Friday, March 04, 2005
The joy of North Korea: Yesterday's Los Angeles Times had a front page story based on a couple of conversations a Times reporter had with a North Korean "businessman" in China.
When I heard radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt reading the article as I drove into work my jaw dropped. When I got into work, I called up the Times story on the Web ... and my jaw dropped again.
Last month, in the midst of Gannon/Guckert brouhaha, I defended the White House press corps against the suggestion by many on the blogosphere's left that they were nothing more than mindless sheep, following Gannon/Guckert's lead on the major stories of the day.
I've said repeatedly that most of the journalists in that briefing room are liberal, but that doesn't mean they're stupid or unprofessional.
Well, I'll continue to defend most journalists against charges of stupidity and unprofessionalism -- except for everyone from Barbara Demick to her line editor, to the news editor, to the Page A1 editor, to the copy editor to John Carroll himself who put this piece of propaganda in the West Coast's largest newspaper.
So, in an effort to clear up misunderstandings, he expounded on the North Korean view of the world in an informal conversation that began one night this week over beer as North Korean waitresses sang Celine Dion in the karaoke restaurant, and resumed the next day over coffee.
The North Korean, dressed in a cranberry-colored flannel shirt and corduroy trousers, described himself as a businessman with close ties to the government. He said he did not want to be quoted by name because his perspective was personal, not official. Because North Koreans seldom talk to U.S. media organizations, his comments offered rare insight into the view from the other side of the geopolitical divide.
What part of "totalitarian dictatorship" don't you understand? His perspective was "personal"? Not bloody likely -- because I can guarantee you this guy is dead right now if he was speaking without explicit orders from Kim Jong Il.
Seriously, read that article. It's the most blatant piece of propaganda I've ever seen in a mainstream newspaper.
The Times doesn't fact-check or even put in context any of "Mr. Anonymous' " lies about North Korea.
But he faulted the United States for the collapse of a 1994 pact under which North Korea was supposed to get energy assistance in return for freezing its nuclear program. The agreement fell apart after Washington accused North Korea in 2002 of cheating on the deal, and the U.S. and its allies suspended deliveries of fuel oil.
Geez, why would we accuse North Korea of cheagin on the deal? Maybe because they were!
"Electricity is a real problem. We have only six hours a day," said the North Korean, who lives in an apartment in a choice neighborhood of Pyongyang, the capital. "When you are watching a movie on TV, there might be a nice love scene and then suddenly the power is out. People blame the Americans. They blame Bush."
How about that prison that your revered leader has for triplets? You know, he's scared to death that some triplets are going to get him, so when any woman gives birth to triplets, he takes the kids and puts them in a special prison -- from birth!
This is the worst piece of "journalism" that I've seen in my entire life -- and that includes my junior high school newspaper that used to print lists of crap like: "Who do you want to walk with at graduation?" And then people would submit their initials and the initials of the girl or boy they liked and our "newspaper" woudl print it-- at least that was honest.
Hugh Hewitt's producer managed to get an "explanation" from David Garcia, the Times' director of media relations:
Following up on our conversation earlier this afternoon, here's our position regarding today's North Korea article:
Today's article was not intended to be a comprehensive look at life in North Korea today, or a broad report on the history of the country. As the article said, it was the view of one person close to the government of North Korea -- a "rare insight into the view from the other side of the geopolitical divide." The man had been a diplomat. He was trying to solicit foreign investment, although he said it was his personal view.
The Times has published as well the perspectives on the history, the living conditions, the point of view of the U.S. government and general Western view of North Korea. However, for obvious reasons, reporters cannot get to North Korea and rarely speak with official or elite North Koreans. That's why today's story sought to capture a point of view for readers that The Times is not normally able to present in regular coverage.
I try to defend journalists from stupidity, but people like this make it difficult -- very difficult. "Mr. Anonymous" is not a businessman, he's a government agent. No one gets in and out of North Korea and solicits "business" if they aren't.
Garcia's contention that because the Times has run articles in the past detailing "perspectives on the history, the living conditions, the point of view of the U.S. government" does not excuse it from running a fawning propaganda piece totally devoid of context.
Can anyone imagine the Times doing a sit-down interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger and declining to ask him about a whole host of issues -- from his use of steroids to his treatment of women to his policy goals -- because it has provided those "perspectives" on Schwarzenegger in the past?
I've said it before, I'll say it again: Journalism's wounds are self-inflicted.