I can hear you thinking “nifty, there is no way that that tweet or article say any of what you say they do”. And, dear reader, I’d agree except that it did in fact inspire the thought. Let’s see how I got there.
A friend texted me almost immediately after posting this, saying “whoa whoa whoa, what about these things that happened with NK while Trump was in office”.
And you know, he’s right. Things *did* happen in/with NK under Trump. But those were concrete things happening with NK, like that student guy who acted the lout while on vacation there and then got tortured and sent back as a vegetable. That was a very concrete Event that happened concerning an American in NK, that we as American citizens were made aware of via the media.
I mean look, I get it. Really I do. NK is not our friend. If they had a nuclear missile, there’s a reasonable fear that they’d attempt to launch it at the United States of America.
Does everyone have to be our friends? I’m not sure. It seems fair for them not to be our friends.
At any rate, it’s no secret that they don’t like us. So it seems extremely prudent for our government to keep an eye on what’s going on in North Korea and do what it can to prevent them from acquiring a nuclear missile that they then subsequently fire in our direction.
Here’s where the NK thing gets weird though. NK holds a spot in our cultural imagination. It’s a boogie-man that gets trotted out at various times, to make some kind of a point about government freedom or … something. It’s not exactly the “socialism” boogieman, that’s Venezuela. No no, NK is something else. Honestly, I’m not sure what that *thing* is, but there NK is regardless, taking up space in our discourse on the semi-reg. Or not, as was the case under Trump.
This is where the lack of “NK as a news item” disappearing under Trump really comes in. Because what we really lacked under the Trump regime (at least, as far as I care to remember it) was the ever-present reminder that NK existed as an existential threat.
We lost that thread of the narrative for a bit. So it’s notable to see this particular type of “man shakes stick at cobra” type of article again. We didn’t have fear-mongering about North Korea for a while, and now it’s back.
Now, I’m not really one to pay much attention to international politics. NK isn’t just international politics though. As I mentioned previously, it holds a place in our culture. It stands for *something*, even though I’m not really sure what that something is, exactly. I’d be curious to know what Virgil, the ethereum developer who’s currently under house arrest for “unspecified crimes” committed while delivering a talk in NK about ethereum, thinks that NK stands for. He chose it as a place to go and give a talk for a reason, even though they told him no. Was that act an act of defiance against the US government? Seems plausible, as they’ve now put him in time-out because of it.
So why do it at all? Why publish this sort of stick-shaking, puff piece on the threat that North Korea represents to all Americans? Our government prides itself on being able to take care of foreign threats without involving us, the American people, in their particular plans or actions. Not a single American citizen is in a position to do anything about NK getting a nuke and pointing it straight at Seattle.
The timing of this piece, the fact that these sorts of pieces disappeared during the Trump regime – these all feel a hell of a lot like clues to how American statecraft works.
It seems rather obvious that the government wants us to be afraid or aware of the existential threat that NK poses. I have a few ideas as to why they would want this, or why they would want to keep it in the public eye. Most of these have to do with China. Maybe NK fear-mongering supports the build-up and maintenance of troops in the seas off the coast of China. This piece was published in Korean paper, it’s most likely that the NK fear-mongering re-assures South Korea of our commitment to their … independence? Or maybe it’s a way of telling other nations that we don’t take threats lightly; we certainly don’t forget them.
Ok so it’s sending a message, probably to Koreans. But something about this *worries* me.
Fear-mongering about a foreign threat via a steady output of media puff pieces is a, and I’m guessing here, pretty old school way of keeping people thinking a certain thing about a topic. I’m not sure what the new-school way is, but I’m not totally sure that it involves oddly non-specific articles in Korean facing media outlets. Our government is using pathways of influence that it’s used for generations to try and get the point across.
It’s exactly this old-school-ish-ness of the article that I find more terrifying than anything else about this situation. This type of outreach simply isn’t as effective at reaching an audience as it was, even as little as five years ago. Assuming there is a broad way to do outreach that isn’t articles in newspapers, it worries me that our statecraft machine hasn’t adopted to the new method yet, that they’re still using an old playbook.
What else have we fallen behind on in the last four years?