Peep Show – Series 4, Episode 1 ‘Sophie’s Parents’ (2007)
Sophie: [Picking out a T-shirt with Mao Tze-tung on it] What about this?
Mark: You do know who that is, don’t you?
Sophie: Yeah, it’s Chairman Mao, isn’t it?
Mark: Exactly, the man was responsible for the deaths of 60 million people. I don’t want him on my chest.
Sophie: 60 million, that’s more than Stalin, isn’t it?
Mark: It’s not a competition, Soph. Although if it was, Mao would probably win.
As Mark quite rightly states, it is not a competition and dictators shouldn’t really be celebrated, however there is something strangely fascinating about a deranged despot. A key component of the dictator’s résumé is the development of a cult of personality; creating a heroic and respected public image to add legitimacy and justification to their method of rule. In many ways this propaganda allows the tyrant to take on the position of a deity of sorts; this puts them in a position above politics, and above the law. This creates an environment in which genocides, extreme human rights abuses and state-sponsored terrorism is almost a forgone conclusion. This “personality” which paves the way for such abuses of power, remains present long after their crimes, but in the sense of outside interest in what, how and why these leaders acted in the way that they did, and in some cases, continue to do so. This is not a competition more a gallery of some of the most evil people in history, their raving lunacy and distorted world views.
Let’s begin with…
Leader of the Khmer Rouge, the communist party of Cambodia, Pol Pot envisioned a world where his native Cambodia could just start again. In what has been termed the “Year Zero” campaign, Pot managed to kill-off up to a 1/5 of his own population. The Khmer Rouge were ruthless, and there are some true horror stories of their systematic massacring. Torture, murder, and enforced famine came to represent the rule of this communist party. In trying to create an agrarian society, the regime murdered anyone who had the potential to undermine it; this included intellectuals. Now as we all know, if you wear glasses you are a genius (remember this was before Gok Wan) therefore Pol Pot’s regime became famous for seeking out the spectacle wearers in society and murdering them (so much for not hitting a guy with glasses); but surely you’d just take them off!
‘Supreme Leader’ of North Korea, Kim Jong-Il is a man of many talents; composer of operas and a part-time puppet movie star. Yet he is still more concerned with foreign policy and further development of nuclear weaponry than feeding his starving people. Since the famine of the 90’s North Korea rely on food aid from places such as the USA and South Korea; yet are willing to attack their southern neighbour, as demonstrated by last year’s shelling exercise off the coast of South Korea. With well into the millions dead from this state-created famine, Kim will find it difficult to pull too many strings on the international stage , regardless of his fledgling nuclear capability. Who know’s what the future holds for this playboy leader with his increasing belligerence and inability to care for his population, how long before his strings are cut?
‘Papa Doc’, François Duvalier
Despite somewhat resembling an older Carlton Banks, Duvalier is an example of a classic dictator with an exotic twist. Fluent in internal repression and murder of opposition, ‘Papa Doc’ was also responsible for bringing back the art of voodoo. Not content with simply jabbing needles into a doll-like effigy of his Haitian population or dangling it above a naked flame, he also ran a ruthless militia that murdered up to an approximate 60,000 Haitians. Him and his son, ‘Baby Doc’ (how cute…) are widely recognized as the reason behind Haiti’s vast loss of it’s academics and intellectuals who fled the country after realizing the corruption of the regime.
Not only guilty of having the most unattractive name (with a face to match), not only in dictatorial history, but in general, he also has the blood of thousands of Croats, Slovenes and Bosnian Muslims on his hands, after the conflicts in the Balkans over the 90s. When most the Yugoslav People’s Army refused to fight in his war, he enlisted the help of thugs, hooligans and criminals in the attempt to keep Yugoslavia together in a particularly brutish way. He essentially operated the conflict like a mafia boss. His sanctioning of genocide, war crimes and forced deportation and movement of people in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia meant he was at one stage the most wanted man in Europe.
Despotic leader of Libya who blamed the recent protests on Al Qaeda drugging his population has been a known tyrant for years. After the PANAM flight 103 came down over Lockerbie, Gaddafi became an enemy of the west for sponsoring terrorism. Yet relations improved with several trade agreements (largely weapons) during the Tony Blair premiership. The recent conflict in Libya has thrust him back into the spotlight; claiming that he can’t leave because he doesn’t have an official title, he has been bombing and shooting his way through the anti-government rebels. He is currently adding to his war crime CV after rumours that he is using rape as a weapon of war begins circulating.
Invasion, torture, rape, chemical weapons and non-existent nuclear weapons; Hussein’s rule had it all. Allied with the US, initially against Iran, he then proceeded to invade Kuwait, where he committed terrible war crimes and initiated the first Gulf War. Not content on just killing Kuwaitis, he began a programme of gassing Kurds within his own nation. Once the strongest power in the Middle East, Hussein saw it transform into a nation ravaged by war. He consistently went against US sanctions, which led to the spread of famine and disease leading to a vast infant mortality rate. Hussein remains the only dictator to have lived in a hole.
And now the Big Dogs…
The Chairman, whose cultural revolution and “great leap forward” removed any bourgeoisie elements in society, characterizes Mao’s ruthless human rights record. As many as 50 million people were killed under Mao’s regime which ran from the mid 50s to the mid 70s. The People’s Republic, was ironically not a great place or time for “the people” as millions starved in the largest famine in human history and countless others disappeared. Modelling his nation industrialization on Stalin’s Russia, he also modeled his sheer disregard for human life in his own country on the despotic Russian.
Whether it was the mass movement of ethnic minorities among Russia’s territory or the purging of his own people, Stalin is widely considered to be the most ruthless dictator in history.Anything between 20 and 60 million people were killed during his tyrannical rule of the USSR. Whether or not he killed more or less than Mao, he started the trend for Communist repression. Paranoid, Stalin would murder or detain anyone who bad-mouthed him. If opponents weren’t murdered they were sent to labour camps, slave labour in his Gulags allowed his prolific industrialization process to materialize. Rumour has it that on his death bed, those around were too scared to proclaim his death in-case he was to wake up; the cult of fear around the man, was incredible. Startling really, when you consider he looks a bit like Mario.
And last but not least…
Although he didn’t kill as many as Stalin or Mao, he is widely considered the most evil man in history for the level of hatred present in his war crimes; in which he systematically slaughtered Slavs, Blacks, Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, among other minorities. Single-handedly ruining the reputation of moustache wearers everywhere, he also started World War II and ran his nation and occupied nations (in the war years) through the Gestapo which sent Jews and the like to concentration camps. Upon the failure of his Aryan race in the second world war he was pressured into finding a solution, that solution was genocide. He may not have killed the most people, but the nature, and hatred involved in his crimes make him one of the most evil men in history. Plus it’s rumoured he had a urine fetish. Dirty bastard.
There are too many maniacs in history and in the present day to list them all; take the Bahraini princes or Saudi Arabian kings who suppress women and rule their country medievally with little sight of democracy. Fascism and Communism have also thrown up their fair share including Mussolini, Franco, Castro, Tito or Kim Il-Sung. As with all these leaders, despite their horrendous crimes they remain a source of intrigue and fascination for many.
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