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Mainstream media fuels the cult of Kim Jong-un – a real-life Bond villain is the tabloids’ dream

Chris Sweeney
Chris Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney

Mainstream media fuels the cult of Kim Jong-un – a real-life Bond villain is the tabloids’ dream
Following the denial of the deluge of recent reports that North Korea's leader had died, the new line is that he's been replaced by a body double. Not the most outlandish claim about the world’s safest bogeyman.

Kim Jong-un is dead, well maybe, possibly – actually, he’s not. That’s the verdict if you’ve followed the latest round of what is generally called ‘media speculation.’

One of the most vocal proponents is motormouth Louise Mensch, a former Conservative MP in the United Kingdom, who has announced online to the world that the recent sighting of Kim Jong-un was faked. It was, in fact, a body double, she stated.

Historic images have been unearthed to compare the hairline, crow's feet, Cupid’s bow, and the shape of the nose and teeth of the Dear Leader with the latest shots of ‘Kim’ at a fertilizer factory.

The Sun, Britain’s second-widest circulating newspaper, jumped on the story, likely to get more clicks and thereby more revenue from advertisers to help its ailing multi-million losing business. Counterparts The Daily Mail and Daily Express piled in on top. And then TMZ, a humble online Hollywood gossip site, flagged up that the picture of Kim at the fertilizer factory had apparently been doctored.

Mainstream media fuels the cult of Kim Jong-un – a real-life Bond villain is the tabloids’ dream

What’s behind the hype?

The real nub of the matter? The editors, who should’ve been turning beetroot red with embarrassment, probably aren’t even bothered. The media has successfully elevated Kim to the status of a James Bond villain akin to evil mastermind Ernst Stavro Blofeld because he makes news outlets money. Even the supposedly respected Financial Times ran coverage about the ‘death’ of Kim Jong-un a few weeks ago.

But it’s not just a British phenomenon. CNN was one of the first to announce his death. Subscription site The Daily NK, which boasts of its ‘fast and accurate’ news, was the first to report that Kim Jong-un was gravely ill after heart surgery. Its credibility is derived from its being run by North Korean defectors, but, on this occasion, its alleged inside track was a cul-de-sac.

The ripple effects sucked in a who’s who of the English-speaking media, including British political journal New Statesman; American financial network Bloomberg; Donald Trump’s favourite news broadcaster, Fox; The New York Times; Yahoo News; USA Today; and Canada’s National Post broadsheet.

Also on rt.com ‘Almost certain’: Media raises alarm over NEW alleged North Korean missile facility

Lazy reporting

So, how did they come to this conclusion? The full extent of utilising all their contacts, resources and investigative skills barely appears to have stretched beyond looking at satellite images of where Kim Jong-un’s personal train was. Its location had to mean he was recovering at a resort in Wonsan, on North Korea’s west coast, battling to stay alive, it was deduced.

He was, apparently, so ill that he couldn’t stand – until a matter of days later, when he walked into the aforementioned factory to oversee its opening ceremony.

The North Korean defectors who had set off the chain of fan fiction issued a public apology for their baseless claims, and mainstream media outlets went into reverse gear, saying this proved how difficult it is to report on the ‘Hermit Kingdom’.

But isn’t that their entire purpose? Don’t they train reporters and journalists to fact-check, build up contacts and go into the trenches seeking the truth? Surely, when about to report on something with no verifiable basis, you would expect them to yank on the handbrake and re-evaluate?

It’s not like he will sue

But when it comes to Kim Jong-un, they don’t care. They are comfortable that he will never send them a legal letter or seek damages.

Some of the wild claims about his bloodthirsty appetite include him stripping his uncle Jang Song-thaek naked and feeding him to a pack of wild dogs, burning alive a minister of public security with a flamethrower, and ordering a mortar round to be dropped on an army officer who annoyed him, with his direct order being: “Leave no trace of him behind, down to his hair.”

Other Kim Jong-un claims are that he could drive a car aged three, was a musical genius by the time he was nine, and only allows younger men to grow their hair to 2in, but lets older males keep it 2 3/4ins long. He is also alleged to have had plastic surgery to look more like his grandfather, North Korea’s founder. One thing all these outlandish reports have in common is that none of them have been confirmed by evidence.

Part of the reason for the standards slipping when it comes to Kim stems from the media’s loss of power in the new digital world, where it no longer dictates opinion. Kim Jong-un is someone it can still flex that power over, even if it’s both nonsensical and unethical. He clearly doesn’t care or pay attention to what any news outlet has to say.

And it’s also worth remembering he isn’t even close to being an important or powerful global figure. He’s the leader of an impoverished, third-world country that struggles to keep its basic electricity supply running. The whole construct of a megalomaniac, perched on a throne in an underground bunker, plotting global domination and nuclear holocaust, is ludicrous.

It’s the result of too many ego-driven, unintelligent media bosses and newspaper editors. They’re like children baiting a dog, expect the animal is chained up and can barely strain forward a few inches. It’s a contest with no substance or actual point.

Kim Jong-un is no model citizen. But neither are those who demonise him, whip up a frenzy and run away giggling: the mainstream media.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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