Stop the presses–or, better yet, don’t.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi—the no-longer-as-credible-as-once-hoped son of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi—is claiming his family financed the victorious 2007 campaign of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and now wants that money back. And if the Frenchman doesn’t pay up, the younger Gaddafi says, he’ll take proof of the presumably illegal (and just as presumably actual) funding to the public. Of course, this could just be an effort to strike back at Sarkozy, who last week became the first Western leader to officially close the door on Gaddafi’s regime by recognizing leaders of the Libyan rebellion as the nation’s legitimate representatives. The Gaddafi clan is probably not too happy about France and Britain leading the international push to set up a no-fly zone over Libya—and possibly carry out air strikes—to prevent the regime’s surging forces from fully repressing the uprising. And it’s hard to imagine this could be a further teasing of the dire warning Gaddafis made only last week that it had deep, dark secrets on Sarkozy to dish—perhaps, some day. In other words, it’s a bit difficult the accusation is an attempt to set the record straight by up-standing kind of people known for their defense of truth and honesty.
Now, I’m the kind of cynic who fears just about anything on this earth is possible. However, this item—and its protagonist—inspires sufficient skepticism to raise questions about why it was run as straight news as frequently as it was, and with little attention to its dubious aspects. Most reports on the allegations give them equal footing (and far more space) than the Elysée’s categorical denials–despite Saif al-Islam’s leading role in broadcasting the paranoid and slander PR campaign the Libyan regime has been defensively cranking out while under siege. Indeed, the younger Gaddafi—who once marketed himself as the hope of a democratic future for his country—has become the most visible and ferocious defender of his father’s brutal rule since the uprising began, and has therefore been increasingly treated as a quixotic figure (at best) by most international media–with the exception of the reports on his Sarkozy allegations. And Saif al-Islam’s frequent claims in recent interviews–including that the rebellion was a mere trifle being blown out of proportion by the same foreign “colonial” powers fomenting the unrest–at times rivaled his father’s endless ramblings about the rebels being drug-addled minions of Osama bin Laden. The room for journalistic doubt grows further still in considering Sarkozy’s energetic efforts to mobilize the world to help Gaddafi’s opposition—a role that may explain why the younger Gaddafi got personal by calling Sarkozy a “clown” as well.
Finally, if you’ve got the goods necessary for to land the knock-out punch to your newest worst enemy, why wouldn’t you take that shot immediately by providing the evidence proving your allegations in making them, and proceed with trash talk about the pounding you’ve meted out once your foe is agonizing on the mat? The wider point being, there are at least as many reasons to doubt the Gaddafi charges being made against Sarkozy as there are to suspect they’re a fanciful attempt to attack the French president politically with the aid of an over-excited media. Purists may argue that the allegations are public, might prove true, and if so could have serious impact on Sarkozy’s 2012 re-election hopes if substantiated–making them legitimate news the public should know about. But media that ran the story as such might have also considered the source, the context, and the political battle it arose from, and done a better job of warning readers to ingest it all along with a very large grain of salt.
Which is why all the above doubt-inspiring elements are serving as the motivation for this post—and the boulder-sized nugget of sodium chloride that comes complimentary with its news-ish peg.