New Republic: The Pop Culture Tastes of Dictators
One of the most prurient aspects of reading the personal emails written to and by Bashar Assad that were obtained by The Guardian has been the chance to observe the dictator’s strange shopping habits on iTunes. Apparently, the Syrian dictator is a big fan of contemporary party music. But Bashar is far from the first dictator to have a strange relationship with pop culture. From Frank Sinatra to LMFAO, TNR takes a look back at the odd cultural tastes of some of history’s most ruthless rulers.
Bashar al Assad. The Syrian dictator’s recent purchases on iTunes include music by LMFAO, Chris Brown, Right Said Fred, and New Order. Of course, picturing Assad dancing to “I’m Sexy and I Know It” is an image that most of us would prefer to block from our minds.
Saddam Hussein. The palaces of Saddam Hussein were found to have been adorned with fantasy art that included depictions of “naked blonde maidens menaced by dragons” and “warriors wrestling serpents.” It seems the former dictator had an aesthetic taste that was closer to that of an adolescent boy than that of a head of state.
Kim Jong-il. The diminutive and departed former leader was a noted film lover, with over 20,000 DVDs in his personal collection. His taste in movies can hardly be considered highbrow, however, with titles such as Rambo and Friday the 13th listed amongst his favorites. Not just content to watch movies, he once kidnapped a top South Korean film director to make a bizarre version of Godzilla entitled Pulgasari.
Hugo Chavez. Chavez, perhaps seeking to solidify his populist image, released an album of patriotic Venezuelan folk songs featuring himself on lead vocals in 2007.
Moammar Gadhafi. Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi has become the poster boy for eccentric dictators. He had a major crush on U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a crew of exclusively female (and exclusively virginal) bodyguards — and he also loved American musicians. He paid top dollar for musicians such as Beyonce, Mariah Carey, and Lionel Richie to perform private concerts for his family.
Slobodan Milosevic. The Serbian war criminal was a noted admirer of Disney and Frank Sinatra songs, though we’re guessing that the man who spent his later life trying to expand Serbia’s territory by military force preferred “My Way” over “It’s a Small World.”