Wednesday, June 27, 2007

200th glorious post, comrades!

After a slow 2006, I resolved to knuckle down in 2007 and get serious about blogging about authoritarianism. Lo and behold, I think I've managed to do just that this year. I'm grateful to you, my loyal returning readers (however few!) for posting your comments and questions about the dictators who've made history and headlines since launching this blog. I'd also like to thank Joshua Foust at Registan and The Conjecturer for not only linking to DotW, but providing us with boatloads of news about the often authoritarian events going on in the former Soviet Union. I'd also like to thank the visitors to this blog who live in dictatorships, like the visitors I've been receiving from Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe, Angola and Fiji.

The one question I've been asked over and over is "why would anyone blog about dictators?" Well. 2007 has, for whatever reason, shown that most of the world appears to have made their peace with dictatorial regimes. 62 years after the death of Adolf Hitler, 54 years after the death of Joself Stalin and only 13 years after the Rwandan genocide, the so-called civilized world only too ready to tolerate our rogue's gallery of dictators for no other reason than to avoid rocking the boat. More than ever, we're living through a golden age of dictatorships, both old regimes (Fidel Castro, Muammar Qaddafi) and new (Hugo Chávez, Frank Bainimarama). Would be be so passive if they knew just what sort of men rule these countries, or the terror and violence they use to cling to power?

My biggest motivation in dictator blogging came over the curious absence of the word "dictator" itself in the press. Of course, the largest press outlets strive for some measure of neutrality in the tone of their coverage, but most of the world's largest news stories, from the Darfur crisis, to Iraq to North Korea all involve dictatorships, and precious little analysis is paid to how the very existence of totalitarian leadership leads to these crises. In the days leading up to the coalition invasion of Iraq, I lost count how many times I'd heard Saddam Hussein referred to rather blandly as the "leader" of Iraq. In the same vein, nearly all the press coverage of the North Korean nuclear crisis refers to Kim Jong-Il with the same deceptively neutral term, calling him only the "leader" of North Korea. While the term "leader" certainly applies, the use of such a neutral term effectively equated Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-Il with the prime minister of, let's say, Luxembourg.

The very avoidance of the word "dictator" as a purely pejorative term has, inevitably, begun to inure the public to dictatorships themselves, to the obvious detriment of people who have to live under totalitarian rule. We live on a Dictator Planet, but we seem to spend very little time talking about dictators. I hope that be keeping the spotlight on dictators themselves, we can begin to reacquaint ourselves with the word "dictator" and hopefully even restart the dialog about why the free world has made so little progress in reducing the power and influence of authoritarian regimes around the planet.

So that's it. Thanks for sticking around, and hopefully I'll be back tomorrow with some actual new content for everyone - even my increasingly robotic chavista audience.

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