Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Waves of Disinformation and Confusion Swamp the Truth in Libya

Truth was first a casualty in Libya well before this war began, and the war has not improved matters at all, on any side.

Libya has long been a republic of lies or, in the words of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, “the only democracy in the world.” Colonel Qaddafi was the absolute dictator who claimed years ago to have stepped down from all public posts. He said he was more of a sage, or guide, to Libya’s six million citizens.

In Libya, as with authoritarian governments generally, leaders are accustomed to dictating how people should think; no matter how outrageous the lie or how obviously bizarre (as was often the case in Libya), it is often received as reality by a public numbed by isolation and oppression. So it may not be surprising that the rebels now challenging Colonel Qaddafi sometimes sound like him, because he is the only leader they ever knew. Many of the rebels’ leaders were in Colonel Qaddafi’s top echelons, helping defend and promote his vision, and version, of reality.

A case in point was the rebels’ claim on Sunday that they had arrested Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, the leader’s son who is often talked of as the heir apparent. The claim was issued with such authority, even setting off a debate among rebels over what to do with the younger Mr. Qaddafi, that the International Criminal Court said he should be transported to The Hague.

By the wee hours of Tuesday morning, however, Mr. Qaddafi was squiring journalists around neighborhoods filled with Qaddafi sympathizers, saying the rebels who had rolled into the city had fallen into a trap. more