Civil Liberties

No Sir, Mr. Mugabe

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The New York Times reports that "Queen Elizabeth II has stripped Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's strongman president for nearly 30 years, of his honorary knighthood as a 'mark of revulsion' at the human rights abuses and 'abject disregard' for democracy over which he has presided." I have a couple of questions about this.

First of all, "honorary knighthood"? Aren't all knighthoods honorary? Does that adjective signify that Mugabe, strictly speaking, did not meet the course requirements? Does it mean he did not slay enough dragons or rescue enough damsels?

Second, Mugabe got this "honorary knighthood" and kept it for 14 years despite illegitimate elections, intimidation of the press, massive larceny and land grabbing, violent repression of homosexuality, and the arbitrary detention, torture, and murder of political opponents, including military assaults on the the Ndebele tribe that killed tens of thousands of civilians. What was the final straw, as far as the queen was concerned?

On Monday Mike Riggs considered the prospects for a coup in Zimbabwe.

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  1. I think some knighthoods are hereditary titles.

  2. The problem was, he was slaying damsels and rescuing dragons. Hell exists for people like him, and if it doesn’t it should.

  3. I guess nighthood has about the same worth as nobel peace prize.

  4. Better late than never. They should give him a nobel and then 14 years later, rescind it. That would show him.

  5. I think some knighthoods are hereditary titles.

    Knighthood cannot be inherited. It is not a lordship.

    The Queen moves slowly and tends to stay way the fuck out of the political realm. She probably deserves some credit here. After all, she normally hands those things out like candy to just about anyone. Rudy Giuliani has one (not a knighthood but the non-Commonwealth version, an OBE).

  6. Episiarch,

    Freddie Mercury is still pulling knighthoods out of his ass?

    If he is the one issuing the swords too, that must be a painful process.

  7. And by the way, now that Prince Harry’s been sent home from Afghanistan, when will Sir Elton John have to deploy?

  8. Staying in power without a legitimate election. Who does he think he is, a Royal?

  9. I believe the difference between non-honorary (i.e. regular) and honorary knighthoods has to do with whether or not one is a British subject.

    Anon

  10. What was the final straw, as far as the queen was concerned?

    Perhaps it was UMass’s recent vote to rescind its honorary degree.

  11. Hey! I just filled out the online paperwork for my very own knighthood! Damsels here I come. Pun intended on last sentence.

  12. A few notes on British honours:

    A proper knighthood can only be awarded to people from countries with the queen as head of state. People from other countries can get honorary knighthoods. Robert Mugabe has one of these – and he’s probably not the only evil dictator to have one. You don’t get to call yourself ‘Sir’ with an honorary knighthood – although as Mugabe has his own country he can probably call himself what he likes.

    There isn’t any such thing as a hereditary knighthood in Britain but a baronet is basically similar.

    Surprisingly few people are stripped of knighthoods – usually for committing criminal offences.

  13. Does he have to return his suit of armour?

  14. Pun intended on last sentence.

    What pun? I don’t get it.

  15. And by the way, now that Prince Harry’s been sent home from Afghanistan, when will Sir Elton John have to deploy?

    Not sure when the band is going in. I hear that Sir Elton is quite popular with the country folk there.

  16. Epi,

    Mostly not, but there are some that were hereditary, though I’m not sure if any are still extant or recognized today.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knighthood

    The resulting hereditary, landed class of mounted elite warriors, the knights, were increasingly seen as the only true soldiers of Europe, hence the exclusive use of miles for them.

    There are traces of the Continental system of hereditary knighthood in British usage, however. There were three hereditary knighthoods in the Kingdom of Ireland

  17. Pun intended on last sentence.

    Wow, a new recursive that I was not familiar with!

  18. Surprisingly few people are stripped of knighthoods – usually for committing criminal offences.

    Then what is the point of the big giant sword and all of that armor?

  19. Then what is the point of the big giant sword and all of that armor?

    You need some flash to cow the peasants, and occasionally execute them.

    Oh wait, this isn’t the Che thread.

  20. when will Sir Elton John have to deploy?

    I think it would be a great military strategy. All those sequins and the giant fucking shoes. Elton would scare the kebab out of them.

  21. Thanks for getting that one Guy.

  22. Well! I guess that means no invitation for Mugabe for Lord and Lady Haden-Guest’s dinner party next week. Too bad.

  23. Perhaps she was waiting until an opportune moment, when the symbolism of rescinding the honor might do some good.

  24. I believe the difference between non-honorary (i.e. regular) and honorary knighthoods has to do with whether or not one is a British subject.

    You mean British subjects who get knighted can be called upon to provide military service to the Queen, mounted on horseback and properly equipped, for 40 days each year? If not, then how are their knighthoods anything other than “honorary”? I mean, they typically get awarded in the Queen’s semiannual *Honours* Lists, don’t they?

  25. Second, Mugabe got this “honorary knighthood” and kept it for 14 years despite illegitimate elections, intimidation of the press, massive larceny and land grabbing, violent repression of homosexuality, and the arbitrary detention, torture, and murder of political opponents, including military assaults on the the Ndebele tribe that killed tens of thousands of civilians. What was the final straw, as far as the queen was concerned?

    As others have noted, you must be a subject of the queen to be a member of an order of chivalry (a citizen of the UK or another Commonwealth realm). You can be an honorary member if you are not a subject.

    The Order of the Bath, of which Mugabe was a member, is not an honor which is in the queen’s personal gift. In other words, she makes appointments and revokes membership solely on the basis of advice from her government. Blame the Labour Party for this one, if you have to blame someone; whatever her flaws, you can’t blame Elizabeth.

  26. TallDave | June 25, 2008, 9:34am | #

    Certainly there must be some middle ground between flowers and terrorists?

    The terrorists were the middle ground between flowers and a totalitarian mass murdering Soviet-backed Communist state. Most on the right just wanted to defend their property rights.

    Helping those that sometimes employed ruthless and immoral tactics might have soiled our lily-white consciences, but cleaner hands often mean dirtier consequences.

  27. I believe the difference between non-honorary (i.e. regular) and honorary knighthoods has to do with whether or not one is a British subject.

    I for one am glad that prick Lancelot was only an honorary Knight.

    Wait a second…

    Does this mean The Queen fucked Mugabe?

    I wonder how she plans on taking that back?

  28. Mugabe, like TallDave, understands that his conscience isn’t the most important thing, and sometimes you have to get your hands dirty. For the greater good.

  29. Blacks can’t self-govern and they shouldn’t be knights at all, except of course those of the Mystic Knights of the Sea variety.

  30. Rudy Giuliani has one (not a knighthood but the non-Commonwealth version, an OBE).

    The guy who brought back Dr Who just got one, too. But isn’t he British? I think he’s Welsh – do they make that distinction??

  31. I think he’s Welsh – do they make that distinction??

    Welsh should be good for a knighthood where you get called “Sir”, which Rudy can’t ask to be called. They may both technically be OBE’s, but you have to be a subject of the Queen, or possibly a British citizen, to be called “Sir”.

  32. The guy who brought back Dr Who just got one, too.

    Argh, I tried that a couple times and found it unwatchable.

  33. I think that Harry said something to the Queen about this. “Dude! I mean, Grammie. I mean, Your Majesty. That wanker Mugabe is a knight!”

  34. Only Brits (and other Realm citizens) are allowed to be called “Sir such and such”. Foreigners who get a knighthood don’t get to use the title. I think that’s the distinction between “honorary” honorary and non-honorary honorary.

  35. Salman Rushdie has been knighted by the Queen in London for his services to literature. Maybe he’s the one who will slay the renegade Bob and bring peace to the realm.

  36. Awesome, I’m a knight!

    Yes, sir.

    So, what does an honorary knight do?

    Honorary, sir? You’re going to Afghanistan next week. Care to meet your steed?

  37. Those of us who have been so blessed by the Queen mock those of you who have not. In fact, we tread upon your insignificance. joe, I sneer at your pretensions–you, “sir”, are no knight.

    That’s what I would say if I had been knighted, anyway.

  38. The redundancy reminds me of McCain’s oft-repeated phrase of “radical Islamist extremists” about which I have yet to see criticism in the media. Beware of redundancies and other sloppy uses of the english language… it is evidence of sloppy thinking. I also remember hearing the phrase “secular atheism” on talk radio……….what other kind is there?

  39. Talldave, try it again. The episodes are hit or miss. Some are little goofy, Doctor Whoish even. Go figure. Also, there is a new doctor since the 2005 season. The Torchwood spinoff series is pretty good. I watched two seasons in one week, so I guess that means I liked it. I think someone here recomended it.

  40. I also remember hearing the phrase “secular atheism” on talk radio

    I have met many an atheist, and a few agnostics who are anything but secular…hell if you don’t want to look that far just read what Akira writes and you will get a clear idea what a non-secular atheist looks like.

  41. I also remember hearing the phrase “secular atheism” on talk radio……….what other kind is there?

    Plus there is that little thing called the Soviet Union.

  42. I also remember hearing the phrase “secular atheism” on talk radio……….what other kind is there?

    Funny that you bring up talk radio…it was the fairness doctrine here in the US that outlawed religious programing on the radio that created the Christian Right in the first place.

  43. I also remember hearing the phrase “secular atheism” on talk radio

    Dunno. Maybe folk who believe in God and not the religious institutions but cannot be arsed coming up with a new word to or looking for the existing word that describe them.

  44. Secular Atheist actually comes from the fact that militant atheists have been known to call themselves Secular when they are anything but…i imagine the talk show guys picked up on that and started calling them secular atheists.

    This is no different then the word “Liberal” which in the US means Leftists and is now considered a nasty pejorative simply because socialists fascists and other statists started calling themselves “liberals” when in fact they are anything but.

  45. Perhaps it was UMass’s recent vote to rescind its honorary degree.

    Smug liberals around the country cringed with that comment. Well done.

  46. Talldave, try it again. The episodes are hit or miss. Some are little goofy

    Yeah, the one I saw was pretty goofy. Maybe I’ll try a re-run or two.

    Mostly I’m just killing time till T:TSCC comes back. Can’t ever see too much of Summer Glau (though she might not be as easy on the eyes after that first season finale).

  47. Libertarian asks: I also remember hearing the phrase “secular atheism” on talk radio……….what other kind is there?

    Unitarians.

    As for the Sir thing, it’s complicated, but at one point they were essentially hereditary. I’m actually only about 5 deaths away from a baronetcy, depending on how the female descent thing works (I’m a bit fuzzy on that one- it might not apply to lower patents). I’m actually still a citizen of a commonwealth nation too!

    Just to put you on alert- if I become the 9th baronet I will expect to be called Sir dpsc.

  48. J sub D,

    I’m the smuggest liberal you know, I assume.

    Why am I supposed to cringe that UMass rescinded Mugabe’s degree? I thought it was a good move when they did that.

  49. Joe,

    You? A smug liberal? C’mon . . . surely you jest.

  50. I’m actually only about 5 deaths away from a baronetcy

    WWMD? Mugabe would do what any self-respecting southern-african despot would do:

    Start singing Jacob Zuma’s “Bring Me My Machine Gun”
    Time to begin the killing! Sorry aunt what’s-her-name!

  51. Why am I supposed to cringe that UMass rescinded Mugabe’s degree? I thought it was a good move when they did that.

    Because he’s yet another murderous “Marxist” thug, and they should have seen that in the first place and never given him the degree in the first place.

  52. Supermike says: WWMD?

    Yeah, I know. But, my Gorey-esque tendencies, and Bourne-like poison skills aside, I think my uncle would have to die for me to become a baronet and I’m fond of him, despite the fact that he is enormously fat. Also, he just got tenure so it would be a real shame if he were to keel over for no reason…

    I guess I’ll have to remain a commoner. Maybe you could start calling me Sir dpsc anyway. I’d appreciate that.

  53. Things were quite a bit better in Zimbabwe at the time it was granted., Super Mike. Heads of state get such honorary degrees all the time. It’s part of the goody basket you get, sort of like invitations to cushy trade conferences.

    This is useful, in that it provides a carrot for remaining in the good graces of the civililzed world community, and creates the opportunity for using the “stick” of publically withdrawing those goodies.

  54. Hell, even Nelson Mandela has finally gotten around to stating his dissatisfaction with his former buddy. This is what we call “progress” in African politics.

  55. Re: are the Welsh British?

    They definitely are, but I do wonder about the designation “British.” It’s my understanding that the British Isles comprise Great Britain (the larger island) and Ireland. Then there is the United Kingdom, comprising England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. So it seems to me that technically, anyone who resides in the British Isles, including Ireland, could be referred to as British, regardless of any cultural distinctions. Thoughts?

    Also, is it correct that there is no legal entity known as “Great Britain?”

  56. The Order of the Bath, of which Mugabe was a member, is not an honor which is in the queen’s personal gift. In other words, she makes appointments and revokes membership solely on the basis of advice from her government. Blame the Labour Party for this one, if you have to blame someone; whatever her flaws, you can’t blame Elizabeth.

    Except that he was awarded it in 1994, when the Conservative Party were in charge.

    I do wonder about the designation “British.” It’s my understanding that the British Isles comprise Great Britain (the larger island) and Ireland. Then there is the United Kingdom, comprising England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. So it seems to me that technically, anyone who resides in the British Isles, including Ireland, could be referred to as British, regardless of any cultural distinctions. Thoughts?

    I wouldn’t try it. Since there isn’t a good adjective from “United Kingdom” (“UK-ian” being horrible), we tend to use “British” instead, on the grounds that the only UK citizens who aren’t from Britain are the Northern Irish, and they either a) love being called “British”, much more than the actual British do (the Protestants) or b) would hate being called “UK-ian” just as much as they hate being called “British”, so it doesn’t matter (the Catholics). Calling an Irishman (from the Republic of Ireland) “British” would be wrong and possibly dangerous.

    I’m actually only about 5 deaths away from a baronetcy, depending on how the female descent thing works (I’m a bit fuzzy on that one- it might not apply to lower patents)

    And, interestingly, all five of those are played by Alec Guinness.

  57. Did any of you see the NYT front page this morning?

    Maybe it’s just my maternity, but I saw this and cried. There are no words sufficient to describe Mugabe’s monstrosity.

    It isn’t my habit to wish death on people, but for him, I make an exception. We’re talking about rescinding honorary degrees and knighthoods? Why aren’t we talking about this man’s assassination? I simply can not fathom why this … thing (he is NOT a man) … has been allowed to live this long. Aren’t there secret international agencies to take care of scum like Mugabe?

  58. ajay, thanks for your response.

    “Calling an Irishman (from the Republic of Ireland) ‘British’ would be wrong and possibly dangerous.”

    Believe me, I wouldn’t dare.

    Is Ireland still regarded as a “British Isle,” anyway? Who or what body is the authority on what land masses are named? Is there an authority?

    Oh, never mind. I know everyone is onto the threads about the 2nd Amendment decision anyway.

  59. Bronwyn: Killing people just because they ought to be killed is a Sysiphean endeavor- that’s just unconscious knowledge. If Mugabe is different from most African leaders it is only because he did an adequate job of running the country for a decade or so. Thus the Sir Robert thing.

  60. The curse of the honorary Knighthood: the last Head of State I remember losing his was Nicolae Andruta Ceausescu, the day before his execution. Here’s hoping..

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