Earlier this week, an article was brought to my attention third hand and I was asked for an opinion on it. The issue in question is whether or not the US media is quote unquote "fawning" over North Korea, because of various articles which have been published over the course of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.
Specifically the article is complaining about the US media's "fawning" over a North Korean cheer squad which has been sent to South Korea.
As someone who lives in the part of the world called "Not America", I can't say that I've particularly noticed this. Certainly the ABC, BBC, NPR, Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Xinhua, Pravda, Le Monde... and everywhere else I'm likely to see news from, hasn't been necessarily "fawning".
You get an entirely different impression from this article though:
You would think in a situation like this, all Americans would react with disdain and apprehension, this being a clear act of propaganda, but you would be wrong. While some have done so, there are certainly those celebrating these women as a sign of peace to come.
This is not to suggest that the media has been congratulating the North Korean government. However, anything less than condemnation of this ploy should be considered unacceptable. The headlines should have read, "North Korean Government Sends Cheer Squad to Olympics in Obvious Display of Propaganda." Unfortunately, most are simply not that direct.
- Haley Smith, The Daily Wire, 11th Feb 2018.
In fact, in searching for this I only found two other articles which both hit upon the idea of the media "fawning" over North Korea:
- WALSH: 7 Horrifying Facts About North Korea That Our Fawning Media Seems To Have Forgotten
- Why the Media Is Fawning Over North Korea
I shan't link to them because quite frankly, they aren't well written and to be honest, I'm not all that convinced that the media in general is displaying that much obsequiousness here.
This in my opinion, isn't "fawning". I know what "fawning" looks like. And how do I know what proper fawning looks like? Because history is a really really great teacher.
First, we need to take a trip back in time.
A weird looking lawyer by the name of Abraham Lincoln, accepted the Republican Party's nomination for the state of Illinois to be a US senator. Being 1858 though, the freight train of history was hurtling towards America and President James Buchanan wasn't really doing a lot to try and slow it down before it crashed into the worst possible giant mess.
During one of the debates in Springfield, Lincoln gave a terrible forewarning of the inevitbailty of what was to come:
A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.
- Abraham Lincoln, August 1858.
The freight train of history arrived, struck the walls of division and for the next four years, America became a train wreck of a nation and within four years, as many as 2.4 million people lay dead and strewn across the continent.
What do you do about that? How do you rebuild a nation which has torn itself in two? What happens when so much blood has been shed that the rivers run crimson?
You look forward to a time when it's all over. That's what.
As early as December of 1863, Lincoln was already plotting and gaming the best way out. As a poltician, he knew what it it was like to have enemies. As a lawyer, he knew what it it was like to have adversaries. He also would have known what it was like to look forward to the end of a case and work out what the best method of arbitration was.
Lincoln's plan for healing the nation was relatively simple. It had as its basic premise that if you go on hating your enemies, then things are generally not going to be all that fun.
Not only were things not going to be fun but your enemies were very likely to want to hate you back because of the things that you'd done to them.
Probably as a result of General Sherman's "March To The Sea" in which the armies of the North swept through the South and burned everything as they went, one of the points of Lincoln's plan was to forgive all the debts of states as they were restored to the Union and reseated in Congress. This made sense because after having burned everything, thus destroying not only the means of livelihood of many people but the means by which they might pay back reparations, there was no possible way that making people who had lost the war pay for it was going to breed anything other than complete contempt.
If that sounds dumb, remember that even to this day, the people of Atlanta, Georgia, still remember the burning of their city. Asking them to pay reparations after their city had been on fire, would have been the height of stupidity.
In addition to that, one of Lincoln's requirements was that people would take an oath of non-violence and set aside their desire to take up arms in revenge for what had been done to them. It would make sense that you might demand say three-quarters or even half of the population of the South to agree to this but again, Lincoln knew that that was a mostly impossible demand and so he asked for just ten percent.
Normally if you were running a thing and you had just ten percent of people agree with you, then it's logical to conclude that you were doing an utterly hopeless and woeful job. The thing to remember though is that just a few weeks before this, the people from whom Lincoln was asking this of were literally at war with each other. In that light, ten percent approval of a thing starts to look decidedly sane and smart because it says that Lincoln was looking for any sliver of goodwill to work with.
You're probably wondering what on earth that Lincoln's plan for reconstructing the United States has to do with North Korea. The fact is that North Korea is kind of a strange enemy in that it has spent the last 70 years behind a semi self imposed wall of fear. I don't think that the media is even remotely fawning over the North Korean regime by reporting the odd story here and there about an odd cheer squad that they've sent to the Winter Olympics across the border. I don't think that the media is fawning over Kim Jong-Un's sister who has been sent as a delegate, either. No, the media is reporting on a weird thing because it is a weird thing.
Although even if the media had been fawning over North Korea, although I fail to see what that would look like, is that necessarily a bad thing? To use two bad metaphors, if tensions are running hot then you need things to cool off a bit, and if there has been a cold stand off then warming up a bit to your enemy so that you're at least on speaking terms, can only be a good thing. Remember, Richard Nixon toured China, Nikita Kruschev toured America and went to Disneyland. People might forget that although the world came dangerously close to full-on nuclear war in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, one of the greatest inadvertant diplomats for peace was none other than Walt Disney who refused to refer to Kruschev as an enemy because it was pointless.
The eventual task of reunifying Korea again will be in all likelihood, insanely difficult. It will probably take a period of years to sort out and the job is made all the more difficult by the fact that unlike knitting together the two Germanys in the 1990s or knitting together the United States in the 1860s, there are more impoverished people living in North Korea and the disparity between the two parts that will be knitted back together is greater than the other two cases.
If that means doing a small but of fawning in the media, in an entirely different country, over a piece of culture, then that seems like a worthwhile but exceptionally small price to pay. If the two Koreas are eventually knitted back together, there will have to be more than just token fawning going on but forgiveness and formal oaths of non-violence and the setting aside of the desire to take up arms against a former enemy.
If you want to see what an exaggerated display of affection looks like, then Lincoln's plan for forgiveness and reconciliation was it. Genuine affection would mean taking active steps in trying to improve the welfare and we'll being of your enemy. Do I want to see proper fawning over North Korea? Absolutely. Would I like to see the lives of people improve? Yes please. The thing is that practical examples of affection always need to follow dialogue; that means being nice to someone even if it hurts.
If that sounds radical and weird, remember that Lincoln's plan was also so radical and weird that John Wilkes Booth hated it so much that he shot Lincoln in the head at point blank range during a production of "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theatre. Andrew Johnson who followed, sort of only half carried out the plan and the ramifications were still being felt for the next century but deep down, I think we all know that a wee bit of fawning and the desire not to seek reparations from an old enemy would have been the right thing to do; and John Wilkes Booth was an idiot.
Remember, "fawning" is a deliberate and exaggerated display of flattery or affection. That has to be a better idea than doing what we've already been doing for the past 70 years and yelling at someone from behind a sofa. Fawning? Bring it on I say. Yes, even if that does mean the media reporting on a weird thing because it is a weird thing.