Thursday, February 19, 2009


Stalinist name-calling

Hillary Clinton spoke to reporters on her way to South Korea. See if you can tell what she said:


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday that North Korea's leadership situation is uncertain and the United States is worried the Stalinist country may soon face a succession crisis to replace dictator Kim Jong Il.
FOX News:
Speaking to reporters aboard her plane from Indonesia to South Korea, Clinton said "the whole leadership situation (in North Korea) is somewhat unclear." She said the difficulties of dealing with the Stalinist regime of Kim Jong Il -- who is believed to have suffered a stroke last year -- have been compounded by "the uncertainties that come from questions about potential succession."
The Obama administration is concerned that uncertainty over who will succeed North Korean leader Kim Jong Il if he is incapacitated may be behind rumored preparations for a long-range missile test by the Stalinist state, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
So did Clinton call North Korea "Stalinist"? A casual reader might think so, but judging from the carefully placed quotes in the FOX article, I doubt it.

Calling North Korea "Stalinist" (be it "country," "regime," or "state") is practically de rigeur in the media. But what on earth does that mean? For most of the media, and for that percentage of their readers who even have a clue, I have little doubt it means little more than what "fascist" does for most people - an epithet and little more. The word does nothing to enlighten the reader about the contents of the specific story. Consider this from the Los Angeles Times:

[An American teaching in South Korea] said that if young people have concerns about North Korea, it's what effect any news of the Stalinist state would have on the South Korean economy.
Did that word "Stalinist" tell the reader anything? Yes and no. "No" if we're talking substance, "yes" if we recognize that it's just a clue, like the media which routinely referred to Fidel Castro as "Cuban dictator" rather than "Cuban President," that these are "our" enemies, meant to be vilified at every opportunity.

The dictionary.com definition says this, by the way:

The principles of communism associated with Joseph Stalin, characterized esp. by the extreme suppression of dissident political or ideological views, the concentration of power in one person, and an aggressive international policy.
Aggressive international policy? I seem to recall it was the Western powers which invaded the Soviet Union upon its founding in an attempt to strangle Communism in its cradle, and Germany which attacked the Soviet Union. I also recall that in the last 50 years the majority of the wars in the world have been started by two so-called "democracies," the United States and Israel, and that, since the Korean War, whose origin (i.e., "who started it") is hardly clear in the first place, North Korea hasn't attacked any other country, nor are its troops stationed in 100+ countries around the world.

Why stop here? There's more...

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