Sunday, March 06, 2005

Barbara Demick's Friendly Interview With A North Korean For The LAT Raises Questions

When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the North Korean regime of Kim Jong Il an "outpost of tyranny," she was only stating the obvious. This is a government that has repeatedly committed terrorist acts of sabotage, kidnapping, political imprisonments of large numbers, and now threatens the world with nuclear weapons. There has been reliable evidence it has sold nuclear technology to others.

So what is the Los Angeles Times, often a notoriously weakkneeded newspaper on foreign affairs, doing running a friendly interview on Page 1 with a North Korean businessman in what writer Barbara Demick characterizes as "an effort to clear up misunderstandings," by giving the North Koreans a chance to characterize themselves as a place "just like any other?"

Demick has already defended her piece as routine. She told a reader quoted by the Powerline blog, "I'm sorry if my story was seen as an endorsement of the North Korean point of view, but believe me, it wasn't." She insisted she had given the anonymous North Korean a chance to make "repellent" remarks in order to give him "enough rope to hang himself."

But there was nothing in the article as it appeared March 3 in the Times that seemed to be the writer hinting at any skepticism about what she was hearing.

Demick also made the point that if she got an interview with Kim Jong Il himself, she certainly would have been glad to quote him.

Well, of course. But this wasn't Kim Jong Il. It was an unnamed source sitting in a North Korean-owned restaurant in Beijing. A source who, by the way, expressed delight that North Korea now is claiming to have nuclear weapons.

This could end badly, folks, and for the Times reporter to let her source get away with blaming the U.S. for the situation without a word to indicate the known facts--that North Korea welched on an earlier agreement to abandon nuclear weapons in exchange for help with development of peaceful nuclear energy--has to be regarded as a dereliction on her part. And the paper's editors are just as guilty for editing her story in such a way as to not question blatant misstatements.

Demick is quoted too by the Powerline blog as saying she has done previous stories critical of the North Koreans, thus implying she deserves dispensation in this case.

Dealing with the tyrants of the world by allowing their mouthpieces to try to win over Times readers by extolling their good intentions and saying they are no different from peaceful peoples elsewhere in the world is not my idea of how The Times should be standing up for freedom, the very system under which the paper prints.

What next? An article with a neo-Nazi saying Hitler meant well, or an interview with a friend of the Muslim terrorist al-Zarqawi saying he is showing his humanity when he beheads people? The Times editors need to consider just how they appear to their own readers when they print articles like Demick's.

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