Wednesday, July 31, 2019

How American Popular Culture Distorts People’s Views Of North Korea

From the game Homefront: The Revolution

After imperialist propaganda is disseminated in its initial form of misinformation that comes out in news headlines, it’s further drilled into people’s minds through the subtler propaganda medium of popular culture. A classic example of this is the Cold War film Red Dawn, which suggested to Americans that if communism wasn’t defeated, they would one day have to fight off a ruthlessly aggressive invasion by Russian forces.

Given the fact that the CIA and the Pentagon have been working to influence the contents of Hollywood movies and popular video games for decades, this reinforcement of anti-communist and pro-American propaganda in our country’s entertainment is to be expected. The dangerous thing about this field of mass persuasion is how it defines people’s worldviews without having to make them acutely aware that they’re absorbing a political message. Since the entertainment we consume is meant to be a commentary on reality, people are exposed to propagandistic movies, shows and video games with the assumption that it’s an apt reflection of the way the real world is.

The most severely maligned current target of this ploy is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Representative of how American popular culture portrays the DPRK is the game Homefront: The Revolution, whose backstory behind its dystopian 2029 setting goes as follows:

As the dollar tanked, our debt to north Korea spiraled…the failing government defaulted on the debt, and the north Koreans made their decision. Every piece of technology they’d sold us had a backdoor. They turned off our military with a single button. The first KPA troops on U.S. soil were said to be to rebuild. But after the early aid packages, it was only brutality. They stole our liberty and our freedom. America is under the control of the KPA.

The fact that part of the game’s story has prescience-the part which predicts that the American empire will decline over the next decade amid continuing wars in the Middle East-makes it easier for its intro sequence to successfully fearmonger about the supposed threat from north Korea. It would have been much more realistic, as well as more politically astute, to portray a near future where America is taken towards tyranny by its own government rather than by a foreign government. But that would negate the message that this game and many other facets of popular entertainment want to convey, which is that the north Koreans are to be feared and distrusted.

This and the additional anti-DPRK propaganda that the game features (such as graffiti that says “fuck KPA!” and menacing screens featuring north Korean propaganda) have parallels in multiple American films from this decade. For instance, the 2013 film Olympus Has Fallen has the theme of resilient American patriotism in the face of foreign aggression that’s also central to Red Dawn and Homefront

In the film, the White House is overrun by a north Korean terrorist group. The group then proceeds to kidnap the president and execute several government officials, including the south Korean prime minister, before being defeated in a patriotic victory for the American security forces. The political undertones of the film are revealed in the fact that the goal of the terrorist group’s psychopathic leader is to unify both Koreas, an achievement that would put an end to the ongoing Korean War and subsequently dismantle the American empire’s political and military leverage within south Korea.

The emotionally manipulative and overtly racist nature of Olympus Has Fallen reflects the purpose of Hollywood propaganda in its vein. A more blatant example of anti-DPRK messaging in popular culture is 2014’s comedy The Interview, which portrays a scenario where two reporters are given an assignment by the CIA to assassinate north Korea’s “dictator” Kim Jong Un. The details behind the production of The Interview confirm that the intentions behind this story’s creation were very much political, and they give us further reason to suspect similar intentions are behind content like Homefront and Olympus Has Fallen. As AlterNet’s Tim Shorrock has written about the film:

The film was produced by Japan’s Sony Pictures, but finalized only after receiving critical advice and assistance from the Obama State Department, the Rand Corporation, and according to a 2014 interview Rogen gave to the New York Times, the CIA. (“We made relationships with certain people who work in the government as consultants, who I’m convinced are in the CIA.”) But it was all under the tutelage of Bruce Bennett, who was brought into the project by Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, a prominent member of Rand’s board of directors and a close confidante of President Obama.

These activities are part of the U.S.’ vast operation to carry out regime change in the DPRK, which involves all of the disinformation, economic sabotage, and military warfare tools that it’s using to try to destroy countries like Iran and Venezuela. While the capitalist media has falsely painted the DPRK as a dictatorship, the U.S. government and its politically loyal NGOs have worked to propagate fabricated stories of outrageous north Korean human rights abuses. This Orwellian campaign to invert the truth has been the basis upon which the U.S. has justified its deadly sanctions against the North, as well as its two-generations-long effort to threaten north Korea with nuclear attack and station troops near the country.

Bruce Bennett used this Washington dynamic of anti-DPRK conspiracies to gain his advisory role in the production of The Interview. Consequently, the film’s plot of a CIA project to politically destabilize north Korea by turning north Korean elites against Kim Jong Un closely follows Bennet’s plan for enacting regime change in the country. And the goal of Bennet and others to prime the American people for such a coup has been furthered by additional propaganda. In recent years, Bennet has been appearing in media outlets like Fox News, CNN, and Teen Vogue to sell his plan to “liberate” the north Korean people by destabilizing the country through targeted propaganda campaigns within the DPRK.

Yet at this point it seems that the DPRK, which has been constructed through the nationally unifying ideology of Juche Marxism and fortified through a military culture that’s been necessitated by the imperialist siege against it, is indestructible. It has nuclear weapons, its government’s commitment to expanding the country’s social programs has saved it from risk of destabilizing famines, and its people are largely ready to lay down their lives in the event of another American invasion of it. 

Until the globally reviled American empire comes to an end and the U.S. can undergo a socialist revolution, our capitalist government will continue to tarnish the DPRK’s reputation and try to make its people suffer. But it’s very likely that the DPRK will survive these attacks from the dying American beast, and that its ideals of anti-colonialism and anti-capitalism will continue to shape the world throughout the 21st century.

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