Homer’s Odyssey apart, Sven Lindqvist’s Exterminate All the Brutes: One Man’s Odyssey into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide is probably the greatest travelogue ever written. In it, Lindqvist intertwines his adventures right down through the Maghreb and onward into sub-Sahara Africa, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, with the unspeakable genocides and atrocities the region has suffered in days gone by.
One of the main things that struck me about his book was that Sir Roger Casement, who got his knighthood for exposing the horrors going on in King Leopold’s fiefdom of the Belgian Congo, did not even warrant a cursory mention. For someone who grew up indoctrinated to believe that Roger lifted the lid on King Leopold’s atrocities and that tales of him luxuriating in being buggered by the Congolese and Peruvian jungle natives was so much British black propaganda, that called for further research. As it turned out, though the Belgians were irredeemable savages but not that much worse than any other Europeans in Africa, Casement’s report was mostly opportunistic ammunition to throw at the Kaiser’s Germany via Belgium. Plus, as Casement was in cahoots with the Cadbury chocolate oligarchs right up to his death and last will and testimony, Sir Roger was not a straight shooter by any stretch,
And nor have many others reporting on not dissimilar atrocities in our own time. Although I have previously reviewed Sally Hayden’s screed on milking the Libyanrefugee industry as well as Mary Fitzgerald’s nefarious role in Libya, they are only symptomatic of a much wider problem, best espoused by the forensic work of Londoner Robert Stuart, whose Fabrication in BBC Panorama ‘Saving Syria’s Children blog and related videos shred the BBC’s credibility over alleged chemical gas attacks in Syria.
Although Stuart’s blog is not only well worth perusing but should be core curriculum material for any relevant university course, the pertinent point is that we have eminent British doctors who, with their BBC chums, can not only drive through ISIS checkpoints at will but, as Stuart complained here and here to the BBC, that former British Army Capatin Dr Saleyha Ahsan, who is at the heart of the Syrian controversy, seemed more than happy to chill with Libyan slave traders and Libyan child soldiers and to pose for selfies with their captives. Call me what you will but such reporters without (moral) borders do not belong on the BBC and nor do they even belong at large.
Though the atrocities that Lindqvist concerned himself with happened well over 100 years ago, they not only continue to this very day but propagandists seem happy with that, happy enough at least to take narcissistic selfies with the victims and the perpetrators.
So, when next you get horrified watching Exterminate All the Brutes on Netflix or reading what the Nazis got up to during the War, remember that the so called collateral damage from the wars of the Arab Spring has not ended , that slavery remains widespread in Libya and that taking selfies with those slaves is not yet a sackable offence in this, our civilised world.