A Brief History
On June 12, 1987, Emperor Bokassa, former leader of the Central African Empire, was sentenced to death for atrocities during his reign of 13 years. At least he was acquitted of cannibalism! Goofy leaders like Bokassa have appeared throughout history and continue to appear. Here we list 10 such buffoons, people of massive egos, incredible cruelty, sub-standard intellect, or just plain old buffoonery. We are talking about goofs that could just as easily be a cartoon character villain. These guys have pictures of themselves all over their country, statues, too. Sometimes they declare themselves a god or claiming god-like qualities, cover themselves in medals and ridiculous titles, but are insecure enough to stamp out all dissent. (Honorable mention to Vladimir Putin of Russia.)
10. Robert Ford, Toronto.
Okay, Toronto is not a country, although it is Canada’s most populous city and does have more people than several sovereign states, but in any case, how could we omit this buffoon? The mayor of perhaps the most vibrant city in North America, Ford has been caught on video smoking crack cocaine, accused of sexual impropriety and has engaged in drunken buffoonery worthy of a frat brother about to be expelled. Still, despite having his authority legislated to almost nothing, his ego will not allow him to resign and he remains as an embarrassment to Toronto and to Canada.
9. Muammar Qadaffi, Libya.
Dressing himself up in a military uniform with a ton of medals he never earned, apparently no one ever told him the afro hairstyle went out with the 1970’s. Later in life he took to wearing ornate native costume, still looking like a cartoon character. Of course, his idea of “Islamic Socialism” meant that he was the sole authority in his country. One of the goofy titles he gave himself was “Brother Leader.“ Like many buffoons, Muammar suffered an ignominious demise, overthrown, beaten, and having a bayonet shoved up his butt on video for the world to see. (By the way, spell his name any way you want, there are many variations.)
8. Pol Pot, Cambodia.
More like “Crack Pot,” this buffoon was the dictator of Cambodia for only about 3 years, but managed to kill a fourth of the population. Conducting a decades long campaign to overthrow the Cambodian government, Pot (or Saloth Sar, his birth name) brutally murdered intellectuals and government officials on his way to power. Once in total control, Pot had thousands of people burned alive, and emptied the cities of population, moving them to the country to work in agriculture. He got rid of money, made all religion illegal, and persecuted people of Chinese or Vietnamese ethnicity. This psychopath differed from the others listed here by not engaging in any cult worship of himself, as he kept himself more aloof from the masses. In conflict with Viet Nam during his reign, he was overthrown by Viet Nam in 1979 and died in Thailand in 1998 shortly after hearing he would be tried by an international tribunal.
7. Nero, Rome.
(Actual name: Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Augustus Germanicus) Like our other buddies listed here, Nero had his quirks. A persecutor of Christians, he is said to have had Christians burned in his garden to provide illumination at night. Among his many executions was his own mother’s and his first wife‘s, and he poisoned his brother to death, apparently not a family man. He also is suspected of having his brother murdered and conspired with his mother to have his father murdered. His mother was the niece of his father, and Nero married his own step-sister, so perhaps he was a family man after all. His family credentials included having Caligula as an uncle. Nero also had a young man castrated and married him supposedly because he looked like his 2nd wife who had died. Nero is reputed to have “fiddled” (fiddles did not exist) while Rome burned in a fire he is rumored to have set. He was so bad, some religious scholars believe he was the Anti-Christ.
6. Mao Zedong, China.
With pictures of Chairman Mao everywhere in China and his “little red book” with his sayings distributed like a holy book, Mao filled the role of the typical buffoon leader, massive ego and developing a cult around himself. His idiotic policies resulted in millions of people starved and possibly millions more murdered. When he had cats declared bourgeoisie, rats started to overrun China causing cats to once again become part of the proletariat. Mao once threatened the West by saying he could have all 1 billion Chinese jump at the same time and thus throw the world off kilter. Mao is responsible for the death of millions of Chinese, the exact number impossible to calculate, but in the range of Stalin and Hitler or more. Additionally, his agricultural policies as part of The Great Leap Forward (1958-1962) was such a disaster that perhaps 30 million Chinese starved. In the aftermath, Mao came up with another distraction for the people, The Cultural Revolution. This created chaos that cost another million or more Chinese lives, but the distraction worked and Mao stayed in power. Altogether, Mao is possibly responsible for more human death than any person in history.
5. Hitler, Germany.
This weirdo took megalomania to an extreme and saw himself as the savior of Germany. A vegetarian and hypochondriac, he had a possibly incestuous relationship with a cousin and at least 2 of his lovers killed themselves as did his only wife. Besides starting World War II, he was a racist and bigot, had millions of people murdered, and in typical buffoon fashion blamed everyone else for his own blunders. When the war appeared lost he tried his best to have Germany destroyed along with himself, saying the German people were not worthy. Hitler fostered a cult about himself, having officers swear loyalty to him instead of to Germany and replacing the bible with his own book, Mein Kampf.
4. Jean-Bedel Bokassa, Central African Empire.
When he decided to declare himself emperor, he held a coronation that nearly bankrupted his entire country. He ordered school children to wear uniforms produced in a factory that he owned, and massacred those who did not purchase and wear the uniforms. Bokassa banned tom-tom playing during the daytime (what?) and also banned begging. He required citizens to show proof of employment, imprisoning or fining the unemployed. He is said to have carved up an official that attempted a coup de etat with a razor (or knife) and having the man’s back beaten until the spine was smashed. Although he was sentenced to death when France led a coup against him, his sentence was commuted life, then changed again to 20 years, and he was released after only 5 years. After his release, he claimed to be the 13th Apostle (of Christ) and claimed to meet secretly with the Pope. He died 3 years after release.
3. Caligula, Rome.
If the stories told about this Roman emperor are true, he murdered his way onto the throne, put a horse in the Roman senate, and forced the wives of senators into prostitution to raise money for the government. Bloodthirsty and bizarre in the extreme, he is one of those claiming divinity for himself, and would appear in public dressed as various gods. Among a long history of really bad Roman emperors prone to excess, Caligula (actual name Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) is the worst of the worst. Initially quite popular, his 4 year reign was so bad that he was assassinated. He is famous for his sexual perversity (having sex with any married woman he desired) and killing people without trial. In order to raise money he accused rich senators and officials of embezzlement and seize their assets. Another money making scheme was to auction the lives of gladiators, and he is said to have had an entire section of spectators thrown into the arena to be eaten by animals.
2. Idi Amin, Uganda.
A cartoon character to say the least, this goof challenged the Queen of England to a boxing match and is said to have eaten his enemies. He killed untold thousands of his own people and tried to play the big shot when an airliner filled with Israeli citizens was hijacked and flown to Uganda, getting his country and his air force shot up in the process. A raving lunatic detached from reality, Amin spent the last 24 years of his life in exile, escaping the punishment he richly deserved. He even declared himself “Conqueror of the British Empire” for no apparent reason, among his dozens of other self bestowed titles, one more comical than the next. He is believed to have suffered brain damage from syphilis or perhaps just being a nut. Saturday Night Live repeatedly made fun of him.
1. Kim Jong Il, North Korea.
This guy got the job from his father and took the whole cult of personality thing to a new level. Ruling the most closed society on earth, Kim claims to never have to use the bathroom, golfed only once but got a bunch of holes in one, invented the hamburger, and a host of other idiotic things. He even maintained a model city with no residents to show the world what a great place North Korea is. The kind of place it is, is starving, although they have developed nuclear weapons. Looking at a satellite photo of the earth at night shows other countries lit up by electric lights and a starkly dark North Korea. The best thing that can be said about him is that he died before he caused World War III. The worst thing you can say about him is he left his idiot son, Kim Jong-un in charge when he died.
Question for students (and subscribers): Who else would you add to the list? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information on buffoons in politics, please see…
Newell, Gordon R. Rogues, Buffoons & Statesmen: the inside story of Washington’s capital city and the hilarious history of 120 years of state politics. Hangman Press, 1975.