Friday, 5 April 2013

Kim Jong-un - face of a 'global threat'

It's been a week of political and media froth over the 'looming threat' from North Korea.

In its main report, the BBC's Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman said of the country's leader:
"Kim Jong-un, a man with a more than passing resemblance to a haggis, after all". 
From "spiritual heir to Stalin" to "crackpot regime", this and other standard jibes are what passes for balanced, impartial and informed journalism from the BBC's flagship and other news outlets.

Imagine such personalised and pejorative remarks being used about Cameron, Blair, Obama, Netanyahu or any Western state.

Newsnight's skewed film report from Robin Denselow, dramatically shaking the small locked gates of North Korea's London embassy, had ex-US ambassador Nicholas Burns and an array of Western-minded policy analysts warning of Pyongyang's 'imminent nuclear threat', numbering its 'international violations' and probing 'China's failure' in bringing this "unpredictable" state to heel.

Paxman's package also had a placatory interview with a North Korean defector, a non-contested message from David Cameron on the case for keeping Trident at Faslane, a Tory MP using the North Korean 'threat' to defend Trident and a token, moderate counter-view from a Lib Dem MP.

Elsewhere, some of that liberal questioning has been more scathing of Cameron's postures. As Simon Jenkins noted in the Guardian:
"What is most frightening about the west's response to Kim Jong-un is the scale of the exaggeration. Cameron awards him the global reach of a superpower. We might almost ask which side is now impoverishing its people to pay for glamour defences, which is concocting blood-curling scenarios to justify them and which conjures up enemies to keep its people in thrall to its defence and security chiefs and their demands. Is it only North Korea that feels it must periodically flex its muscles and peddle a ridiculous view of the balance of world power? North Korea constitutes no conceivable threat to the British state, or to the US and its allies."
But what's never adequately stated or explored here, for all its reasonable argument, is the massively differing treatment of demonising states like North Korea as opposed to merely criticising the West.

Thus, Jenkins and others are ever ready to denounce the "megalomaniac" tendencies of Kim Jong-un in noting the expedient motives of those who benefit from his pronouncements:
"The lunacies of a Korean dictator halfway round the world is music to the ears of defence lobbyists, arms manufacturers, security consultants, generals and admirals."
But while these dark exploitations by the warmongering lobbies are implicitly criticised by writers like Jenkins, they are never condemned as "lunacies", a language of demonisation still specially reserved for the 'real crazies' like Kim Jong-un. 

And what of the lunacies of a US president and his Nato allies who have actually bombed Libya to bits, murdered thousands of innocents in drone strikes in Pakistan and continued a murderous war on Afghanistan? What of the megalomaniac lunatics before them, Bush and Blair, responsible for a million deaths and mass carnage in Iraq?

Where, more specifically, in such liberal critiques do we see any more than passive, nominal comment on such media bias and imbalance, that which, like Paxman on Newsnight, can only speak of the 'concerned' West and their 'crackpot' foes?

Rather than crude put-downs, here's an exercise which Paxman and other liberal-establishment presenters might more usefully put their minds to: a comparative table of the world's most dangerous states since 1945 based on an aggregation of the following:

1. Most war-waging
2. Most war-committed deaths
3. Most nuclear-threatening
4. Most regionally-destabilising 
5. Most coup-promoting
6. Most propaganda-effective

A strongly suggested top 3:

United States

One can argue over who might complete a top 10. But, for all its issues, 'haggis-looking' leaders and all, North Korea isn't even remotely on the page. 


Keith Flint said...

John, my son (who is studying Politics and International Relations at Reading University) pointed me to this blog.

I hope some people at least are reading your stuff and beginning to question the establishment view. All I can say personally is - I agree.

Best wishes, Keith

John Hilley said...

Many thanks for your kind comment, Keith.

Yes, besides the outright propaganda of Britain's state media, it's often hard to find anything in liberal output that seriously challenges the establishment line.

And good luck to John - I know, having also studied these, how academia and many of its prescribed texts can, likewise, encourage safe and moderated enquiry.