Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Could You Not Even Try to Understand?

A few days ago, I started writing a piece about the serious surfeit of hyperbole in the British media about the likelihood of war on the Korean Peninsula but, mostly because I had no time for research, it never reached critical mass.

For the record, most of my ire was reserved for this nonsense by Rupert Cornwell in The Independent, a piece characterized by statements about North Korea like "in our world of instant experts and instant explanations, what a delight to discover something genuinely mystifying" and which could not help but conclude with an Inspector O quote, "Where I live, we don't solve cases, for what is a solution in a reality that never resolves itself into anything definable?"

Thereafter, as an aside, it didn't surprise me to learn via this USA Today pish that the American media is no less guilty of mindless hysteria and sensationalism. Indeed, this may be the worst piece of all, with the standout quote (by which I mean most divorced from reality) being;

The March 26 sinking of the South Korea warship Cheonan by a suspected North Korean torpedo, killing all 46 sailors aboard, has grown into a crisis in which the world's two largest militaries — those of the United States and China— are lined up on opposite sides behind the South and North, respectively.
There are more, and I would point you to this cutting criticism from Seoul resident Rob York if you want to follow it up.

But I also had some problems with this piece in the Telegraph. Let's be clear, I have a great deal of time for Aiden Foster-Carter; he is an expert of long standing, and a pithy writer whose style appeals to my British sensibilities. In short, I am not surprised that he is sought out to provide analysis for the British press.

The problem I have is that daily newspapers of substance are still printing this kind of "Who is the madman in Pyongyang?" piece every time something newsworthy happens on the Korean Peninsula. If the Telegraph had asked Aiden Foster-Carter to provide an analysis of the post-Cheonan political landscape, that is what they would have received. Let's reiterate; Aiden Foster-Carter is an expert, with expertise.

But it seems to me that what they wanted, and by God it is mostly what they got, was the standard rehash of the well worn stories we have all heard; stories that characterize Kim Jong Il as a cartoon dictator in the eyes of the reader. It is designed to entertain, not inform. It is eruditely written, but ultimately unhelpful.

Anyway, I was inspired to drag that formerly dead piece out of the recycling after reading here that the Telegraph has also been stealing the pro bono North Korea research of One Free Korea.

And what is my reaction? Well I instinctively recommend following this up and getting the apology deserved, but beyond that, I just shrug. Because this is symptomatic of the kind of slapdash North Korea journalism that just isn't very surprising anymore.

Is it that hard to actually try?

1 comment:

  1. Objectively, of course not....

    Subjectively? Obviously.