Friends reunited: North Korea and the Guardian
The Guardian should apologise for publishing propaganda from a journalist who is either misinformed or promoting a despotic Communist regime that imprisons hundreds of thousands
It is never surprising to find some of the darkest recesses of the mind in the Guardian’s Comment Is Free section, but by publishing an opinion piece promoting North Korea, they have reached a new level of deplorable hypocrisy. On Friday 16th March this year they published the story of Shin Dong-hyuk, the only person ever to escape from a ‘total-control zone’ prison camp in North Korea and live to talk about it. This has subsequently been removed, supposedly due to the expiration of the copyright.
His harrowing story paints a picture of a life without any possibility of freedom. Born into Camp 14, he rarely saw his parents or family and was regularly tortured. The constant, divisive brainwashing used in the camp led him to inform the guards when he overheard his mother and brother planning an escape attempt. A hook was placed into his skin while he was tortured for four days during additional interrogation.
Later, he witnessed the execution of his mother and brother, in the (literally) tortured knowledge that he was in some way complicit in their deaths.
Last year, Amnesty revealed the size and location of the prison camps, thought to hold 200,000 people. Numerous reports have surfaced from researchers in South Korea and the United States confirming that these camps are in fact very real, and giving an idea of the atrocities which occur inside them.
Few would argue that these unfathomable human rights abuses need to be exposed. However, Comment Is Free decided to publish the article by Paul Watson, entitled “South Korea good, North Korea bad? Not a very useful outlook”. In it, he seeks to absolve North Korea of various crimes and infringements of the peace between the North and the South.
Of course, Paul Watson’s views on North Korea are not the editorial line of the Guardian. However, the editors choose what to publish from a large amount of submissions. Why then, would they choose this piece? When even the usual assortment of left-wing, anti-interventionist commenters on CIF denounce this drivel, you have to wonder what audience they thought they were pandering to.
So who is Paul Watson, friend to North Korea, anyway? An expert on the history of North Korea perhaps? In fact, he is the writer of a book on football. It is hard to reason why a football journalist would choose defending North Korea for his first opinion piece on CIF, but from the general tone of the comments below it, it is terribly misjudged.
The Guardian has always claimed to place itself above "lower" forms of print media. They regularly mock the Daily Mail and the tabloids for their celebrity non-stories and allegedly inane columnists such as Richard Littlejohn and Liz Jones.
But surely the Guardian is guilty of the very same crime, publishing items guaranteed to attract both attention and hits in order to increase ad revenue. The Guardian’s own figures, released this week, show losses for the year stand at £44.2m. Daily print circulation this year is barely over 200,000, and the paper would likely go bankrupt without the support of the wealthy Scott Trust.
There is an excellent piece on Harry’s Place going into further detail on the issues surrounded the darker side to CIF. The editorial line of the Guardian now appears to be a simple fight between what they consider to be good and evil. On the side of ‘good’ there are the trade unions, the public sector, minorities of all types, rampaging rioters and…. ‘Evil’ consists of bankers, politicians, business owners, anyone who dares to earn enough to put themselves into a higher tax bracket, wealth creators and any media outlet which doesn’t follow their line. These groups can be simplified as ‘the establishment’.
When the rioters burned down people’s houses and committed numerous crimes last year in Britain, an assortment of left-wing commentators such as Laurie Penny and Owen Jones leapt to their defence. It must be the fault of the government, the supposed ‘savage public sector cuts’. Personal responsibility was ignored. Never mind the majority of hard-working people from the areas that were ransacked who rejected the opportunity to join in the pillaging of London. The narrative had been set, and facts were not going to get in their way.
Israel, however, is the exception. Despite its small size, and the dangerous enemies it has on every border, the Guardian views it as part of the hegemonic power of the United States. A constant stream of rockets are fired at Israel by terrorists, causing the populace to live in perpetual fear of the next attack.
Whatever your thoughts on this complex conflict, terrorist attacks should be reported fairly. Instead, Comment Is Free publishes a constant stream of pro-Palestinian pieces, almost never allowing a right to reply from those that support Israel. The vitriolic hatred of Israel, seen as an offshoot of America, leads the editorial team to abandon any pretence of fair journalism. Last year they were even forced to acknowledge the issue, so common were the accusations of anti-Semitism.
It is hard to tell whether the Guardian truly wants open journalism. How is it possible to countenance giving space to a pro-North Korea journalist, despite all the atrocities committed in that country, yet fail to ever allow a positive word about Michael Gove’s Free Schools? The only opinion pieces which appear on CIF that are remotely right-wing tend to be from well-known commentators such as Tim Montgomerie from the influential Conservative Home website.
On the other hand, any rent-a-quote from a left-wing cause gets 800 or so words to defend their actions, whether it’s Jonnie Marbles attacking an 81-year-old man or Ismail Haniyeh, the terrorist leader of Hamas who advocates for the persecution of women and gays. However, these views aren’t enough to stop his op-ed being published as he ticks the box which almost guarantees a writer the chance to be on CIF. He believes in the destruction of Israel, the bête noir of the Guardian and some of its readers.
Meanwhile Polly Toynbee picks up her six-figure salary for spouting the same drivel every week while Guardian staff are losing their jobs. One can only imagine how they feel writing articles about ‘savage public sector’ cuts, knowing their job may be the next to go from this sinking ship. Workfare is portrayed as slave labour, yet the Guardian continues to hire unpaid interns to pull up the slack from the reduced editorial team.
Hypocrisy is nothing new for left-wing papers, but as editor the responsibility for the output of the Guardian must fall to Alan Rusbridger. Is he truly happy to promote an opinion piece on North Korea, its prison camps and human rights abuses? This is not a matter of telling both sides of the story. There is no positive side to what happens in North Korea.
The Guardian should apologise for publishing this blatant propaganda from a ‘journalist’ who is either hopelessly misinformed, or purposefully promoting a despotic Communist regime that imprisons hundreds of thousands simply for being born to parents who dared to question the dictator.
Comment may be free, but it should also be held accountable.
Frank Manning is the Campaigns Coordinator for the Young Britons' Foundation, a non-partisan, not-for-profit educational, research and training organisation that promotes conservatism in schools, colleges and universities. He tweets at @BillyManning
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