- Michael Kinsley
Liberal politicians are invariably a bit shit at comedy. Compared to their authoritarian counterparts, the stakes are always lower when Dennis Skinner or Al Franken slips a quip in. Safe despots can afford levity; the desperate menace of a despot cracking a joke even underwrites their effect. (Nervous laughter is the loudest kind.)
"Am I a pure democrat? Of course I am, absolutely. But do you know what the problem is? Not even a problem but a real tragedy? The problem is that I'm all alone, the only one of my kind in the whole wide world. [...] There is no one to talk to since Mahatma Gandhi died."
- Medvedev shares Putin's dark mirth: in November 2010, he visited the Kuril Islands (some Russian territory which are absurdly close to Japan), followed by a masse of press. He tagged one photo of Kunashir: "There are so many beautiful places in Russia!" His office also recently deadpanned a Nobel Peace Prize recommendation for Julian Assange.
- Saddam Hussein reportedly had no sense of humour. How appropriate, then, the actor chosen to depict him.
- Idi Amin is the worst example as far as distorted memes go: we know him almost first as a comic. From his accordion, to his Scotophilia, to harrassing the Queen, to inviting foreign press in advance to his attack of Tanzania, and in 1977 gave himself a CBE (Conqueror of the British Empire). In more neatness, he called himself "Dada". Yes.
- Qaddafi - genocide and despot that he assuredly is - is the new Amin, possessing all the unholy stylishness of evil. Some of his pranks:
- A suspiciously sensible, tolerant, liberal op-ed he wrote for the New York Times. (I imagine he wanted us to shudder at realising that we agreed with him.)
- Takes a big-ass tent everywhere.
- NYT has made a list of his contempt.
- Bling bling.
- Mock hangings at his 40th anniversary party.
- And pipers to "thank" Scotland for Megrahi.
- And just last week, China's Central Committee must have been pissing themselves - the US defence secretary, visiting in concern over their recent massive militarization got their new stealth fighter flown over him.
"However President Hu assured the US defence secretary that the flight had not been timed to coincide with his visit."
";)", one feels bound to add.
These men are colourful, preening, outrageous, and often charming. It's not much of a jump from their brutal power to suggest that fun is a further calculation of the scheme: in this they mollify us, shield us from their crimes with a great halo of chuckling populism. Needless to say, this makes them more dangerous.