Frank Bruni, columnist for the New York Times, is outraged — outraged! — that people are comparing Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, to Ivanka Trump, the daughter of U.S. President Donald Trump. Both women are part of their respective governmental delegations to the Winter Olympics in South Korea. In his NYT column yesterday, Bruni expressed outrage that people would make such a comparison and, even worse, that they would actually compare North Korea and the United States. He believes that while North Korea is “rotten to the core,” America, under Trump, is only “in a rotten moment.”
Notice how Bruni conflates the government and the country in both North Korea and the United States. Like many North Koreans, who themselves are the victims of a state educational system, Bruni is obviously mentally unable to separate out the two entities. In his mind, the government and the country are one and the same, which leads him to conclude that “North Korea” is “rotten the core” while “America” is only experiencing “a rotten moment.”
That mindset obvious inures to the benefit of the U.S. government. If North Korea is “rotten to the core,” then it’s no big deal to kill everyone in North Korea should war break out there. They’re all commies. They’re all Reds. They’re all gooks. Carpet-bomb every town and city, like the U.S. government did in the Korean War. Inflict nuclear fire and fury over the entire nation. No American would need to be concerned because the whole country, including everyone in it, is “rotten to the core.”
The conflation mindset inures to the government in another way. If an American citizen criticizes or condemns actions of the U.S. government, that demonstrates that he hates “America,” given that the government and the country are supposedly one and the same. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, that is also the mindset that the North Korean government has with respect to criticism of the North Korean government by North Korea citizens.
Bruni indignantly writes that “the United States is nothing like North Korea and to come anywhere near that suggestion is nuts.”
Really? Nothing like North Korea?
What about Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other welfare-state programs by which the U.S. government takes care of people? Isn’t that the essence of North Korea’s socialist economic system? Sure, there is no question that North Korea has a more complete welfare state than the United States has but isn’t that simply a difference in degree rather than principle? Isn’t the overall philosophy of North Korea’s socialist economic system the same as the overall philosophy of America’s welfare state: that it is the purpose of the state to take care of the citizenry and protect them from the vicissitudes of life?
Let’s not forget the system of state schooling in both nations, the vehicle by which both governments indoctrinate their citizens and mold their minds into conformity and obedience.
Of course, Bruni would say, “You’re wrong, Jacob. The government in North Korea uses public schooling to indoctrinate North Korean children, but here in the United States, public schooling is used only to educate children.”
Really? Then why do so many Americans thank the troops for protecting our “rights and freedoms” by killing people in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Africa when no one in those lands is trying to take away our rights and freedoms? Why did so many Americans (including, if memory serves me, NYT journalists) buy into the notion that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was to “disarm Saddam” when it was patently clear that the invasion was simply the continuation of the regime-change operation that the 11 years of brutal U.S. sanctions against Iraq had failed to achieve? Why do so many Americans continue to believe that the U.S. invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have brought “enduring freedom” to both countries?
If that’s not successful state indoctrination, I don’t know what is.
As an example of how rotten to the core North Korea is, Bruni points to the North Korean dictator’s purported assassination of his half-brother. His implication, of course, is that U.S. officials would never do something that heinous.
Really? Does he just block out of his mind that the U.S. government has a formal international assassination program, one that kills people on a regular basis without any due process of law? Does he also block out of his mind that that assassination program extends not just to foreigners but also to American citizens? Just ask the families of American citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year old son, both of whom were murdered by U.S. federal assassins. Sure, Trump hasn’t killed a member of his family, but isn’t that a distinction without a difference? The fact is that in his one year in office, his Pentagon-CIA assassination team has already killed lots of people. Before him, President Obama could easily have referred to himself as the nation’s assassin-in-chief.
Bruni obviously has a difficult time processing the fact that the federal government has a formal assassination program, as evidenced by his outrage over candidate Trump pointing out to television host Joe Scarborough that “our country does plenty of killing, too, Joe.” Bruni is terribly discomforted that Trump said that. Better to keep the truth unspoken.
Bruni points to North Korea’s mistreatment of Otto Warmbier, the U.S. student who North Korean officials returned to the United States in a coma after serving about a year of a 15-year sentence for theft. That’s bad, but is it any worse than what the U.S. government has done to people at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and at its torture-prison center at Guantanamo? Don’t forget, after all, that the U.S. prisoners at both facilities, including those who have actually been killed, were citizens of countries whose government never attacked the United States.
Of course, I could mention MKULTRA or even the state assassinations of Frank Olson, Mary Pinchot Meyer, Dorothy Kilgallen, or President Kennedy on grounds of “national security,” but I’m sure that that would be too much for Bruni’s mindset to process. So, I’ll just settle for the U.S. government’s role in the extra-judicial executions of American citizens Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi during the U.S.-instigated Chilean coup in 1973. I can’t help but wonder if Bruni is familiar with the official State Department memo, which was kept secret for many years, that detailed an official investigation that determined that U.S. intelligence had participated in those executions, with impunity. All that sure seems like more than a “rotten moment” to me.
In fact, it’s not just America’s welfare state that is similar, in principle, to North Korea’s socialist system. There is also the matter of the national security state, which, not surprisingly, Bruni doesn’t even mention.
Both North Korea and the United States are national-security states or “deep states.” They both have enormous, permanent military establishments that require massive amounts of money to fund. They both have secret intelligence agencies that engage in spying and surveillance, including on their own citizens.
Of course, it wasn’t always that way here in the United States, which I’ll bet Bruni doesn’t even realize. Like many Americans, his mindset undoubtedly is that the United States has always had the same governmental structure — i.e., three co-equal branches of government — and that nothing fundamental changed when the federal government was converted to a national-security state after World War II.
Need I mention the drug war? How can Bruni maintain that North Korea and the United States are different in that regard given that they both punish people severely for ingesting substances that the state disapproves of? Oh sure, North Korea’s punishments for drug law violations might be more severe but, again, that’s just a difference in degree, not in principle.
Maybe it’s also worth mentioning the U.S. government’s support of and partnership with foreign regimes that are every bit as tyrannical as that of North Korea. Egypt, Vietnam (another brutal communist regime just in case Bruni has forgotten), and Egypt come to mind. In fact, it’s probably also worth mentioning the brutal, tyrannical, corrupt regimes that the U.S. government has installed into power and trained, including in countries like Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Iraq, and Afghanistan. That sure seems rotten to me.
Bruni says that North Korea’s dictator “gleefully threatens to nuke other countries,” which makes him, in Bruni’s mind, a “homicidal fanatic.” You see, in the mind of a U.S. indoctrinated person, any ruler who threatens to deter or defend against a U.S. regime-change invasion of his country is obviously a “homicidal fanatic.” Any reasonable, sane foreign ruler would simply accede to any U.S. regime-change operation against his country, whether it by be coup, invasion, assassination, sanctions, or embargo.
Needless to say, Bruni would undoubtedly argue that Fidel Castro was also a “homicidal fanatic” because he invited the Soviets to install nuclear weapons in Cuba to deter another U.S. invasion of his country or to defend against another such invasion. Again, a foreign ruler is simply not supposed to do that. He’s supposed to agree to a U.S. invasion, war of aggression, assassination, or coup and stand down and obey orders. Otherwise, he will be treated as the “homicidal fanatic” that he obviously is. Equally important, any of his citizens who resist a U.S. war of aggression against their country will be treated as the terrorists they obviously are, like Iraqis were when U.S. forces illegally invaded their country (looking for those long-lost WMDs that the United States had provided Saddam Hussein in the 1980s to help him kill Iranians, who had had the audacity to oust the U.S.-installed tyrant the Shah of Iran, who the CIA had installed in 1953 in the process of destroying Iran’s democratic system).
What Bruni’s mindset prevents him from seeing is that it’s not North Korea and America that are rotten in the moment or rotten to the core. It is the North Korean government and the U.S. government that are both rotten in the moment and rotten to the core.