President Barack Obama has compared him to George Washington. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews heralded him as “perhaps the world’s greatest hero.”
The Las Vegas Guardian Express dispensed with the “perhaps,” declaring in headline: “Nelson Mandela World’s Greatest Hero.”
Others have christened him “the greatest man of the 20th century.” Many revere him as “the savior” of South Africa. School children worldwide read books, write essays and sing songs about him, and watch movies extolling his virtues and heroic accomplishments.
As we write, the 94-year-old Mandela has been hovering near death for days, the subject of hourly news updates and the beneficiary of tearful prayer vigils worldwide. With the announcement of his death, the eulogies will soon be sounding and in his honor innumerable streets, highways, schools, stadiums, parks, and public buildings will be renamed.
For the past three decades, Nelson Mandela has been swathed in global media adulation unlike any other human being in history. No pope, president, king, war hero, movie star, or rock star can boast of having been the beneficiary of such undiluted, unalloyed, and unbroken acclaim. It is common for totalitarian dictators to employ their state-controlled media to create a worshipful cult of personality about themselves — Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Fidel Castro, Kim Il-sung — but outside of their countries there are usually journalists and media organs that will report their crimes, failings, and misdeeds. Mandela has not had to worry about dirty laundry; he is the first individual to achieve a near-universal cult of personality on the global level, thanks entirely to the unparalleled glorification campaign bestowed upon him by the major media in the United States and Europe.
As we reported in 1990 regarding his world tour that year, following his release from prison, his media saturation coverage (and infatuation coverage) was unprecedented — and has not been matched by anyone since. He has received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the United States, the Lenin Peace Prize from the Soviet Union, and numerous other honors from countries, universities, and institutions.
What is it about Nelson Mandela the man that justifies this global adoration? To be sure, his mien contributes; he is tall, dignified, and statesman-like in appearance, gracious in public speech, and grandfatherly in tone. He does not exude the radical, self-promotional hucksterism of, say, Al Sharpton, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, or the ANC’s current head, Jacob Zuma. And, yes, he served many years in prison, but not merely for opposing injustice and racism, as his legions of hagiographers would have us believe. He was a leader of the African National Congress (ANC), an organization designated a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department and many governments and intelligence agencies. He was also a co-founder of the ANC’s Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), a militant terrorist group within a terrorist group. He was tried and convicted for his terrorist and subversive activities within those organizations (more on which in a moment).
Click here to read the entire article and view related video.
Photos of Nelson Mandela in this article: AP Images