World

Why the Media Is Fawning Over North Korea

North Korean cheerleaders at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea, February 9, 2018. (Reuters photo: Eric Gaillard)
Hatred for Trump and fondness for leftist dictators is a toxic combination.

There’s a red star over the Olympics.

The media couldn’t get enough of Kim Jung Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong. The Washington Post described presence at the Winter Olympics in South Korea this way: “They marveled at her barely-there makeup and her lack of bling. They commented on her plain black outfits and simple purse. They noted the flower-shaped clip that kept her hair back in a no-nonsense style.” The New York Times similarly gushed, “Flashing a sphinx-like smile and without ever speaking in public, Ms. Kim managed to outflank Mr. Trump’s envoy to the Olympics, Vice President Mike Pence, in a game of diplomatic image-making.” Best of all, Kim gave “deadly side-eye” — the words of The Washington Post’s Philip Bump, in a since-deleted tweet — to Pence.

For two years, we’ve heard from the media that we mustn’t “normalize” the Trump administration. Now they’re normalizing a regime with one of the worst human-rights records on the planet, one that murdered American Otto Warmbier, created a modern gulag system for dissidents, and let hundreds of thousands of its own citizens starve to death.

It wasn’t just Kim. It was the North Korean red-festooned, uniformly grinning cheerleading squad. “First stars of the Olympic Games have emerged — North Korea’s cheerleaders,” a Wall Street Journal headline blared. “Clad in coordinated outfits of red with white and blue accents, North Korea’s throng of more than 200 cheerleaders are stealing the spotlight at the 23rd Winter Olympic Games,” ABC News drooled.

Remember when the media suggested that we were just moments away from a revival of The Handmaid’s Tale, the Margaret Atwood dystopia in which women were forced to become red-wearing tools of the state? Now such costumes are cute and funny, and the Stepford-wives smiles pasted on the faces of the victims of an authoritarian regime are somehow cause for celebration.

What in the world would prompt the media to treat North Korea like this?

The most obvious explanation is hatred for the Trump administration. North Korea is being celebrated as a charter member of the international #Resistance — a regime unwilling to sit down for Trump’s militaristic bluster. And so Pence was ripped up and down for his decision to invite Warmbier’s parents to the Olympics, and he received a heavy dose of scorn for his refusal to stand for the United Korean flag — a flag that represents mockery of the notion of peaceful reunification, given that the North Korean regime continues to aim its weaponry at the heart of Seoul. The same folks who praised Colin Kaepernick for kneeling for the American national anthem fulminated against Pence for staying seated to avoid honoring the North Korean regime.

There’s another reason beyond Trump hatred, though, that the media fawned over North Korea this week. They have a century-long history of fawning over leftist dictators. Walter Duranty famously served as Moscow Bureau Chief of the New York Times and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for reporting on the joys of Stalin’s USSR, while fully denying the starvation of millions in the Ukraine. Lincoln Steffens, then of McClure’s, similarly gushed about Stalin: “I have seen the future, and it works,” he said.

Such sycophancy wasn’t limited to the USSR. The media’s early coverage of Mussolini and Hitler was quite flattering. Edgar Snow’s bestselling Red Star over China — perhaps the single most influential work on the rise of Communism in China at the time — featured a full glorification of murderous dictator Mao Zedong. Mao later praised the book as having “merit no less than Great Yu controlling the floods.” Stanley Karnow, who wrote for Time, Life, and the Saturday Evening Post, contributed glowing coverage of Vietnamese Communist dictator Ho Chi Minh for years on end. And, of course, the mainstream media spent years licking Hugo Chávez’s boots.

Mix the pure awe the media feel at collectivist displays with more than a touch of fetishism of the exotic, and then combine that with media antipathy to limited-government principles, and you get a peculiar warmth toward some of the worst people on earth. That warmth was on full display in South Korea. The media may blame Trump for their unpopularity, but their unpopularity preceded Trump. If they keep up with this sort of nonsense, it will long outlast him as well.

READ MORE:

Media Fawn Over Kim Jong-Un’s Sister

The True North of America’s Media Coverage

The Winter Olympics’ Diplomatic Game

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