The Deep Roots of Libya's Psychology of Violence

By Peterson, Scott | The Christian Science Monitor, April 7, 2011 | Go to article overview

The Deep Roots of Libya's Psychology of Violence


Peterson, Scott, The Christian Science Monitor


For more than four decades, Libya's self-declared 'Brother Leader,' Muammar Qaddafi, has waged a brutal form of psychological warfare against his own people, analysts say. Rebel forces have also been shaped by that violent history.

The video clip ran late at night on Libya's state-run TV with a warning: not suitable for children.

It was a gruesome scene that appeared to show an antigovernment mob beating the dead body of a Col. Muammar Qaddafi loyalist in the rebel bastion of Benghazi.

Such visceral imagery has long defined political discourse in Libya. The roots of extreme violence stretch back to the colonial period under Italian rule. But from the earliest years of his reign, Colonel Qaddafi has employed violence - from assassinating dissidents abroad to killing opponents at home - to sow fear among Libyans and warn against dissent.

Think you know the Middle East? Take our geography quiz.

For more than four decades, the self-declared "Brother Leader" has waged a form of psychological warfare against his own people, analysts say. And taking what he believes to be the lessons from the recent dictator-toppling revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, Qaddafi today continues to use brutal images to undermine the rebellion, which he consider a personal affront to his near-perfect rule that must be tackled with "no mercy."

The rebel forces, shaped likewise by that violent history, know the power of persuasion achieved with propaganda gore, and spread their own version.

"Our country is different from others in the world," says a Libyan professional in Tripoli who could not to be named for security reasons. "Here [people] are welcoming. But if you touch them [aggressively] even a little bit, they will pound you in response."

The rebels hand out their own imagery of government crimes, and say one reason for their fight is because the preponderance of violence comes from a regime that has used violence as a tool of control for nearly 42 years.

IN PHOTOS: Libya conflict

The validity of that view is mounting daily in news reports of regime-inflicted violence, from eyewitness accounts of Libyan soldiers branded traitors and killed by their own side, to apparent evidence of serious abuses found in a burned-out police station west of Tripoli.

The dangers are so widely accepted that even the fear of a vengeful bloodbath by Qaddafi forces, if they routed the rebels weeks ago, was enough to prompt a US- and European-led military intervention.

Decades of brutality

At the same time, government officials distribute their own atrocity videos, of acts carried out by rebel "terrorists" who must be hunted down - in the words of Qaddafi - "alley by alley."

"Libyans have had a very rough time over the last century or so," says George Joffe, a Middle East and North Africa specialist at Cambridge University. "Under the Italian occupation they saw their numbers halved, and they just simply died off like flies in concentration camps during the Italo-Sanussi wars, and that certainly left a mark."

"And ... under the Qaddafi regime," says Mr. Joffe. "there has been an extreme intolerance of any dissidence of any kind at all, and the population has been very profoundly disciplined by the regime itself."

Add the longstanding confrontation between tribes, which provides a further reason for violence - as manifest in the execution of those involved in a 1993 coup - and "you can see where some of this viciousness comes from," notes Joffe.

True believers blame the rebels

For true believers, the government's application of force is justified and always right, and Qaddafi's use of violence is no different from any other government protecting itself from its enemies. Libya's leader has also learned, argue some, lessons from the pro-democracy revolts sweeping the Arab world.

Qaddafi "looks at Tunisia and Egypt, because what made Ben Ali and Mubarak leave? …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Deep Roots of Libya's Psychology of Violence
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.