Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Worst Dictator Ever, Again

Parade Magazine published its annual survey of the world's worst dictators this week (read my review of last year's installment here). There were no major upsets in the world of tyranny last year. The top three dictators from the year before, Omar al-Bashir (Sudan), Kim Jong-il (North Korea), and Than Shwe (Myanmar) held onto their spots at the top of this dubious fraternity (still no ladies in the top 20). The big mover this year was Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov, who shot up from 15th place into 5th thanks to the massacre his regime engineered at Andijan in May. Iran's Ayatollah Khamane'i shot up from 18 place into ninth, presumably due to saber rattling on the part of Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As the author notes, both Muammar Qaddafi and Pervez Musharraf have moved out of the top ten this year, "not because their conduct has improved but because other dictators have gotten worse."

I thought Hu Jintao was overrated at number four last year, and I still think that he is overrated at number six this year. Of the 20 countries listed in this year's survey, China is the only one that I would even think about living in, and one of the few that I would even consider visiting. China is of course run by a very repressive regime, but they at least give some of their citizens the chance to live a life that would be considered somewhat normal by free world standards. I don't think you can say the same thing for Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, or Iran, three countries supposedly governed by more benign dictatorships than China.

This was definitely a tough year for dictators, no one got any rewards for good behavior this year. There was no mention of Saudi Arabia's small experiment with democracy and the author chose to criticize China for having no minimum wage instead of complimenting them on their continued economic expansion.

I still can't figure out why Parade Magazine devotes one issue a year to ranking the world's worst dictators. My cynical side says its yet another installment in the campaign to inspire irrational fears in the hearts and minds of Americans, which will in turn increase their appetite for "news" stories about things that they should be afraid of. Why else would a magazine that makes Reader's Digest look like The New Yorker spend any time writing about geopolitical affairs?



MDS said...

Parade is a very pro-Republican publication. It's subtle about it, usually only revealing its political tendencies in passing, but it's there. For example, for years I was convinced that the stupid Q&A at the front of each week's Parade went out of its way to write good things about celebrities who favor Republicans and bad things about celebrities who favor Democrats. Then I found out that the writer of that Q&A is the same guy who wrote the ridiculous Hillary Clinton biography that even Sean Hannity said was unfair to her. He goes by Walter Scott in Parade, but his real name is Edward Klein, and he's well known as a Republican hack.

So I don't think there's any doubt that you're correct that it's absurd to put China on this list, but this was probably an attempt to throw a bone to the types of conservatives who still feel their blood pressure begin to rise when they hear the word "Communist."

MDS said...

The Washington Post has more details here

dhodge said...

Thanks for the follow-up article. The more I think about it, the more subversive this feature seems. Wallechinsky (the author) admits in the WaPo interview that he's not a fan of George W. In the story, he uses issues that are usually more important to Democrats than Republicans to criticize the dictators. For example, his most dire charges are almost all related to human rights abuses; including women's rights (Saudi Arabia) and gay rights (Iran). He spends very little time criticizing countries for sponsoring terrorism, developing nuclear weapons, and contributing to regional and international instability.

With respect to China, I don't think he was playing the Communist card, since Castro's Cuba didn't even crack the top ten for the second straight year. Like I said, he took China to task for having no minimum wage, which is basically a Republican wet dream. I think Parade may want to find another writer for this feature next year if they want to maintain their good name in the Republican partisan hack community.

MDS said...

Good points. Perhaps it's not so much that Parade is pro-Republican as that its most visible feature, while ostensibly having nothing to do with politics, is actually written by a partisan hack.