Here I thought that Neil Clark’s apologetic for Soviet-style communism would be a one-off. How wrong I was to underestimate the vileness of dumbworm colonies.
Radley Balko has some advice for “edgy”, “controversial” editorialists:
- If you find you’ve just written a sentence that begins “North Korea, for all its faults…”, just stop writing (The Agitator)
The editorialist in question is Simon Winchester, writing behind a paywall for the Times of London. Here’s the quoted bit:
The State’s founder, Kim Il Sung, claimed that all he wanted for North Korea was to be socialist, and to be left alone. In that regard, the national philosophy of self-reliance known in North Korea as “Juche” is little different from India’s Gandhian version known as “swadeshi”. Just let us get on with it, they said, and without interference, please.
India’s attempt to go it alone failed. So, it seems, has Burma’s. Perhaps inevitably, North Korea’s attempt appears to be tottering. But seeing how South Korea has turned out — its Koreanness utterly submerged in neon, hip-hop and every imaginable American influence, a romantic can allow himself a small measure of melancholy: North Korea, for all its faults, is undeniably still Korea, a place uniquely representative of an ancient and rather remarkable Asian culture. And that, in a world otherwise rendered so bland, is perhaps no bad thing.
I cannot apprehend the level of cultural blindness that leads one to look at Seoul and think “Meh, this might as well be Los Angeles”, but gaze approvingly at Pyongyang. Is this the apotheosis of hipster irony, or simply a fantastic degree of self-absorption? I suspect the latter: This is another example of a rich white Westerner insisting that foreigners lead cheap, nasty, “authentic” lives to assuage the former’s vague sense of cultural guilt.
Writing for the Spectator, Alex Massie piles on:
I’m not sure I’ve read a more revolting pair of paragraphs this year. Just gawp at the casual glibness of waving aside the horrors of a gulag-famine state in this fashion, all so the world-weary “romantic” can be cheered-up by the refreshing local colour that makes North Korea so charmingly unique.
And, as a commenter at Samizdata notes, it’s not as though Winchester’s hideous admiration for North Korea qua Korean culture is in any way accurate either. There’s precious little “authentically” Korean about the Kims’ dreadful totalitarian prison. Most of it is borrowed from the USSR and China, albeit then lacquered in the vulgar Pyongyang style.
Mick Hartley makes the other point: Better a starving slave state, it seems, than this ghastly modern Americanised culture. Quite.
As the last two paragraphs point out, North Korea’s culture isn’t even particularly authentic. Its only attraction, it seems, is that it’s not Westernized (see “vague sense of cultural guilt”, above).
What’s next? A column in the Washington Post praising the bravery and authenticity of Robert Mugabe?