery revolutionary slogans about the liberation of the world and resistance to colonialism, imperialism and foreign intervention. All these rallying cries were nothing but empty rhetoric and a source of humor for the outside world. These leaders used such empty rhetoric to justify the oppressive rule with which they had governed their countries. Each of them had his own style and distinct flavor. Perhaps Qaddafi stands out most prominently, with his eccentric, bellicose rhetoric, and the titles he held such as "The King of Kings of Africa".
These leaders needed a journalistic, media and cultural elite to promote their policies to the public, and they got what they wanted. If we take Qaddafi as an example, numerous conferences and meetings have been held over the past decades to discuss the great merits of his third theory in the Green Book, and the Jamahiriya rule model. The whole farce was conducted for private gains more than anything else, for it is impossible for any rational person to believe in such theories. Moreover, the facts on the ground were crystal clear.
Qaddafi was not alone in following these practices. In fact, he may seem relatively reserved among such leaders, in terms of employing self-promotion strategies. Those strategies were just a link in a long chain of a media policy pursed for decades. This policy is one of the primary reasons for the state of affairs we have descended into today. Saddam Hussein also had his partisans in the media, again either seeking private gains or acting out of ignorance. The promotion strategy implemented by Iraq's former leader was extremely effective, even though any genuine analysis or logical thinking would have led to the conclusion that Saddam was driving his country into a bottomless abyss. Furthermore, nothing he provided could justify dealing with his own people in such a bloodthirsty manner. The same thing is happening in Syria now; the regime is walking down a road littered with tell-tale signs. Nevertheless, the media choir, responsible for the phenomenon of regime analysts which we now see, is still attempting to hide the truth and mislead the public. It seems some will never heed advice or learn their lesson.
Published in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat on August 24, 2011.