It's not that I respect them - quite the contrary, I'm utterly disgusted by violence and repression of basic liberties - but I find it truly amazing how some people start from a humble background, rise to immense power in time that's not enough for some of us to even get a degree; then they commit unimaginable atrocities and fall only to be committed to history.
Then, in our history books, we try to memorize the number of casualties caused by each major conflict or unscrupulous regime, and quite often don't even realize that each one of these twenty million had a story, had a family, had someone who loved them and probably didn't even get to know what exactly happened to them... which is probably better, as most died horrible deaths.
But anyway, I know that most people appreciate the full extent of the brutality of genocide. What people very rarely take into account is that those same people that committed those unspeakable acts were, at least for some time, considered pretty cool and universally liked. Think about it - you can't get the resources to slaughter millions without having a unique charisma to drag your whole nation into the particular variety of sick shit you happened to be keen on. So, I have here a bunch of people who's dark side you know plenty about, but I want you to meet them before, when they were cool... and I have a picture of each one to help you out.
Of course that's the hot topic this week and I'm going to start with him. He's the easiest one anyway because I don't need to give you any background, you're probably hearing too much about him already. I'll just show you this picture:
It's a widely known fact that this guy only feels secure when he's surrounded by 200 female personal guards from his elite squad - what I didn't know until recently is that when he was younger he actually resembled someone I know who's nickname translates loosely to English as 'the handsome one'. I mean, look at him, he does look like a 70s film star.
This guy killed, starved to death and in various other ways caused the deaths of > 20 million people, but yet, can you tell by this picture?
I mean, WTF? Here he looks as if he's the first hipster, wearing a keffiyeh before Yassir Arafat was even born!
Looking at this one, I can't help but assume that he had the top coiffeurs from all distant corners of the USSR maintaining his trademark moustache in his later years (there probably were a few that refused his generous offer, and he had to have them killed so that no one else has them)
I remember visiting the house next door as a kid - they had Stalin's portrait on the wall. Who's this person - I asked once. That's uncle Stalin, he's a very good man.
A few weeks later I uttered this phrase in the presence of my parents. WHO TOLD YOU THAT they both yelled at the same time. Walls emerged between our yards and I was forbidden ever to set foot in his place again.
As a student I told this story to a friend. Interesting thinking - he concluded - if Stalin, who killed millions, is a very good man, then how good is someone who's killed merely thousands?
My impression is that Lenin never was the attention whore that Stalin became at his height - that's not backed by any serious research but this picture definitely supports it:
You can't really imagine this humble boy to be the beast that Stalin was, can you? All he is guilty of is devoting his life to impose a utopian system that eventually didn't work (and never could've - but reasonable economic theories were - although invented by that time - not very popular) and cost the lives of millions. But hey, it was all driven by good intensions!
It's sometimes tempting to feel sympathetic to Osama Ben Laden, too - he was a fervent follower of a holy (albeit nonsensical and atrocious) cause, a leader of his people, lead a humble lifestyle in hiding - and he killed merely thousands (which, compared to Stalin, makes him a very very good man)!
Further, when you see this picture you're likely to laugh even if you had loved ones killed in 9/11:
I had to include Hitler in this post as he's probably the most well-known mass murderer, and by all means the most systematic one - yet I found it pretty hard to find him cool in any way, except for the widely known and over-exploited fact that he applied (unsuccessfully) to an art academy. But wait a second...
His failure to get admitted to The Academy of Fine Arts of Vienna for two years in a row might be well known - but not so much is the fact that he was sporting a handlebar that will only be matched years later by Salvador Dali's!
For a change, we should take a look at Che Guevarra, who doesn't exactly fit in the category presented so far but is anyway well worth mentioning. First, he is generally accepted to have played for the good guys - the fact that some nations have been struggled ever since to get rid of the same good guys didn't prevent the politically-dissilusioned (and dissoriented) youths of the 90s to revere him.
Another interesting aspect of his case is that he changed images quite wildely:
Here is what he looked like at 21, studying medicine, before the commies poisoned his mind. It took him just one motorcycle trip to turn into the savage revolutionary that we're so used to seeing on teen's t-shirts.
Then, it took just a few successful revolutions to turn him into this:
Luckily for his devotees, he died before being able to become currupt by power and have more of these cleanly shaved pics to dilute his public image that he fought hard to establish. This is no joke, there are some many pictures of Che, you wouldn't believe it - images.google.com gives us 2.8 million pics for "Che Guevara" and merely 1.7 for "Marlon Brando" - who's fucking job was to have pictures of him taken (and hell, was he good at it) and lived twice as long.