Tom Nichols just articulated the dilemma of a “Republican in exile” in the era of Donald Trump and concluded by hoping for big Democratic gains in this fall’s mid-term elections, in the hope of shocking the Republican Party into reforming. As a fellow Republican in exile, I sympathize with this, particularly after the spending spree Republicans just went on and the appalling $4.4 trillion budget President Trump has proposed. If we’re going to buy into Big Government anyway, why not get it from the original vendor? Yet I still can’t root for the Democrats to win, and the media’s weird praise for North Korea over the weekend is a timely reminder why.
The basic political program of the left, and of its supporters and water-carriers in the media, is always for more government: more spending, more regulation, more laws punishing undesirable forms of behavior, more government involvement in every aspect of our lives. It is impossible to implement that program in a way that isn’t oppressive, even if you tried. What the media’s North Korea fanboys just reminded us is that they’re not even going to try.
Everybody knows the Olympics can be used as a propaganda tool for oppressive regimes. They’ve been doing that since Hitler “stole the show” at the 1936 games. The Soviets exploited the Olympics for this purpose for decades, infamously using steroids to pump up the performance of the suspiciously muscular East German women’s Olympic team. (Some habits die hard.) So everybody should have expected North Korea to put on a propaganda show. Everyone in the media should also know the real facts about the North Korean regime, which are widely available for anyone who cares to look. Take, for example, those creepily over-synchronized North Korean cheerleaders. Did you know that in 2005, 21 of those cheerleaders were sent to a prison camp just for talking about what they saw in South Korea? Or did you know that Kim Yo Jong, invariably described in press reports only as the sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, has an actual job title? She is the director of the regime’s “Propaganda and Agitation Department.” You could read a whole New York Times report without ever finding that out. It would certainly change the way the reporting comes across if the headlines were changed to read, “North Korean Propaganda Chief Is Stealing the Show at the Winter Olympics.”
But that would give the game away, wouldn’t it? Nobody falls for this sort of obvious propaganda unless they want to fall for it. And why do they want to fall for it? So they can score partisan points in domestic politics, portraying Vice-President Mike Pence’s visit to the Olympics as “a new low in a bullying type of American diplomacy,” according to a professor quoted prominently by the New York Times. Pence is the one who is “bullying”—while North Korea continually threatens the entire south with annihilation? The double standard is too obvious to be an accident. North Korea’s monsters are getting a free pass from the America press just so they can stick a finger in the eye of the Trump administration.
So the message the media is sending us here is that they will cheer on the gulags if it serves their partisan agenda. And then they wonder why we don’t trust them.
No, I don’t trust the Republicans with power, either. I’ve spent the past few years contending with dogmatic Trump supporters who set their own lows for unreasoning support for their idol. I want this administration to face an effective political opposition to keep Donald Trump’s authoritarian tendencies in check. But the latest fawning over North Korea tears the lid off of all of the left’s “Resistance” posturing.
The “Resistance” label is supposed to evoke the idea of freedom fighters beating back the forces of dictatorship and defending the norms and institutions of a free society. But that label needs to be earned by a scrupulous and principled dedication to liberty. Otherwise, in an era of Twitter mobs getting people fired and speech codes at universities, we’re going to assume that you only want to “resist” Trump so you can cheer on an authoritarian leadership that is more to your liking.
Which is pretty much what the media and the center-left just did, and we’re going to remember it.