Gregory Hood, American Renaissance, February 18, 2018
On January 17, NBC’s Joe Scarborough tweeted an image of Stalin, with the words, “Free press is the despot’s enemy.”
A few weeks after this weet, several American mainstream media outlets approvingly covered the propaganda efforts of North Korea at the Olympics. The star of this effort was Kim Yo Jong, the sister of the Kim Jong Un. She didn’t say a word to the media but was promptly proclaimed a breakout star by the press, garnering positive reviews from the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and other media outlets which have been merciless towards their own president, Donald J. Trump.
Even the “Democratic People Republic of Korea News,” (@DPRK_News) a satirical Twitter account that posts amusing articles in the style of propaganda blasts, temporarily broke character in to condemn the reporters who were falling so obviously for a propaganda offensive, as political commentators such as Frankl Luntz noticed. (@DPRK_News deleted the tweets after a few hours, the better to continue fooling mainstream media outlets who occasionally quote it as if it is actually from North Korea.)
Contra Joe Scarborough’s sanctimonious tweet above, covering for foreign tyrants is a long tradition for American reporters, especially during the Stalin era. The most notorious example is Walter Duranty of the New York Times, who ran interference for the Soviet government during the purges and famines of the early 1930s.
As he wrote in 1932, as millions were dying from man-made famines:
Enemies and foreign critics can say what they please. Weaklings and despondents at home may groan under the burden, but the youth and strength of the Russian people is essentially at one with the Kremlin’s program, believes it worthwhile and supports it, however hard be the sledding.
Such coverage is a notable contrast to largely anti-Russian tone of most media outlets today.
One of the Beltway Right’s most noteworthy columnists believes he has the explanation. Ben Shapiro is now a regular contributor at National Review and has been promoted by the leftist press as a leading conservative voice. Mr. Shapiro specializes in making incisive observations about the way progressives operate and then shepherding readers back into the world of conventional conservative politics. He displays his usual tactics in “Why the Media Is Fawning Over North Korea.”
Mr. Shapiro starts with some valid criticism of leftist reporters. He points out how journalists have been shrieking for years about how President Donald Trump must never be “normalized,” yet they fell all over themselves to normalize perhaps the most repressive regime on the planet—which recently murdered American Otto Warmbrier. Mr. Shapiro also scores when he notes how the same celebrities and journalists who think it is heroic to show disrespect for the American national anthem were outraged when Vice President Mike Pence refused to stand for the North Korean anthem.
Finally, Mr. Shapiro is absolutely right in decrying how the same reporters and feminists who pretend the Trump Administration is imposing patriarchal society out of The Handmaid’s Tale are suddenly charmed by the North Korean cheering squad. “Now such costumes are cute and funny, and the Stepford-wives smiles pasted on the faces of the victims of an authoritarian state are somehow cause for celebration,” he writes.
Perhaps the most prominent example of this seeming reversal in the use of patriarchal imagery has to be a column from Molly Roberts at the Washington Post. She blamed the White House for sending Vice President Mike Pence and thus ensuring a North Korean propaganda success. Vice President Pence, she wrote, was an “oh-so-manly statesman whose view of his craft makes no room for the opposite sex,” and therefore liberal reporters can’t be totally blamed for their desire to “celebrate a powerful woman,” in this case, Kim Yo Jung. While Molly Roberts admitted the reaction to Kim Yo Jong reeked of pro-female “stereotyping,” and had reservations about “hailing a totalitarian dignitary as a female hero,” she still pinned the blame on the vice president. “Pence’s record on women made his attempt to lord it over one likely to backfire,” she wrote, incoherently. Even when American journalists write about the patriarchy, authoritarianism, and kitsch of a totalitarian foreign regime, they have to blame conservative white men.
What Mr. Shapiro did not point out, but would undoubtedly agree with, is that the media’s blind spot extends to the North Korean regime’s racial policies. As chronicled in the book The Cleanest Race by B.R. Myers, North Korea is bound together by a certain sense of blood loyalty more than any kind of Communist dogma or Juche ideology. The North Korean regime’s efforts to protect the racial and cultural purity of the Korean people is an important part of the government’s legitimacy. According to Mr. Myers, the North Korean regime now admits South Korea has been more successful in pursuing economic growth, but only at the cost of becoming what North Korea portrays as a decadent cultural colony of the United States and its globalist system. Indeed, some white advocates also have sympathy for North Korea for this reason, something you would expect liberal reporters, who are so fond of playing guilt-by-association, to seize upon and use against the regime.
Mr. Shapiro’s explanation for why reporters fell for North Korea’s propaganda efforts is thin. “They have a century-long history of fawning over leftist dictators,” he writes, citing positive coverage for Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong, and Hugo Chavez. “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,” he explains.
But “antipathy to limited-government principles” is an inadequate explanation. Indeed, the American press is extremely negative towards some foreign regimes it accuses of “authoritarianism.” For example, the Washington Post has run a long series of articles and editorials claiming Hungary is becoming an authoritarian state, including:
- “Will Trump let Hungary get away with its attack on academic freedom?”
- “Hungary accused of ‘hatemongering’ in national survey targeting George Soros
- “How the United States can stop Hungary’s descent into authoritarianism”
The New York Times has taken a similar line, with stories and columns including:
- “As West Fears the Rise of Autocrats, Hungary Shows What’s Possible”
- “Hungary’s Authoritarian Descent”
- “Hungary’s Assault On Freedom”
Or consider the American media’s largely hostile treatment of Poland.
Articles and columns about Poland in the New York Times include:
- “The Battle Line For Western Values Runs Through Poland”
- “Open Societies Under Siege”
- “Torches and Hate On The March In Poland”
This last is from the Times Editorial Board as a whole.
The Washington Post takes a similar line on Poland, with its Editorial Board declaring, “Poland’s autocratic counterrevolution draws nearer,” accusing the “right-wing nationalist” government of wanting to “dismantle the core institutions of a free society.” Certainly, the mainstream media did not feel “pure awe” at the “collectivist display” of Poland’s recent mass Independence Day march. Many America media outlets condemned it.
The error Mr. Shapiro makes is typical of conservatives. He thinks the “what” of politics, the policies and system of government, is more important than the “who” of politics, the question of what group benefits. The mainstream media seem quite willing to tolerate authoritarianism and strong government if they are in the service of non-whites. They condemn Russia, Poland, and Hungary, not because they oppose “limited government principles,” but because they see their governments as acting openly in the interests of white populations and traditional Western values.
North Korea won praise because its military adventurism, over-the-top nationalism and frank racial chauvinism ostensibly benefit nonwhites. Hungary, Poland and Russia are far more libertarian than North Korea, and arguably more than some Western countries that regulate political speech, such as Germany. Yet in recent months, these right-leaning governments are receiving worse press than North Korea. If you are viewing this from the perspective of “limited government principles,” this makes no sense. But viewed from the perspective of race and culture, it makes perfect sense. And as long as Beltway Right mouthpieces such as Mr. Shapiro fail to notice this, conservatives will remain unable to combat media bias.