North Korea

North Korea: Kim Jong-un’s Aunt Appears Alive After Six Years of Media Saying He Killed Her

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/01/2020 - 7:41am in

It’s well past Halloween, but people in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are rising from the dead (again). That is according to our media, who have for six years been claiming Kim Kyong-hui, the aunt of current ruler Kim Jong-un and daughter of the father of the nation Kim Il-sung, was dead, only for her to be spotted beside her nephew enjoying the Lunar New Year festivities in Pyongyang at the weekend.

CNN and the Daily Telegraph both reported that Kim Jong-un had her poisoned in 2014. Or perhaps she died of a stroke? Or was it a heart attack? Or was she in a permanent vegetative state? The media couldn’t decide, yet they all agreed she was definitely gone. The press appeared unsurprised by the government’s apparent ability with necromancy, covering her reappearance merely as an “isn’t this crazy” story, merely “a reminder of how weird and brutal North Korea is” (BBC). While that statement might be accurate (Kyong-hui’s husband, a top official, was executed by the state, after all), across the media, there was little self-reflection at all as to how and why they had been reporting fake news for six years.

Kim Kyong-hu

According to media, Kim Kyong-hui, has been poisoned, died of a stroke, had a heart attack or could be in a vegetative state

This is hardly the first time that the press has breathlessly reported that members of the DPRK’s elite have been killed, only for their untimely reappearance to spoil the narrative. Last year corporate media claimed that Korean negotiators were executed for failing to achieve a deal with the U.S. at the nuclear disarmament summit in Vietnam, something CNBC called part of a “massive purge to divert attention away from internal turmoil and discontent.” But barely a few days after the media deluge, the negotiating team’s leader appeared at a performance alongside Kim Jong-un.

In 2013, it was widely reported that Hyon Song-wol, a popular musician and reputed love interest of the DPRK’s supreme leader was executed in a “hail of machine gun fire while members of her orchestra looked on” (BBC). Unfortunately for this narrative, Song-wol is very much alive and singing, continuing to publicly perform to this day. And there is a cavalcade of military officials the corporate press has insisted were killed, often in comically over-the-top ways who turn up later seemingly unharmed. For example, in 2018 General Ri Yong-gil, the officer Donald Trump awkwardly saluted, was promoted to Chief of General Staff, this, despite having been “executed” in 2016 as part of a “brutal consolidation of power,” according to CNN.

Another North Korean figure rising from the dead is national soccer coach Yun Jong-su. After the country lost 7-0 to Portugal at the 2010 World Cup, media reported that he had been shot. This narrative was only dropped after a journalist ran into him at an airport. Ten years later, not only is Jong-su alive, but he is still the national team’s coach.

The problem with these stories is that they largely emanate from one source: notorious conservative South Korean daily the Chosun Ilbo, which has a long and detailed history of printing lurid fake news. Yet Western press are dependent on the Chosun Ilbo for much of their reporting. As Business Insider said while falsely reporting that Kim Kyong-hui, aunt of Kim Jong-un was dead, “the Chosun Ilbo is generally considered a reliable source.”

Other stories are based on testimonies from defectors, who are paid in cash for their stories, something that the poor, isolated and jobless dissidents themselves complain gives them a perverse incentive to exaggerate. The saying, in journalism, goes: “if it bleeds it leads,” i.e. the more shocking a story is, the more likely it is to be published, meaning that defectors who do not offer the sordid details journalists, intelligence agencies or human rights groups want, will not be paid. Defectors are not necessarily trustworthy sources either. One Korean defector who was praised for his heroic actions later admitted that he was actually on the run for a murder he confessed he committed.

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Adam Johnson’s North Korea law of journalism. Credit | FAIR

The perverse incentive also exists for media, too, who live in a hyper-competitive world driven by the need to get clicks. Careful, nuanced analysis does not pay. Added to that is the fact that the DPRK is an official enemy of the United States. The United States killed up to one quarter of the Korean race in bombing during the 1950s, using chemical weapons against them and committing other war crimes such as bombing civilian targets. Media analyst Adam Johnson put forward his theory of the “North Korea law of journalism,” where, he says, “editorial standards are inversely proportional to a country’s enemy status.” While the U.S. or friendly countries are covered favorably, the most lurid fantasies can be printed with regards to enemy states like Venezuela, Bolivia or the DPRK, as there is no penalty for being incorrect. Publishing stories claiming Donald Trump had thrown General Michael Flynn into a tank of ravenous piranhas would result in outlets being shut down, re-ranked and delisted by search engines and social media, and perhaps even journalists being arrested. But the same story run about North Korea is a money-spinner.

Thus, the same orientalist tropes are used again and again when it comes to reporting on Korea – that there is only one haircut allowed, that it has “banned sarcasm,” that there is no electricity or tall buildings in the country– are endlessly repeated by journalists reproducing imperial propaganda. As Kim Kyong-hui’s case shows, in North Korea, stories are often too bad to be true.

Feature photo | North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju watch a performance to celebrate the Lunar New Year at the Samjiyon Theater in Pyongyang, North Korea, January 25, 2020. Kim Jong Un’s aunt, Kim Kyong-hui, is pictured on the far right. Photo| KCNA via AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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Identity Politics: Nihilism, Ego & Distraction

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/01/2020 - 3:00pm in

Andre Vltchek In the West, there is a new wave of political correctness at work: it is all about one’s sexual orientation; who has sex with whom, and how. Suddenly, the mass media in London, Paris and New York is greatly concerned about who has the right to change his or her sex, and who …

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown on the Economic, Academic and Social Costs of Brexit

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/01/2020 - 9:17pm in

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown issued another stinging attack on Brexit in the I yesterday. She sharply criticised the Brexiteers triumphalism, that made them demand the mass celebration of Britain’s departure from the EU with a ‘festival of Brexit’, churches ringing their bells up and down the country, street parties and ‘a big, fat, jingoistic party in Parliament Square on January 31st’. She compared the proposed celebrations with the forced, state-mandated festivities of North Korea, and quoted the Roman satirist Juvenal on how the rich distracted the plebs with bread and circuses while taking away their liberties. She also bitterly complained about the way Remainers were now seen as somehow treacherous for their rejection of this wave of jingoism despite the closeness of the vote in the referendum. But she also made very good points about the immense cost Brexit had already inflicted on our economy, education, and society. She wrote

According to a detailed report by ratings agency S&P, Brexit has already cost the economy £66bn. It calculates that the amount is more than we paid into the European Union for 47 years. The economy is stagnant. The Union  of the four nations may not hold. Migrants and black, Asian and minority ethnic Britons are experiencing more hostility. Complaints are met with increased hostility or disbelief. Universities are panicking about the potential loss of EU grants and the Erasmus+ scheme – a travel bursary for young people which enriched their lives.

Musicians and artists are losing essential EU connections. Care homes cannot get workers because EU citizens are leaving. Too many feel unwelcome or are discouraged by new, costly and unfair immigration rules. NHS workers from elsewhere are becoming disillusioned.

She then describes how an Asian friend, Priti, told her about the increasing racism she was experiencing.

My friend Priti, a nurse who came over from India five years ago, says: “This is not the country I came into. Not the place my parents loved when they studied here. It has become so impolite. Even when I am changing a bandage or putting drops in their eyes, some patients shout at me to go bac. My colleagues are great but I am going – I have a job in Dubai. They need us but don’t behave well.”

We need these foreign nurses and doctors, who do an excellent job caring for our sick. It’s disgusting that they should be treated with such contempt and abuse.

Brexit is wrecking our economy, placing the Union under potentially devastating stress, and impoverishing our education system, our arts and culture, and denying needed expertise and labour to the NHS. But somehow we are meant to celebrate all this as a victory for Britain.

Alibhai-Brown herself says that Remainers should follow Will Hutton’s advice, and light candles on 31st January before going back to Brexit. She says that we must, for the sake of the younger generation and the future of this once-formidable nation.

I don’t think we can reasonable go on opposing Brexit forever without isolating ourselves politically. But I think we should be trying to get the best possible deal with the EU and trying to forge lasting, beneficial links with it.

While pointing out that so far, it is a massive, astronomically expensive failure.

The Articles of Impeachment Should Have Been These Instead

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/12/2019 - 10:13am in

Image result for trump impeached headline

            Donald Trump deserved to be impeached. He deserves to be convicted in the Senate.

            Every president has committed high crimes and misdemeanors that could justify impeachment.

            But not on these charges. Not for threatening to withhold $400 million in aid that we shouldn’t have been sending to Ukraine in the first place, not as long as 38 million Americans are poor. Not for trying to dig up dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden; American voters have the right to know that the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for president and his son are on the take.

            Certainly not on the nonsensical count of contempt of Congress, which punished the president for the crime of using the legal system to defend himself.

            Impeachment is a political process that only has legitimacy when it’s bipartisan. In 1974 Democrats drafted wide-ranging articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon. They appealed to constituencies across a wide spectrum of interests: corruption, financial fraud, bribing witnesses not to testify, privacy violations, opposition to the Vietnam War.

            The Nixon articles were crafted in order to attract support from Republicans. The media claims that the GOP has never been in thrall to a president as slavishly as it is to Trump but people who remember Nixon know better. Still, Nixon’s hold on Capitol Hill Republicans eroded as the latter realized they could no longer defend conduct like his wiretapping of and siccing the IRS on political opponents.

            Nancy Pelosi’s microaggression-based articles of impeachment against Trump couldn’t peel away a single House Republican.

 

            Here are the articles of impeachment I would have drafted instead.

 

  1. Racist foreign policy. President Donald J. Trump’s comportment as head of state and top official in charge of foreign policy has brought shame, contempt and opprobrium upon the United States of America. He has used his Twitter feed and spoken comments in order to insult foreign heads of state and call them names. A brazen racist, he has referred to sovereign nations in Africa, and Haiti, as “shithole countries.” If the U.S. should set the highest standard of conduct, Trump’s sets the lowest, recklessly destroying our relationship with the world. Threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea, a nuclear power, is the kind of behavior that sparks conflicts. Few Republicans want another pointless war.
  2. The President may be psychotic. The president’s temperament and demeanor not only fail to rise to the bar expected of the office of President but bring disrepute upon the citizens of the United States he is tasked with representing. Anticipating the possibility that we might someday face a situation similar to that in England under King George III, the Founding Fathers conceived impeachment in large part as a way to remove a head of state who might be mentally ill, addicted to alcohol or other drugs or, in the flowery language of the time, indulge in “frequent and notorious excesses and debaucheries, and…profane and atheistical discourses.” A president not in full command of his mental faculties is an albatross; his tenure represents a threat to national security. Under the War Powers Act, the president has the right to deploy troops. He may decide whether a condemned prisoner is pardoned or executed. He can unilaterally order a nuclear attack without provocation. Although it is impossible to determine whether President Trump is mentally ill or under the influence of narcotics, his behavior is so unsteady that it is only prudent to plan for the worst and remove him before he causes a catastrophe. Republicans know he is dangerous.
  3. He endorses murder. After the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its consulate in Istanbul, President Trump repeatedly sided with the murderers. “We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Trump said. The president’s statements makes it impossible for other countries to take us seriously when we pontificate about human rights. Republicans cannot and do not find what happened to Khashoggi acceptable.
  4. He endorses fascism. After white nationalists and other bigots gathered at a violent right-wing rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, resulting in the murder of a peaceful progressive activist, President Trump pretended there was equivalence between neo-Nazis and anti-fascist protesters. There “were very fine people, on both sides,” he said. No there weren’t. Hundreds of thousands of American soldiers died fighting fascism during World War II. President Trump dishonors them and increases the chances that fascism will rise again. Republicans do not agree with neo-Nazis.
  5. He is lining his own pockets at the public trough. Call it “emoluments” if you want to make voters’ eyes glaze over, call it what it is if you want to speak plainly: bribery. Trump has visited his own properties 400 times, filling rooms at full price with his retinue at taxpayer expense. Saudi Arabia has bailed out his failing hotels. He even suggested his own resort as the site of a G-8 summit. When foreign officials pay our president, they are buying influence. Republicans wouldn’t tolerate this behavior from their employees. The president is our employee.
  6. He kidnaps children—and loses them. The Trump Administration forcibly separated 5,400 kids from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Many were locked in cages. After federal courts ordered them returned to their parents, the White House admitted that they couldn’t locate them. They were lost. Thousands may be never be reunited with their families due to neglect and bureaucratic incompetence. Trump has asked for two years to find them. Even anti-immigration Republicans do not agree with stealing people’s kids.

 

            I can think of other impeachable offenses—continuing and expanding Obama’s drone assassination program, backing Saudi Arabia’s genocidal proxy war in neighboring Yemen, airstrikes against Syria. But this column isn’t about what I care about. It’s a list of articles of impeachment that might have had a chance of attracting bipartisan support and thus resulting in Trump’s conviction in the Senate.

            Instead, Democrats have indulged in a pro forma charade that will set an awful precedent, tempting the House of Representatives to impeach every president of the opposite party over every little thing. They’ve trivialized an only-in-case-of-emergency process into a rushed lark, ignored what really matters and squandered the opportunity to hold the president to account for his many crimes and sins.

            Enjoy your “win,” liberals. Like your decision to abolish the judicial filibuster for nominations to the bench—in 2013 some Democrats actually thought there would never be another Republican president—you will soon rue it.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

 

 

17th Century Quaker Statement of Right to Freedom of Religion

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 30/10/2019 - 11:04pm in

I found this Quaker declaration of the freedom of religion in Documents of the Christian Church, selected and edited by Henry Bettenson, 2nd edition (Oxford: OUP 1963). It’s taken from The Chief Principles of the Christian Religion, as professed by the people called the Quakers, drawn up by Robert Barclay in 1678, and published in his Apology for the Quakers. Proposition XIV, Concerning the Power of the  Civil Magistrate in Matters purely Religious and Pertaining to Conscience, runs

‘Since God hath assumed to himself the power and dominion of the conscience, who alone can rightly instruct and govern it, therefore it is not lawful for any whatsoever, by virtue of any authority or principality they bear in the government of this world, to force the conscience of others;… provided always, that no man, under the pretence of conscience, prejudice his neighbour in his life or estate; or do anything destructive to, or inconsistent with, human society; in which case the law is for the transgressor, and justice to be administered upon all, without respect of persons.’

(p. 256).

It’s almost incredible to think that this was written in the 17th century, and that nearly 3 1/2 centuries later there are still countries in this world that don’t recognise it. Countries like Saudi Arabia, North Korea, China and Russia. In Saudi Arabia only Wahhabi Islam is permitted, and Shi’a Muslims viciously persecuted. A few years ago they also passed a law declaring that atheism was terrorism even without any violence or threats of violence being made. Russia is far more tolerant of religion than it was under Communism, when it was a persecuting atheist state. But even now, some religions are declared to be illegal. This includes not only extremist sects and beliefs, like Islamism, but also the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I admit they can be a pain when they come knocking on your door sometimes in their zeal to spread their version of Christianity, but a dangerous, radical extremist group? When, and to whom? The Nazis also persecuted them, because they wouldn’t accept Hitler as a secular Messiah.

It’s a disgrace that in the 21st century, freedom of religion and conscience still needs defending from persecutors across the world.

Count Dankula’s Dismissal of Labour Supporters and their Concern for the Palestinians

It has been pointed out, time and again, that there is very little real anti-Semitism on the left. Mike and other opponents and victims of the anti-Semitism smears haven’t denied it exists, but that it’s tiny. The overwhelming majority of anti-Semitism come from the right. Tony Greenstein has blogged countless times about the massive support Israel, and right-Zionist organisations like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism enjoy on the Far Right. He’s put up photograph after photograph showing various viciously intolerant pro-Israel groups demonstrating shoulder to shoulder with racist, islamophobic and Fascistic organisations like the Jewish Defence League, the EDL and Britain First. But you won’t read about this from the lamestream press and media. Or from Z-lists celebs and trolls like Rachel Riley and Tracy Ann Oberman.

The real reason for the mass smearing of decent, anti-racist women and men in the Labour party – people like Mike, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone, Martin Odoni and so on, ad nauseam, is nothing to do with anti-Semitism. It’s the Labour right trying to purge the party of Corbyn’s supporters, and right-Zionist groups, which include the Jewish Labour Movement, trying to close down any criticism of Israel. Decent people like those above, have been smeared either because they’ve stood up for the rights and dignity of the Palestinians, or defend those who have after they were smeared as anti-Semites.

And it seems one of those, who shares the witch-hunters contempt for Labour supporters defending the Palestinians, is Count Dankula. Dankula, real name Mark Meechan, was one of the right-wing internet personalities like Sargon of Akkad, aka Carl Benjamin, who joined UKIP, thus helping it towards its massive electoral implosion and total demolition at the last elections. Dankula’s the bloke, who was convicted of hate speech after he posted a video online about how he’d taught his girlfriend’s pug to do the Nazi salute when he shouted ‘Heil Hitler!’ or ‘Gas the Jews!’

Meechan has tried to excuse his behaviour as just a tasteless joke, and defend it as a free speech issue. Looking at some of his videos, don’t think Meechan is an anti-Semite. And he does seem genuine in his defence of free speech. He does seem genuinely concerned about its suppression in so many parts of the world, like North Korea, for example. He’s not a free speech absolutist, but he does see the right to say and write grossly offensive and sometime immoral material as part of this issue. He also sympathises with everyone, even those whose political opinions are the polar opposite of his, who has fallen victim to censorship through the same speech codes that forbid racist, misogynist, or otherwise bigoted and hateful material.

But he also shares the witch-hunters’ contempt for supporters of the Labour Party, who protest against the brutal maltreatment of the Palestinians. In a video posted on 21st August 2018, ‘A Salty Peanut’, Dankula critiques a video made by one of his opponents, celebrating his conviction for hate speech. Five minutes 40 seconds into the video, there’s a clip of this man criticising Israel for the gunning down of Palestinian protesters. After this, at the 5.53 mark, Dankula simply says to the camera ‘A Labour supporter.’ I’m not posting a link to the video or showing it on this blog, as I don’t want someone from the Campaign from Anti-Semitism or the Gnasherjew troll collective using it to smear me as an anti-Semite, as they’ve lied and smeared Jackie Walker and so many others. But the video is up on YouTube, and all you have to do to find it is find Dankula’s channel and look for its title.

Dankula’s video shows just who else on the political right shares the same views about pro-Palestinian activists in Labour as Tracy Ann Oberman, Rachel Riley, David Collier and the rest of the witch hunters: a man, who was convicted of anti-Semitism for teaching his girlfriend’s dog to make the Nazi salute. While I believe it’s not evidence that Dankula really is an anti-Semite, it does show who the right-wing supporters of Israel really are, and their support for anti-Semitism witch-hunt against the Labour party. It’s further evidence of the kind of people, who support the likes of Oberman and Riley, and in turn shows the witch-hunter’s  hypocrisy very clearly.