The United Nations (UN) has for decades played host to the world’s dictators—no matter how nutty—and their nuttier speeches. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez called George Bush the “devil” in 2006. Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has denied the Holocaust and urged Israel’s destruction, continued in that vein this week at the UN in New York.
But the prize for this week should go to Libya’s Muammar al-Gaddafi, who, in the course of a 98-minute speech, mouthed so many absurdities—he branded the Security Council a “terror council”—that his interpreter collapsed.
Leaders such as Gaddafi are aptly termed demagogues who, as history shows, are fond of long, fiery speeches. But how long will a world that now favours 140-character microblogs tolerate lengthy diatribes? With UN delegates walking out on their speeches this week, demagogues may find audiences out of patience.
As will the UN—which this month declared Cuba’s Fidel Castro a “World Hero of Solidarity”—if it keeps welcoming such demagogues with open arms.