Gaddafi's death: pick of the comment

A selection of commentary at home and abroad.

New York Times

An editorial expresses discomfort at the way the dictator died, and urges the National Transitional Council to include former Gaddafi loyalists in the new Libya.

Libyans must resist further reprisals and channel their passion into building a united, free and productive country. If not, they risk even more chaos and suffering.

Guardian

Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of London-based pan-Arab newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, outlines the many challenges that lie ahead -- including conflict between Islamists and secular liberals, communication problems across Libya's vast expanse, and continuing tribal loyalty to Gaddafi.

Another challenge will be how to achieve and maintain independence from foreign interference, especially given Nato's involvement in the uprising. Libya's oil reserves are the largest in Africa, and a tempting prize for energy-hungry world powers. Furthermore, Libya has no history of democracy and lacks even the most embryonic social institutions to administer such a system. This is not to say that it cannot meet the challenge, but simply that this is nation-building from scratch.

The National

An editorial stresses the importance of reconciliation with tribes that remained loyal to Gaddafi until the end.

The purges after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime swelled the ranks of insurgents on the battlefield and crippled the civilian government. That would be a similar disaster in Libya, where major tribes remained loyal to the regime. The National Transition Council has made the right statements about reconciliation and now it needs to follow through.

Daily Telegraph

Regime change is the easy bit, says Peter Oborne -- now is the moment of truth, with different militia groups jostling to own the revolution. He warns that Libya's abundance of weaponry is a serious concern.

Already the armaments stockpiled by Gaddafi are pouring into neighbouring countries through Libya's porous and unpoliced borders, a potent menace in a region already destabilised by popular revolutions and the rise of al-Qaeda through the Maghreb.

Independent

Robert Fisk highlights the hypocrisy of the west's changing attitudes to Gaddadi.

So he is gone, the colonel who was once beloved of the Foreign Office (after the coup against King Idris), then guarded as a "safe pair of hands", then loathed because he sent weapons to the IRA, then loved, etc, etc. Can you blame the man for thinking he was a good guy?

Al-Jazeera

Cambridge lecturer Tarak Barkawi places Libya's next chapter in the context of post-colonialism and ongoing conflict.

Like Iraq, Libya was assembled through histories of empire and its aftermath. It has been torn apart by war. Now it has lost the one thing that united much of the country: hatred of Colonel Gaddafi and his regime. Libyans are left to face the legacy of his mastery of the art of divide and rule.

 

 

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Hyper-partisan Corbynite websites show how the left can beat the tabloids online

If I were a young Tory looking forward to a long career, I’d be worried.

Despite their best efforts during the election campaign, the Sun, Daily Mail, Telegraph and Express failed to convince voters to give Theresa May a majority, let alone the landslide she craved. Instead, Labour made inroads thanks partly to increased turnout among younger voters who prefer to get their news online and from social networks.

The centre of power in the media has been shifting to the web for years, but during the election we saw just how well a crop of hyper-partisan left-wing news sites are using social media to gain the kind of influence once restricted to the tabloid press.

Writers for sites such as the Canary or Evolve Politics see themselves as activists as much as journalists. That frees them to spin news stories in a way that is highly attuned to the dynamics of social media, provoking strong emotions and allowing them to address their audience like a friend down the pub “telling it how it really is”.

People on Facebook or Twitter use news to tell their friends and the wider world who they are and what they believe in. Sharing the Canary story “Theresa May is trying to override parliamentary democracy to cling to power. But no one’s fooled” is a far more effective signal that you don’t like the Tory government than posting a dry headline about the cancellation of the 2018 Queen’s Speech.

This has long-term implications for the right’s ability to get its message out. Research by BuzzFeed has found that pro-Conservative stories were barely shared during the election campaign. It appears the “shy Tory” factor that skewed opinion polling in previous elections lives on, influencing what people are prepared to post online. If I were a young Tory looking forward to a long career, I’d be worried.

Distorted reality

Television was once the press’s greatest enemy. But its “newspaper reviews” now offer print titles a safe space in which they are treated with a level of respect out of all proportion to their shrinking readership. Surely this must change soon? After all, the Independent sometimes gets a slot (despite having ceased print publication last year) for its digital front page. How is it fair to exclude BuzzFeed News – an organisation that invests in reporting and investigations – and include the Daily Express, with its less-than-prescient weather predictions?

Another problem became apparent during the election. Because the press is so dominated by the right, coverage from the supposedly impartial broadcasters was skewed, as presenters and guests parroted headlines and front-page stories from partisan newspapers. Already, some political programmes, such as BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show, have experimented with including news from outside Fleet Street. One of the newspaper industry’s most reliable allies is looking for new friends.

Alternative facts

The rise of sites spreading the left-wing gospel across Facebook may be good for Labour but that doesn’t mean it’s good for the public. This was illustrated on 16 June in a post by a relatively new entrant called the Skwawkbox, which claimed that a government “D-notice” – now called a DSMA-notice – might be in place restricting news organisations from reporting on the number of casualties from the Grenfell Tower fire.

The claim was untrue and eventually an update was added to the post, but not before it was widely shared. The man behind the blog (who gives his name in interviews only as “Steve”) insisted that because he had included a couple of caveats, including the word “if” in the text of his article, he was justified in spreading an unsubstantiated rumour. Replacing an irresponsible right-wing tabloid culture in print with equally negligent left-wing news sites online doesn’t feel much like progress.

Blood and bias

Narratives about the corrupt, lying mainstream media (the “MSM” for short) have become more prevalent during the election, and it’s clear they often hit a nerve.

On 17 June, a protest over Theresa May’s deal with the DUP and the Grenfell Tower fire made its way past BBC Broadcasting House, where a small group stopped to chant: “Blood, blood, blood on your hands!” Hours later, in the shadow of the burned-out tower, I heard a young woman complain loudly to her friends about money being used to fly BBC news helicopters when it could have gone to displaced victims.

The BBC cites the accusations of bias it receives from both ends of the political spectrum as evidence that it is resolutely centrist. But while many of its greatest critics would miss the BBC if it goes, the corporation could do a better job of convincing people why it’s worth keeping around.

Grenfell grievances

Early reports of the attack on a Muslim crowd in Finsbury Park on 19 June exhibited a predictably depressing double standard. The perpetrator was a “lone wolf”, and the Mail identified him as “clean-shaven”: phrases it is hard to imagine being used about an Islamist. Yet the media don’t just demonise Muslims in its reporting; they also marginalise them. Coverage of Grenfell contained plenty of references to the churches in this part of west London and its historic black community. Yet Muslims and the relief work carried out by local mosques received comparatively little coverage. Community issues such as Islam’s requirement that the dead are buried swiftly were largely ignored, even though a large number of those killed or made homeless by the fire were Muslim.

I suspect this may have something to do with outdated ideas of what north Kensington is like. But it also must reflect the reality that just 0.4 per cent of UK journalists are Muslim, according to a study by City University in London. The lack of diversity in the media isn’t just a moral issue; it’s one that affects our ability to tell the full story.

This article first appeared in the 22 June 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The zombie PM

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