Death Sentences

Daniel Kalder spent almost a decade reading the books of history’s worst tyrants so that you wouldn’t have to. Here he selects some of his favorite sentences written by dictators.

Colonel Gaddafi: “Freedom of expression is the right of every natural person, even if a person chooses to express his or her insanity.”  

Many dictators proclaimed their support for freedom of expression. Of course, they were only interested in their own freedom; anyone who deviated from the norms they established would be punished (this is not an attitude restricted to dictators, needless to say). Gaddafi’s articulation of the principle, from his infamous Green Book,  is masterful–especially when read as a statement of personal intent.

Mao Zedong: “It [materialist dialectics] holds that external causes are the condition of change and internal causes are the basis of change, and that external causes become operative through internal causes. In a suitable temperature an egg changes into a chicken, but no temperature can change a stone into a chicken, because each has a different basis.”

This gobbledygook comes from Chairman Mao’s excrementally poor work of “philosophy” On Contradiction. It was reprinted in Quotations from Chairman Mao, the most widely circulated book in history after The Bible.  The mania surrounding Mao’s quotations was such that Chinese newspapers attributed miracles to them. Reciting Mao could even heal the blind, according to state propaganda. I read On Contradiction while suffering from a fever. It made me feel worse.

Saddam Hussein: “Even an animal respects a man’s desire, if it wants to copulate with him.”

Zabiba and the King is a “romance” by the Iraqi dictator which blends political metaphor and discourses on leadership with rape and a soupcon of bestiality. According to Saddam, man-bear sex is a thing in northern Iraq. Fortunately, lady bears understand that the path to a man’s heart is through his stomach and they steal “cheese, nuts” and “even raisins” for their human partners, apparently to make the impending bout of interspecies sex more palatable.

Adolph Hitler: “It is truly miserable to behold how our youth even now is subjected to a fashion madness which helps to reverse the sense of the old saying: “Clothes make the man” into something truly catastrophic.”

In addition to being a genocidal megalomaniac, Hitler was a style guru. In Mein Kampf he strongly denounces “stovepipe trousers” and excessively modest clothes. The rules of Nazi Eye for the Straight Guy (and gal) are: Aryan youth ought to wear revealing garments so that Germany might become one giant meat market where the most beautiful bodies gravitate to one another, thus improving the national stock.

Josef Stalin: “American efficiency is that indomitable force which neither knows nor recognizes obstacles; which with its business-like perseverance brushes aside all obstacles; which continues at a task once started until it is finished, even if it is a minor task; and without which serious constructive work is inconceivable.”

Although Stalin was dedicated to the downfall of capitalism, he also saw some good in the United States– as this excerpt from his Foundations of Leninism shows.  Henry Ford even built a Ford factory in Russia in the 1930s. Stalin’s hope was that by importing “American efficiency”  the USSR would  cut down on “fantastic scheme concocting.” It didn’t work, and fantastic schemes led to ecological catastrophe, mass murder and immeasurable human suffering.

From Esquire Magazine

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