On this site we’ve written about people who’ve partied with the Castros, who’ve sung the praises of Hugo Chávez, who’ve dipped into the Argentinian treasury with the Kirchners like folks sharing fondue, who’ve lined their pockets by showing up at birthday parties for any number of brutal African dictators. But the pals and partisans of North Korea are arguably in a class by themselves.
Just by way of a reminder: in 2005, CNN founder Ted Turner told Wolf Blitzer that he’d recently “had a great time” in North Korea and found their leaders “absolutely sincere” in their commitment to arms control. Then, earlier this year, feminist icon Gloria Steinem led a cockamamie “walk for peace” across the border between the two Koreas. Her partner in this venture: Bay Area activist Christine Ahn, who, according to Sue Mi Terry of Columbia University’s East Asian Institute, “has a tendency to blame the U.S. and South Korea for all the problems caused by North Korea.”
Now here’s another apologist for the worst regime on earth: a guy named Michael Bassett, who in a September article for the kooky left-wing rag Counterpunch depicted North Korea as a victim of “sensational” and “un-provable” Western caricature:
Searching “North Korea” on the Internet reveals millions of hits echoing a consensus that North Korea is an ongoing “meth-addicted,” “nuclear threat to humanity,” “a holocaust,” a “hell-on-earth,” and a place where “unimaginable cruelties” such as “castrating the disabled,” and “mass murder by machine-gun fire” regularly occur.
Bassett dismissed these horrors as quickly as he’d listed them. There’s “little actual proof” of these charges, he insisted. As for Western calls for North Korea to be liberated, he put the word “liberation” in scare quotes. Unsurprisingly, the real Bad Guy in Bassett’s picture turns out to America, which, he charges, has long encouraged “mass hysteria” about North Korea. NGOs that work for human rights in North Korea, he charged, are nothing more than “US government-funded information warfare contractors.” And he mocked North Korean defectors who labor to help bring others out of the Kims’ prison and to ultimately unite both Koreas under a single democratic government.
Who is this Bassett? Tidbits of information about him pop up here and there. One website describes him as “a North Korea analyst who spent several years stationed at the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas for the U.S. military.” In an article by a fellow pro-Pyongyang propagandist, B.J. Murphy, he’s identified as a “Citizen Diplomat to North Korea.” Elsewhere he tells us that he spent ten years in the U.S. Army, four of them “as a tank commander and intelligence officer on the DMZ”; that he’s “lived on the Korean Peninsula for seven years and has family members from both sides of the DMZ”; and that he “was severely injured in the line of duty” and “still works in D.C.” A 2013 source provides further details: Bassett “holds a B.A. in International Communication from the American University in Washington, D.C., a graduate certificate in North Korean Affairs from Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies in Seoul, South Korea, and is currently working on his M.A. in Public Diplomacy from the American University.” According to Workers’ World, he’s a member of Veterans for Peace. Meanwhile, on his Twitter account, he labels himself a “Propaganda Analyst by trade, North Korea Engager by trial, Peace Wager by virtue.”
But all this is just by way of introduction. We’ll dig further into Bassett’s story – and psyche – tomorrow.