Dennis Rodman Goes to North Korea

Another U.S. dupe falls for a dictator.

After more than half a century you would not think much more could be learned about the Holocaust. But recently completed archival research indicates there were far more ghettos and death camps than commonly believed. Scholars at the Holocaust Museum now estimate that Europe held as many as 42,500 – not a typo – concentration camps, forced labor camps, ghettos, P.O.W. camps, and sex-slave brothels. The Third Reich began putting the system into place as early as 1933, when Hitler’s henchmen began building camps to hold political foes. At its height it held perhaps 20 million souls.

The findings render all the more implausible claims that average Germans had little notion of what was going on. Martin Dean, one of the researchers, said recently that a person “literally could not go anywhere in Germany” without encountering a detention camp of some sort.

The Nazi regime distilled evil to such a concentration it almost beggars the imagination. And yet it was not alone. The century’s other great ideology of evil, Communism, killed far more people – perhaps as many as 100 million – over a far longer period. Many died through contrived famine or political purges. The rest were worked to death in the gulags and laogai. Only the willfully blind could not have known.

Decades later, everyone says: never again. But you have to wonder how the world might treat the modern-day equivalent of a Third Reich or a Stalinist state – a regime so thoroughly evil that not even the romantic lie of utopia can whitewash its atrocities. You hope the world would recoil in unanimous horror.

And yet.

And yet we do not have to wonder, because we have North Korea: a prison state where all TV sets are permanently tuned to state channels. Where the state has a Byzantine classification system that divides the citizenry into 53 categories of loyalty. Where there is no freedom of movement. Or the press. Or religion. Or, for that matter, anything else.

In the DPRK, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment are common. Approximately 200,000 people are worked and starved to death in prison camps whose guards routinely torture prisoners with beatings, bamboo splinters, and methods such as the “solitary cell,” a box so small the prisoner can neither stand up nor lie down. Amnesty International reports one 13-year-old boy was held in such a box for eight months. According to escapee Shin Dong-hyuk, who saw a six-year-girl beaten to death in front of his class for stealing five kernels of corn, the camps are places where scraping dried feces off a toilet for later use is simply a survival skill.

To this world Dennis Rodman came last week, where he watched some basketball and yukked it up with North Korea’s new dictator, Kim Jong-un. “They had a grand old time,” according to the organizer of the trip. Rodman publicly told Kim that “you have a friend for life.”

Three members of the Harlem Globetrotters joined Rodman. In January, Google CEO Eric Schmidt also visited the prison state. Some see such visits as hopeful signs that North Korea is opening up. Cultural diplomacy, they say, is the way to thaw this cold war. They note that Kim likes Disney characters, which must mean – well, something.

Isn’t it pretty to think so? Unfortunately, the historical record is not impressive. Americans have a long and embarrassing habit of viewing savage dictatorships in the naivest possible terms. Prominent Americans from Charles Lindbergh to Ezra Pound expressed sympathy, or worse, for fascism in the Thirties and Forties. Of the Soviet Revolution, Lincoln Steffens declared, “I have seen the future, and it works.” Years later Walter Duranty would dismiss reports of Soviet famine as “malignant propaganda”; decades later the American Friends Service Committee would describe Maoist China as a paradise where everyone was “imbued with an immense youthful revolutionary fervor.”

Yuri Andropov was thought a closet reformer because he liked jazz. Just a few years ago, Newsweek described Cuba as “a more peaceable society that treasures its children.”

The late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez received glowing praise from Sean Penn, Oliver Stone and other Hollywood big shots. He was, they say, the people’s hero — even as Human Rights Watch observed that the human rights situation in Venezuela became “even more precarious.” Hollywood didn’t rub off on Chavez; if anything, the reverse seems to be taking place. A while back, Penn said that any journalist who calls Chavez a dictator should be arrested: “There should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies,” he fumed.

At the end of his trip last week Rodman said of Kim, “His country and his people love him.” Then, like every other American naïf, he boarded a plane and headed home. When Lindbergh returned to the U.S. in 1939 he carried with him the German Service Cross, which had been given to him by Hermann Goering. No word yet on what bauble Rodman brought back.

This article originially appeared in The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • wareagle||

    it's not that a buffoon like Rodman goes to NK

  • wareagle||

    ...SHIT...
    continuing: and comes back to say stupid things. It's that an alleged news show like This Week treats him like a guest with something to contribute. For that alone, ABC deserves all the mocking and ridicule that can be mustered, along with other media who treat this as newsworthy in any way.

  • Mongo||

    Another pro athlete who can barely speak a coherent sentence, too.

    Kevin Garnett, Ray Lewis, etc.

    Why put a mic in front of them??

  • Libertymike||

    Mongo, I beg to differ regarding your assessment of Ray Lewis' ability to communicate.

    Do you think you could energize and motivate as he does?

    Do you think you could command a room and mesmerize the audience as he does?

  • Mongo||

    'Communicate' is one thing -- 'speaky English' is another.

  • Libertymike||

    Let's see how he does this upcoming season on ESPN?

    Okay, as I have told my wife and way too many people according to her and some friends, Tom Brady could deliver a teleprompter aided speech better than Ray, but, off the cuff, Ray would kill him (with or without white suit).

  • wareagle||

    and careful with using 'kill' and Ray in the same sentence.

  • wareagle||

    i don't want to hear Lewis' assessment of world leaders, either. No more than I give a shit about Obama's NCAA bracket.

  • ||

    Ray Lewis is murdering scum and will hopefully get what he deserves. And fuck Art Modell.

  • Libertymike||

    sloopy would not agree with you.

  • Libertymike||

    Shades of Samantha Smith and Yuri Andropov in 1983? Of course, she could not rebound and play defense like the Worm. Then again, he does not have the aeronautical skills she had.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Too soon.

  • Homple||

    Ah, the memories of Comrade Dropoff. As the inimitable Mark Steyn described him,
    “… he was one of those late-period Soviet leaders who looked like he’d been plucked in haste from the local embalmer’s and propped up against the balcony for the May Day parade.”

  • Sevo||

    "It's that an alleged news show like This Week treats him like a guest with something to contribute."

    Right there is the reason I will *not* watch TV "news".

  • Libertymike||

    But, wouldn't you rather hang out with Rodman than Georgie boy?

  • CE||

    Hey, after hanging out with Donald Trump, maybe Kim Jong-un doesn't seem so bad.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    But he met with the leader of a country. The head of the government. That's very important!

  • chorizo||

    Is there a thesis in this article that I missed, such as an argument about exactly why Rodman's visit was bad? Or is it simply pointing out that Rodman is a clown, North Korea is fucked up, and in the past other American clowns liked fucked up countries?

    I think it's pretty funny that Kim Jong Un portrays a meeting with a notorious jackass as an historic diplomatic coup. Just sayin...

  • Sevo||

    "Is there a thesis in this article that I missed, such as an argument about exactly why Rodman's visit was bad?"

    Why, yes there is. It's intended to bring some reality to those who might be swayed by Rodman's comments.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    It's a Hinkle article, dude. He's the Andy Rooney of libertarianism.

  • Tonio||

    Damn, HM, why you gotta be so harsh?

  • Raven Nation||

    "A while back, Penn said that any journalist who calls Chavez a dictator should be arrested: 'There should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies,' he fumed."

    And suddenly, the reason for Penn's affinity for Chavez becomes clearer.

  • Sevo||

    "And suddenly, the reason for Penn's affinity for Chavez becomes clearer."
    Yep, thug dictator wanna-be.

  • Tim||

    We'll see how Rodman likes it when the NorK press runs the story that Kim beat him in a dunking contest.

  • RBS||

    Out rebounded him 110-3 in the first half!

  • Gladstone||

  • Gladstone||

  • Drake||

    So everyone in NK has to watch MSNBC?

  • DarrenM||

    So everyone in NK has to watch MSNBC?

    That's the next step after the "solitary cell". Dissidents usually fold when confronted with this.

  • Nicole260||

    like John replied I'm amazed that someone able to earn $7507 in one month on the internet. did you read this web link jump15.com

  • Mongo||

    Fuck John - he's a Stasi-rat gay-porn actor Nork plant.

  • Little55||

    until I saw the check 4 $6936, I didn't believe that my father in law was realie earning money part-time on their computer.. there aunt had bean doing this less than eighteen months and at present repaid the depts on there mini mansion and got a great Infiniti. this is where I went, http://www.wow92.com

  • lucasw908||

    If you think Johnny`s story is neat..., a month ago my girlfriend's half sister basically also earned $6327 working a twelve hour week from their apartment and there co-worker's step-mother`s neighbour was doing this for 10-months and easily made over $6327 part-time at there pc. applie the instructions on this web-site...
    http://qr.net/ka6n

  • I GOT HUNG UP SILLY||

    Surely Most citizens in the USA might also find it even hard to believe that the published figures of our own hungry American Children praying nightly for food is 14 to 16 million !

    Newt Gingrich & President Bill Clinton are now again saying another U.S. Congressional Welfare Reform is needed to help our country through these difficult economic times!

    Poorer American families are being asked to stop feeding their kids daily and allow a day or two between meals in the good of the country.

  • ygsrf||

    Thank you for your New post on that site.which is the best blog for us.we are enjoy it and will show them to everyone.

  • Philbert66||

    Brayden. you think Vincent`s posting is impressive, on wednesday I bought a great Infiniti after making $4481 this - four weeks past and more than 10-k lass month. this is really the most-comfortable job Ive had. I started this 6 months ago and right away started making a nice minimum $84, per hour. I follow the details on this straightforward website, http://www.wow92.com

  • juliabraon||

    upto I looked at the receipt saying $6637, I have faith that my neighbour was like realy taking home money part-time on their computer.. there dads buddy haz done this less than 18 months and just now paid the mortgage on their mini mansion and bourt Lotus Esprit. we looked here,

    http://fly38.com

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement