Friday, 19 December 2014

Why North Korea isn't funny

Satire, the perfect antidote to the pious self-righteousness that all authoritarian ideologies rely upon to perpetuate themselves, is undoubtedly a crucial weapon of political dissident. Chaplin's caricature of Hitler, which he timelessly used as a platform to promote a humanistic and universalist worldview in The Great Dictator, is a prime example of this fact. This is the precise reason why North Korea, or at least its ideological adherents, have reacted ballistically to the relatively mediocre Hollywood production The Interview, as the North Korean regime is domestically reliant to extreme proportions upon a self-reverence that is self-evidently absurd under the gaze and deconstruction of its justifiable mockery. However, we should be mindful that, unlike North Koreans, we have the privilege to observe the North Korean state and the ideology it propagates as a bemusing spectacle from afar.

Quoting Marx, we refer to tragedies that turn into farce, but in the case of North Korea we seem to only focus on the farce of the spectacle of its cult of personality and propaganda narrative without any reflection on the material reality that is the tragedy. Staggeringly, the Hollywood-centric story about the hacking of Sony and the withdrawal of The Interview has received significantly more media coverage than the United Nations report which implicated the North Korean government and military in crimes against humanity including mass murder, rape, torture, enslavement and involuntary medical experimentation, including within a network of concentration camps established for the punishment of the smallest political dissident, which by any estimation are the closest in the modern world to those that existed in Nazi Europe. Elimination of freedom of expression is not only enforced through terror in North Korea, but easily maintained through its embedding into a social order where the state's ideology and the psyche of its subjects are indistinguishable, which is exactly how Orwell described the totalitarian regime in 1984 asserting its absolute domination; through the draconian regulation of all language and thought in order to abolish any diversity within it.

Despite the useful idiocy of North Korea's so-called leftist apologists in the West, the humanistic and egalitarian ideals of Marxism and socialism have been long eradicated from all state-sanctioned literature and political discourse. Society is instead indoctrinated into the Juche ideology which, as described in B.R. Myers's The Cleanest Race, promotes the values of jingoism, militarism and racial supremacy, within a society that represses all political dissident against a hierarchical and regimented social order that is headed by a cult of personality which propagates the literal divinity of the Kim dynasty. The Kims, who like most dictators are satisfied by a self-entitled lifestyle of gluttony and luxury, occupy an elite class that presides over a majority living standard which is defined by poverty and malnutrition. Although there are insurgent political movements in Europe which adhere to fascism and neo-Nazism in explicit terms, in practical terms North Korea and the racist, militarist, and fundamentalist ideology it upholds is most powerful fascist regime in the world today.

The grotesquely absurd spectacle of the North Korean regime we satirize is simply a reflection of its inherent nature.  The Interview debacle should ground us to reality into focusing on the criminality and misery the regime actually imposes on its people.

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