A North Korea Hate Moment


Posted to www.marxmail.org on February 1, 2004


Although I am no fan of George Orwell, there is one thing about 1984 that really rings true with me. There were ritualized "two minutes of hate" when the entire citizenry was mobilized to pour out their hatred for foreign enemies.


In its second minute the Hate rose to a frenzy. People were leaping up and down in their places and shouting at the tops of their voices in an effort to drown the maddening bleating voice that came from the screen. The little sandy-haired woman had turned bright pink, and her mouth was opening and shutting like that of a landed fish. Even O'Brien's heavy face was flushed. He was sitting very straight in his chair, his powerful chest swelling and quivering as though he were standing up to the assault of a wave. The dark-haired girl behind Winston had begun crying out 'Swine! Swine! Swine!' and suddenly she picked up a heavy Newspeak dictionary and flung it at the screen.


Obviously we have been subject to two-minute hate sessions for most of the past twenty years, with Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic and others being subjected to daily vilification in the bourgeois media. The radical movement is put to a constant litmus test by the Michael Berube and Todd Gitlins of the world. Unless we take part in these hate sessions, we are considered undemocratic or anti-American. Any attempt to put these societies into some kind of context is viewed as apologetics for totalitarian dungeons. If you state that Iraq had a decent health-care system, you end up as a defender of genocide against the Kurds no matter what your actual position is.


Perhaps the most hated government in the world is North Korea. When it comes to this country, they pull out all the stops. Since the government, by anybody's admission, is not very skilled at public relations and tends to be insular (attributable no doubt to being the target of sanctions and military pressure from the biggest imperialist power in world history), there is a tendency for charges to be made with little in the way of refutation. By contrast, Cuba has many friends and visitors who are willing to step forward and challenge the lies.


As most of you are aware, Doug Henwood's LBO-Talk mailing list, although supposedly a forum where the liberal left and the radical movement can exchange ideas and confront each other civilly, has evolved into a pole of attraction for red-baiters of the "two minutes of hate" variety. It is nearly impossible for two days to go by without some kind of ritual condemnation of North Korea, Ramsey Clark, etc.


Today their attention is riveted once again on North Korea based on a documentary BBC is running tonight that alleges that North Korean prison camps routinely throw dissidents, especially Christians, into gas chambers.


The documentary relies heavily on the word of defectors, including Soon Ok-lee. That her word can be taken seriously is a sign of the credulousness of left-liberals in places like Great Britain and the USA. This woman is a prominent spokesperson now with something called Christian Solidarity Worldwide. The chairman of the board of their USA affiliate is Chuck Colson, a Watergate figure who found Jesus while in prison (and a early parole). This outfit was implicated in an elaborate scam mounted out of Sudan, where a Christian guerrilla group has been fighting for years against the Moslem government. Christian Solidarity raised millions of dollars to buy the freedom for slaves in Sudan, but it turned out that things weren't always as they appeared:


But in some cases, according to witnesses and rebel officials, the slaves weren't slaves at all, but people gathered locally and instructed to pretend they were returning from bondage. An aid worker told of recognizing several children in such a group in the village of Turalei in late 1998. Two of them were still wearing plastic wrist bands that entitled them to meals from the local feeding center, the worker said.


Impostors also have appeared in the role of the Arab middleman. A prominent former rebel commander has publicly complained that a light-skinned relative who is a captain in the rebel army "has been forced several times to pretend as an Arab" for cameras.


(Washington Post, February 26, 2002)


On the Christian Solidarity website, Soon Ok-lee gets heavy play. She is quoted as saying that Christians "were not allowed to look up to heaven because they believed in God and had to always have their necks at a ninety degree angle, making them disfigured". She also claims that on one occasion in an iron foundry, the guard "ordered eight Christians to recant and when they refused, he had molten iron poured over them to kill them."


Now I don't want to sound cynical or anything, but this sort of thing reminds me of Ming the Merciless in the old Flash Gordon serials or their latest permutation, Steven Spielberg's "Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom".