Yesterday the world watched as another dictator fell at the hands of the people leading a revolution against him. A man who’s reign lasted 42 years but was eventually hunted down as his people fought for freedom.
A grainy, confused video and picture taken on a camera phone swept the media – the man in the picture covered in blood and badly injured, seemingly being dragged and hustled down the street, guns pointed at his head as his captors argued over whether to kill him there and then.
A further picture swept across social networks showing the man’s corpse with what looked like a bullet wound to the head.
The death of Col Muammar Gaddafi was later confirmed by the National Transitional Council and his death was celebrated. His body put on show in a meat locker in Misrata as people clamoured to get a picture of his and his son’s corpse, desperate for proof of their deaths.
National Transitional Council forces found him hiding in a tunnel following a Nato air strike on his convoy as he tried to make a break from his last stronghold. The exact circumstances of his death remain in dispute, either “killed in crossfire”, summarily executed, or lynched and dragged through the streets by jubilant, battle-hardened fighters.
His death is celebrated. However it meant the Libyan people – and other victims around the world – were robbed of proper justice and, although true answers were probably never to be found, the chance to bring this man to account for all he had done was not to be.
The grisly picture of this bloodied, dying man were splashed across the front pages of every newspaper, from broadsheets to red-tops. This morning’s school children were confronted with a picture of a blood-covered, beaten man with a world seemingly celebrating his death. The media’s desire to publish every shocking and disturbing detail of Gaddafi’s death seems to have overtaken the desire to protect our children from brutal and disturbing images. The very same media outlets who lambaste computer games, film ratings and pre-watershed tv shows for exposing children to disturbing content were cheerfully broadcasting pre-watershed and publishing on their front pages some of the most disturbing images available.
On August 16, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr gave his “Where Do We Go From Here?” speech in Atlanta. In the transcript of the speech there appears this passage:
“I’m concerned about a better world. I’m concerned about justice; I’m concerned about brotherhood; I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction … The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”
While the death of Gaddafi was an inevitable conclusion to this horrific era in Libya’s history, the manner in which he died and the celebration of his death bring concern. The concern is not for the people of Libya, for their journey is just beginning now. After 42 years they can finally begin building a new, better country for themselves.
The concern is for what the media coverage is teaching our children.
How does a parent explain the images children will have seen today? What does a child think when they see celebrations and rejoicing in the death of a man? How can the blood covered corpse of a dictator put on show in a meat locker teach our children anything about justice and truth? How can advocating violence and execution teach children how to make our world a better place? Dr King’s speech was given only two years before Gaddafi came to power, yet his words ring true today in the aftermath of this news.
Surely if this year’s news has taught our children anything it is that violence and murder are the answers to all injustice in the world. In our scramble for being the first with the news and the first with the most controversial picture, we are inadvertently justifying reactionary violence and hatred for the next generation.
“Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again. And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are?
We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel?
You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children.”
– Pablo Casals –