Tuesday, January 6, 2015

One similarity between America and North Korea

I don't mean to imply that America and North Korea are identical, certainly not. (Does North Korea torture prisoners of war?) But this essay makes a good point.

He's talking about North Korea's response to The Interview. Whether or not North Korea hacked Sony, they were still outraged by the film, even arguing their case at the UN!

But is America all that different?
Remember March 2003? That’s when Natalie Maines, lead singer of the popular country music group The Dixie Chicks, told a British audience, “We don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” Compared to The Interview’s extended, ribald parody of North Korea’s leader, one that culminates in a slow-motion shot of his exploding head, Maines’ critique of America’s president was brief and mild. Moreover, Maines hails from a nation that prides itself on nothing more than its freedoms, and indeed consistently deploys those freedoms to contrast itself with dictatorial or repressive nations around the world. It was Bush himself who argued that “they hate us for our freedoms,” an argument that has been rehashed in response to The Interview controversy.

Yet the response to Maines’s comments from millions of her fellow Americans was as outraged, as extreme and as violent as anything out of North Korea. North Korea may indeed have been responsible for what amounted to a boycott of Sony’s film, although the decision to pull the film was the company’s own. On the other hand, numerous country music radio stations and millions of country listeners boycotted The Dixie Chicks themselves, refusing to play their music, destroying piles of their albums, labeling them “Saddam’s Angels,” the “Dixie Sluts,” and so on.

Similarly, North Korean hackers may well have made vague threats of violence against movie theaters that chose to show The Interview. But Maines and the Dixie Chicks received much more overt and widespread death threats, to the point where the singer and group were forced to withdraw from the public eye for some time out of fear for their own safety and that of their families. Such attacks were egged on, if not orchestrated, by the nation’s most prominent conservative voices, as exemplified by Rush Limbaugh’s multi-day tirade against the group. And they were undoubtedly tied to rhetoric emanating from the highest levels of American government, such as Bush’s “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” remark.

Remembering the response to Maines in this moment would serve as a glass houses moment for Americans,...

Moreover, the Maines response illustrates how quickly we can abandon our ideals of freedom if they contrast with such passionately held perspectives. Bush’s public statement on the attacks on and threats against Maines and the Dixie Chicks was that “Consequences are the price we all have to pay for our freedoms.” Yet it’d be more accurate to say that Maines’ millions of critics were happy to see her freedoms abridged when they conflicted with their beliefs about their leader and nation. In such moments, the gap between America and North Korea seems all too slight.

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