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Sunday, December 28, 2003

Hurry (and Wake) Up Hari

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this Johann Hari post. Hari (blogger and Real Lefty Journalist) wrote a previous post about the politically-engineered famine in North Korea, placing the blame squarely on Kim Jong-Il. He also wrote approvingly of a man who's helping North Korean refugees, and sending radios into North Korea on balloons, so people there can learn what's really going on in the outside world.

Hari was then "astonished" to find that many self-professed leftists (on the Medialens website, some Chomskyite thing---go to Hari's for the link) not only disagreed with him in the details, but about the major points too. In essence, the state of North Korea is all America's fault. Simultaneously, if the US was against the North Korean regime, the Medialens crowd was for it, even if it meant the starvation of millions. The doctor Hari wrote about, the balloon-radio fellow, is an "international criminal", and Hari ought to be arrested for supporting him. (Admittedly, that's the opinion of one guy, way over the top and down the other side. That shocked even me.)

Poor Hari explains, in rather bewildered detail, just how the US has opposed North Korea at every turn, and has tried to mitigate tensions between North and South Korea. He is at a loss to understand how the US is, in the opinion of one commentator, responsible for Kim's "harshness" simply by virtue of having fought the Korean War. (Hint: If the big bad US had never opposed those innocent Commies in the first place, the Kims wouldn't have had to take such drastic measures to keep their country free and pure of the Yankee taint. Surely this must be obvious.)

On the one hand, Hari's dismay is rather comic; on the other, his consternation is pitiable. Those of us who've been paying attention to the loopier side of the Left are unsurprised at this. I've been reading stuff like this for the past two years. The problem is in deciding how much of the Left this represents. I never took these kinds of opinions seriously before September 11, because I didn't know any leftwing crackpots personally (rightwing crackpots, on the other hand...).

But now I'm reading this sort of thing everywhere, and I don't know if it's because the websites I read love to stew over it, or whether it actually is everywhere. Hari cautions that Medialens is not really representative of the Left, but I would disagree. While their comments are more rabid than you usually find, their ideas are not. I've heard, from actual live people, attitudes that are not much different than this. It's a common theme that the US is responsible for all the trouble in the world. If there's a coup, the CIA is in back of it. If there's a famine, it's because the US is witholding food. And if there's good news---as in the recent case of Khaddafi deciding to behave---it's because the Great Satan was looking elsewhere for a moment, allowing the Good People to perform their gentle magic.

(Hey, remember when the Soviet Union was the font of all evil, when no suspicious event, down to fluoridation of the water supply, took place unless the Reds were behind it? Remember how silly those rubes looked? Remember how the Left laughed at those bumpkins?)

And here's where my laughter becomes the cold, mirthless laugh of schadenfreude. Here, Hari, writing about North Korea in a previous post, says:

No, this isn't about saying that America is terrific and the last great hope of man on earth. Its foreign policy has done more harm than good in the last fifty years.

Damian Penny thinks this is just the Lefty secret handshake, something Hari has to say to maintain his leftist bona fides. I say it's spinach, and I say, to hell with it.

I think Hari is one of those people who've been denouncing US policy all these years, and one day is surprised to find that this has led to a hatred (there's no other word) for the US and all its works, even when (as in this case, as Hari correctly insists) the good, caring people of the Left ought to be working for the same goal. See also Julie Burchill.

Hari is like a man who's been in a decades-long party, cheerfully defending the right of the revellers to be drunk and disorderly and loud, claiming that it will epater le bourgeoisie, which will do 'em good. And now he's sobered up to find that his drunken mates have gone on a rampage he never intended, that there are crops burned, stores looted, people stampeded, and cattle raped. And he wants to know how that happened.

Think he'll figure it out?

P.S. In expressing his confusion as to why his fellow leftists would object to nonviolent attempts to undermine Kim's reign and support North Korean refugees, Hari says:

I can understand why conservatives would oppose this. Why should we give a toss about a bunch of yellow people, they ask, when we have so many problems of our own? But it didn't even occur to me that anybody on the left - which by definition is universalist and concerned with human equality - would disagree.

Smooooooooth, Hari, smoooth. See, folks? That's the kind of sound thinking which gets you a gig at the Independent.