Friday, May 10, 2013

Screw you, jackass

The original title was set to be "Fu¢k you, aßßhole," but the use of profanity within a headline itself seems so unseemly.

Back when The Stupogants™ (i.e., Laura Ling, Euna Lee, and Mitch Koss) ran afoul of the North Korean authorities in 2009 — leading to the detainment, conviction, and incarceration for Ms Ling and Ms Lee — I got a bit of flack for my criticism of those three for what they did and how they did it. At places like One Free Korea, it was merely ideological and based on interpretations of the facts, but in other places it got more personal, including accusations of plagiarism.

With apparent Christian missionary Kenneth Bae being the latest guest at the Pyongyang Palazzo, it's natural that some are drawing parallels between Mr Bae and the case of Ms Ling and Lee (and Mr Koss), or even that of Messianic crusader Robert Park and his buddy Aijalon Gomes. I myself did so in a recently post.

But what gets in my craw today is this comment by Marmot's Hole dweller DLBarch in response to the news (carried also by me yesterday) that Kim Jong-un's new BFF Dennis Rodman has asked KJU to do him a solid and pardon Mr Bae:
I am never in favor of standing by while any American — even the Kenneth Bae’s of the country — are incarcerated on trumped up charges by an odious, repugnant regime like North Korea, so I do think the U.S. needs to do what it can, within reason, to seek Bae’s release.

But, but…it is fascinating to compare how the MH commentariat has treated the Kenneth Bae incident with how it treated Laura Ling and Euna Lee not too long ago. The full-throated vituperation and, yes, barely disguised misogyny that surrounded the Ling and Lee drama is nowhere to be found in the latest Bae hostage taking.

Given Bae’s voluntarily — and repeatedly — entered North Korea whereas Ling and Lee got misled into inadvertently crossing the North Korea-China border, this difference of popular reaction to the two incidents is striking. Bae seems to be getting a huge pass, while Ling and Lee were thoroughly excoriated in the most personal of attacks.

Pretty damning.

Okay, so maybe I shouldn't take regard as direct criticism of my views since I do not comment at The Marmot's Hole anymore (no, not in any way, shape, or form for many years now), but since I was early on the preeminent critic of The Stupogants™ (enough that Laura Ling's famous sister, Lisa Ling, contacted me directly about my criticisms) and there was an entire post at The Marmot's Hole about my views on the matter, I'm taking DLB's bogus comments personal, at least as they relate to me.

While I agree with DLB's first paragraph, to describe my "full-throated vituperation" as "barely disguised misogyny" is preposterous, and demonstrably false for a number of reasons. Let's go over them, shall we?
  • Do a word string search for "Mitch Koss" at my site and you'll see me referring to him repeatedly in my criticisms of The Stupogants. My full-throated vituperation of Ling and Lee extends to him as well, and that was early on. It has nothing to do with them being women; the closest I got to a gendered comment was mocking Koss — who managed to escape while Ling and Lee ended up captured — for his lack of chivalry in saving his own ass.
  • The criticism of The Stupogants is valid and has nothing to do with their gender. They were there for personal gain (fame from getting the scoop of all scoops) and their journalistic negligence — they were carrying tapes of the escaped refugees they'd interviewed! — may well have cost lives and caused the North Korean authorities to plug up an important escape route. (Likewise, Robert Park's crazy walkabout into North Korea was about increasing his own fame.)
  • Unlike The Stupogants or Mr Park, Mr Bae has been risking his freedom for something that offers no financial aggrandizement or opportunity for fame. In fact, if his life-endangering "mission" is offering hope and escape to individuals in the North (or providing a slow-dose poison pill to the regime), his motives are the diametric opposite of those of The Stupogants. Consequently, any "striking" difference in levels of criticism would be about something other than gender. 
  • My "attacks" on Lee and Ling (or Koss) were no more "personal" than to admonish others not to buy their books, because they shouldn't profit from their foolishness and arrogance that endangered some extremely vulnerable people in China and North Korea. They sought publicity afterwards, and that opens them up for scrutiny and, if warranted, criticism.   
  • Whether or not Bae "gets a huge pass" will depend a lot on what information comes out when he's released. If it turns out that he knowingly did careless things that could bring considerable harm on those he encountered — as was the case with Koss, Lee, and Ling — I will be first in line to pillory him for that. The Stupogants were depicted as innocents who just got lost, when the reality turned out to be quite different; if I was so full-throated in my vituperation, it's because I recognized that early on and I was at first the lone voice in saying so.
  • Oh, and Ms Ling and Ms Lee did not "inadvertently cross the North Korea-China border" (which is a river, by the way). They knowingly and deliberately crossed in order to have a great hook for their program. 
So in conclusion, one can make the case that I am inconsistent in whom I criticize or that my thought processes can be a tad inscrutable at times (though I would submit there is a clear, but complex, pattern), but if someone throws some bogus charge at me like plagiarism or "damning" misogynistic criticism, and you've got hell to pay, aßßhole.




  1. DL Barch is comparing apples and oranges. The MH commentariat has had high turnover in recent years. I myself rarely read and never comment there anymore, owing mostly to a waning interest in East Asia.


    1. I'm sorry to hear your interest in East Asia is waning. You have lived here (er, there) a huge chunk of your life and you seem to have gained far more knowledge of the countries you lived in, as well as their nuances, than most people.

      I do see you commenting a lot at One Free Korea still, but I'll admit I don't read the comments section at The Marmot's Hole or even One Free Korea nearly as religiously as before. That's owing more to being in a stage in my graduate studies where I need to be more focused. I barely have time for my own blog, much less others'.

  2. Actually, I don't comment a lot at OFK either although I was active on few threads several months ago. My waning interest in East Asia is a natural consequence of my settling into my new and probably permanent existence in a city that has a large Hispanic population that i interact with daily as part of my job. This winter, my school started offering free basic English classes to parents, and i am really enjoying teaching and getting to know the Mexican, Salvadoran, Honduran, and Guatemalan moms and dads of the kids i see in school. Our school occasionally gets Chinese kindergarteners, who enroll with zero English, so I get to dust off my Chinese language skills for awhile until the child's parents move

    1. This is a city different from the one you've been in for the last several years?

  3. To a neighborhood that is served by a non-Title I school with fewer poor kids.


  4. Don't take it so personally. I don't think he was referring to you, but the general commentariat.

    1. I cannot go into why I believe it to be the case, but I'm fairly certain that was consciously directed at me (as well as other people).


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