North Korea announced it would be sending 22 athletes to compete in three sports in the Winter Olympics last month, prompting speculation of peace talks and denuclearization deals between the U.S. and the Koreas.
After all, the Olympics represent a form of global unity. Communication between official North and South governments has been re-established, at least temporarily. South Korea agreed to shoulder the cost of the North’s Olympic expenses. The North and South marched together in the opening ceremony, a unity that, to many, eased current nuclear threat tension.
CNN, The New York Times and USA Today pushed out surprisingly positive North Korea-related headlines like: “Kim Jong-un’s sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics,” “Kim Jong-un’s Sister Turns On the Charm, Taking Pence’s Spotlight and North Korea cheerleaders making quite an impression at Winter Olympics.”
But the media may have overstepped its boundaries in promoting the hermit state.
The same mainstream media that lectures us every day about “fake news” also fawns over North Korea’s head of “propaganda and agitation”.
Let that sink in.
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) February 14, 2018
“We’re praising North Korea & acting as a willing participant in their propaganda efforts but that goddamn Mike Pence is trying to ruin it.” pic.twitter.com/4sLSmVdxeC
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) February 11, 2018
The only cheers from North Koreans I’ll be interested in are the ones after the evil Kim regime collapses https://t.co/MnMx9R8Xra
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) February 11, 2018
The headlines started conversations about whether or not the media was normalizing North Korea, and the implications of doing so.
“When you’re dealing with deadly communist terrorists who torture and starve their own people, when you’re dealing with a regime that’s responsible for one and a half million deaths … [it’s important that] that you don’t treat them like you’d treat another state,” wrote Boston Globe columnist Michael Graham, who was also highly critical of the media’s glorification of Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, and North Korean cheerleaders.
“There’s a compulsion on the Left to suck up to the world’s worst dictators. Why? Why do they think that works?” mocked Fox host Sean Hannity.
“The gold medal for the best propaganda performance at the Winter Olympics must go to Kim Jong-un,” wrote The Financial Times’ Roula Khalaf. Khalaf asserted that the North’s “charm” amounts to deceit.
“Is Mr. Kim playing South Korea?” she posited. “Of course he is. His strategy is to drive a wedge between the U.S. and its ally.”
“The reaction to these stories — and this is a rarity in 2018’s polarized environment — has been bipartisan condemnation,” wrote The Hill’s Joe Concha, criticizing the media’s “tone-deaf” coverage of the North.
He explained: “What’s the motive behind such glowing coverage of a murderous country … President Trump — and by extension — Pence, of course.”
Some believe that media pundits seem to be glorifying North Korea to spite Trump and are quick to point out coverage double standards.
The Federalist’s David Marcus noted the hypocrisy and absurdity behind the press’ worship of how seemingly “normal” North Korea has been acting in PyeongChang.
“Progressives have insisted there is a great danger in normalizing Donald Trump … This, in large part, is why so many conservatives were flummoxed by some of our nation’s biggest news outlets’ fawning coverage of Kim Yo-jong,” Marcus noted.
While an incredibly isolated country like North Korea competing at the Olympics is on its face newsy, these flattering headlines aren’t a good look for American journalists. With two weeks of the Olympics left, it’ll be intriguing to see how coverage evolves, given the backlash.