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The Dumbest North Korea/”The Interview” Articles You’ll Read This Week

The competition was heavy, but the results are in: the dumbest article you’ll read this week about North Korea, and Seth Rogen’s ugly stain on his sheets The Interview, was published by the web site Business Insider. Second place goes to the Washington Post. Respect, bros.

Psst… Wanna Buy a Copy of “The Interview?” Only $50…

In a piece of turgid so-called journalism, Business Insider states “demand for The Interview has been shooting up among North Koreans. People are willing to pay almost $50 a copy of the movie…” The web site’s sole source for this information is an anti-Kim propaganda site, Free North Korea Radio, an online radio network run by North Korean defectors.

The article mirrors an Op-Ed piece from the Washington Post, which tells us to “Think of the movie as Chernobyl for the digital age. Just as the nuclear catastrophe in the Soviet Union and the dangerously clumsy efforts to hide it exposed the Kremlin’s leadership as inept and morally bankrupt, overseeing a superpower rusting from the inside, so does The Interview risk eroding the myths, fabrications and bluster that keep the Kim dynasty in power.”

Let’s Break This Down

As for the idea that there is any demand for The Interview, let alone a “shooting demand,” within North Korea, one wonders how people there might even have heard of the film. Aren’t we bombarded with constant tales about how information into the country is so tightly controlled, and of how the internet is available to a tiny handful of super-loyal people unlikely to be a fertile audience for an anti-Kim film full of adolescent jokes? And who’s got fifty bucks laying around in North Korea for a movie that if owned could send you to a labor camp for the rest of your life? Do you think the film is available on Betamax or LaserDisc or whatever 1980s format North Korea uses?

For any news outlet to push out such nonsense, especially sourced only to an obvious propaganda site, is just sad.

As for the Washington Post Op-Ed, really? After decades of economic sanctions and international shunning, it’ll be a stupid bro comedy that brings down the Kim dynasty that has held power since 1945? While we are at it, was it really the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that exposed “the Kremlin’s leadership as inept and morally bankrupt?” Chernobyl happened in 1986; it was three full years later that the Berlin Wall came down, not exactly cause and effect. And the ascension to power of Mikhail Gorbachev also had some connection to the changes in the then-Soviet Union, apart from the nuclear mess.

It is just possible the writer of that Op-Ed really doesn’t know what he is talking about. To be fair, maybe Wikipedia was broken the day he wrote his piece.

So Why Publish Such Transparent Crap?

Why publish such transparent crap? Because people want to believe it is true, and the media gives the people what they will pay for.

In the post-Cold War, post-9/11 world where the U.S. flounders for purpose and staggers like an aged fighter who went into the ring one too many times, Americans want black and white villains. They want a nation-state, ruled by a Bond villain, to fight, and if they can’t have one they’ll allow one to be created. Remember how Saddam was portrayed pre-2003 invasion of Iraq?

North Korea represents little threat to the United States (as with Saddam, or Syria’s Assad, or ISIS for that matter.) It is a small, isolated country. Granted, it has a nuke or two that might work, but no way to deliver them. Pakistan, on the Taliban’s doorstep if not in its lap, has a much more robust nuclear arsenal and missiles with which to deliver it. There are any number of “threshold” nations (Iran and Saudi come to mind) that could field nukes very quickly if desired. The U.S. wants nothing from North Korea — other than to be the evil super villain we all love to hate, the fat kid on the playground that is always fair game to bully. After all, other than a little bluster no one takes seriously, he never fights back.

None of this is to say “fair and balanced” reporting on North Korea need tell us the trains run on time or that people are thrilled to be there. There is no doubt that North Korea is a dictatorship, like many that exist and some that the U.S. supports, which abuses its people. But fear-mongering and outright silly reporting accomplishes nothing but the churning of always-ready America jingoism, and distracts from real global issues at hand.

After all, there was a reason circus freak shows were popular, and the phrase “dog and pony show” has an honored place in our vocabulary.

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Peter Van Buren writes about current events at blog. His book,Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent, is available now from Amazon

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Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren has served with the Foreign Service for over 23 years. He received a Meritorious Honor Award for assistance to Americans following the Hanshin earthquake in Kobe, a Superior Honor Award for helping an American rape victim in Japan, and another award for work in the tsunami relief efforts in Thailand. Previous assignments include Taiwan, Japan, Korea, the UK and Hong Kong. He volunteered for Iraq service and was assigned to ePRT duty 2009-10. His tour extended past the withdrawal of the last combat troops.

Van Buren worked extensively with the military while overseeing evacuation planning in Japan and Korea. This experience included multiple field exercises, plus civil-military work in Seoul, Tokyo, Hawaii, and Sydney with allies from the UK, Australia, and elsewhere. The Marine Corps selected Van Buren to travel to Camp Lejeune in 2006 to participate in a field exercise that included simulated Iraqi conditions. Van Buren spent a year on the Hill in the Department of State’s Congressional Liaison Office.

Van Buren speaks Japanese, Chinese Mandarin, and some Korean (the book’s all in English, don’t worry). Born in New York City, he lives in Virginia with his spouse, two daughters, and a docile Rottweiler.

Though this is his first book, Peter’s commentary has been featured on TomDispatch, Salon, Huffington Post, The Nation, American Conservative Magazine, Mother Jones, Michael Moore.com, Le Monde, Daily Kos, Middle East Online, Guernica and others.

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