False equivalency between the US and Russia was a gateway drug for RT host Abby Martin. She’s now moved on to the hard stuff: North Korea.
On her April 22 program, in a segment entitled “A Visitor’s Guide to North Korea,” Martin interviewed Marcel Cartier, an RT employee whom she introduced as a hip hop artist and journalist just back from a tour of North Korea. Martin prefaced the interview by saying that Cartier would “shed some light on the biggest misconceptions we have about North Korea,” explaining that “we in the West have been conditioned to have certain prejudices against North Korea.” Martin didn’t say exactly what those prejudices were or who was conditioning us to have them. One can assume that her culprit is “the corporate media,” which she portrays as being (much like RT actually is) merely a means of disseminating propaganda in the guise of news reporting.
While Martin did note in the interview that North Korea does not have a free press and that it has a cult of personality surrounding its leaders, she failed to distinguish this in any way from the West, which she tends to describe in similar terms. Tellingly, she allowed her guest to make precisely that equation, which was the main point of his presentation and his real reason for being there. He first reported at length about the wonderful conditions he says that he saw in North Korea, calling Pyongyang “absolutely the most beautiful city” he’s ever visited, claiming that North Koreans have free access to a library (“the Grand People’s Study House”) containing 30 million books, and to computers connected to what he describes as “an intranet.” He also said he saw well-dressed, well-fed people listening to hip hop and rock CDs, and described them as having an impressive knowledge about professional basketball. As he got rolling, Cartier grew even more enthusiastic about what he saw, saying that North Korea is a kind of society with which we in the West are unfamiliar: a “completely harmonious” one where “there’s no homelessness, no drug addiction, people are very well-educated, have free access to education through university level, and are living dignified lives.”
When Martin asked him if he didn’t think he was shown only what the government of North Korea wanted him to see, Cartier replied that the same thing happens when a German tourist visits New York City. They see the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, but they don’t visit prisons or slums, a response which Martin apparently believed did not merit a follow-up question.
After I mentioned that interview on Twitter a few days ago, Abby Martin expressed outrage, saying that calling her above-quoted statements a defense of North Korea was a distortion. She claimed that the fact that she also asked her guest a question about North Korea’s lack of press freedom and its brutal prisons was proof of her good faith on this subject (the “I was talking out of both sides of my mouth” defense). Readers can look at the record and judge for themselves the merits of her argument. As they do, they should consider her past record. This isn’t the first time she’s advocated on behalf of North Korea. Martin may now claim that she doesn’t dispute the fact that North Korea is a brutal dictatorship, but as recently as February she did just that and the evidence is still online.
It happened in a segment of her February 5, 2014 program entitled “North Korea Not a Threat.” In that segment, she literally defended North Korea’s nuclear program, mocking those who are concerned about it as alarmists who’ve been unduly influenced by US propaganda. Introducing this serious subject, her voice dripping with sarcasm, Martin said that fears of a nuclear North Korea “all come down to the same line: that North Korea is an imminent threat to the US and its allies; that the big, bad communist regime having control of nuclear weapons is dangerous to the peace and stability of the world”. Setting aside the question of how imminent a nuclear threat North Korean is, to deny it completely, as Martin so offhandedly does, shows just how extreme her views about this are. Martin, true to form, goes on state that concerns about North Korea’s nukes have been drummed up by a cynical “corporate media” locked into a cold war mentality.
The program then segues into an interview with a spokesman for the ANSWER Coalition by the name of Brian Becker, who starts by stating outright that “North Korea doesn’t pose any threat whatsoever,” elaborating that North Korea is a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and has sought peace with the United States “for the past 60 years,” but that the US has responded to North Korean peace overtures with harsh economic sanctions. Becker goes on to argue that the only reason North Korea restarted their nuclear weapons program was in response to being included in George Bush’s “axis of evil,” and defend North Korea’s expelling IAEA inspectors as a reasonable reaction to the threat implicit in the use of that phrase.
Martin then asks:
“Every week I’m reading something more insane about North Korea: mass gulags, wide-spread starvation, cannibalism, even, and the government claiming that unicorns are real, but the more you look at these claims, the more you realize they’re wild exaggerations taken out of context. Is this all part of the plan to paint them as an out of control military dictatorship to justify our military intervention or action?”
Becker responds in the affirmative, comparing US “demonization” of North Korea to its treatment of Saddam Hussein prior to the Iraq War. “You have to demonize the enemy to prepare the population for military conflict. That’s exactly what’s going on with North Korea in the US. North Korea is an educated population, has a long life-expectancy. It’s a country that wants peace and wants to be interactive with the rest of the world, and instead is treated as Iran is and as Cuba has been for 60 years, because they had revolutions, as the ultimate demons.”
Martin then makes the case, with her guest agreeing, that North Korea should have just as much right as current nuclear powers to develop nuclear weapons and satellite technology.
“Why have this double standard where North Korea is so demonized for doing what all countries want to do?… It’s because the United States government is determined to overthrow that regime and put in place in North Korea what they have in place in South Korea, a puppet or proxy government in this vital strategic area right on China’s borders.”
Incredibly, Becker ends the interview by asserting that opposition to North Korea’s nuclear program is associated with a US plot to overthrow the government of China.
But that’s not the only other time Martin has gone to bat for North Korea. On April 5, 2014, she interviewed Eugene Puryear, another spokesman for ANSWER, in a segment entitled “Nuclear North Korea: Truth vs. Rhetoric”. Martin introduces the interview by saying that US military exercises in the region were to blame for North Korean nuclear threats against the US. Fleshing out that idea, Martin actually calls North Korea’s threats to wage nuclear war against the US “legitimate” (shades of Todd Akin). She then makes the dubious claim that she’s “seeing all over corporate media predictions that North Korea will attack us with nuclear weapons.” What she means by this is that she’s seen news reports on the same threats by North Korea’s leaders that moments earlier she herself had recounted. (When she does it, she’s reporting, but when the “corporate media” does it, they’re drumming up war fever.) Both Martin and her guest then rightly state that a North Korean nuclear attack on the US is most likely not imminent, a belief they in fact share with “the corporate media” and the US national security establishment.
When it comes to the possibility of a US nuclear attack on North Korea, however, Martin and her guest are far less skeptical, citing a threat by Douglas MacArthur to use atomic weapons along the Chinese border during the Korean War as evidence of the danger of such an attack happening now. Citing that more than 60-year-old threat, Puryear asserts “obviously, if there’s going to be any threat of the nuclear war between North Korea and the United States, it’s going to be on the part of the United States”, to which Martin replies by citing Hiroshima: “yes, indeed, the only nation to ever drop nuclear bombs during wartime”. Then, after arguing that UN sanctions against North Korea’s nuclear program are somehow evidence of US warmongering, Martin asks “is North Korea just responding to the threats that have been happening for the past couple of years?” Puryear replies in the affirmative, going on to also blame US brutality during the Korean War and the “fact” that “the US is waging war all across Africa and all across Asia”, going on to say that “all countries that choose not to go down the capitalist road are targeted by the United States,” and “North Korea… stands as a symbol that you can do it differently, that it doesn’t have to be just like the United States, that you don’t have to kowtow to their every wish. And for the United States, this is extremely dangerous… because it threatens the hegemony of the US global strategy.” Referring to her notes, Martin replies by intoning the phrase “their defiance of the world order imposed by the world hegemon.” Via these mental contortions, Martin and her guest blame the United States for North Korea’s threat to use nuclear weapons against it.
In Abby Martin’s funhouse hall of mirrors, facts reported by the news media compete on less than equal footing with conspiracy theories surmised only by asking that eternal question “who benefits?” So, if a wealthy country like the US sees a very poor country like North Korea as being a brutal dictatorship, it’s safe to assume that the US is using it as a diversion from its own comparable or worse offenses. If the facts don’t in any way support that equation, then those facts themselves must have been manufactured in the same way a dictatorship manufactures a party line designed to keep the masses under control. It is undeniably true that tourists to New York City don’t visit prisons and tend to avoid slums. In RT’s funhouse, that makes New York Pyongyang.
I can’t say for certain that Abby Martin has defended North Korea’s brutal regime in this way throughout her career, but in light of her having done so on these three occasions just within the past three months, her outraged protestations that she has never done so are pretty absurd. I wouldn’t have expected otherwise.