Fiskings Media Criticism

Fareed Zakaria shows us how anyone can earn a living as a North Korea expert!

zakaria.jpgNext time my brother and I argue about why I’m not big a fan of Fareed Zakaria, I think I’ll point him to this CNN.com link where Zakaria gives us his “analysis” of the Cheonan Incident. The interviewer asks him a series of questions, which I rephrase. Zakaria then spits up State Department talking points and pulp he stole from wire service reports, and then blends this with his own analysis.

I’ve hosed the pulp, talking points, and context off of Zakaria’s analysis, leaving it naked and exposed for you to gawk upon. So Fareed — the Norks sank that ship. What’s up with that?

The truth is that North Korea is such a strange and strangely governed place that no one really knows.

So is there a danger we’ll end up going to war?

It’s dangerous because it suggests that North Korea is acting in an unpredictable way.

So why did Kim Jong Il do it?

What’s strange about this is that it’s not entirely clear what the purpose behind it is.

And what about the ChiComs? What’s their deal, Fareed?

That, to me, is the greatest mystery of this whole puzzle.

Thank you, Mr. Zakaria, for that penetrating insight. Does being an expert on all things mean that the words “I have no idea” and “I actually bring no useful knowledge or insight to this discussion” must be purged from your vocabulary? Because Zakaria certainly manages to find a lot of ways to say that … and to collect a paycheck for it. All he needs is an infomercial to run on the Home and Garden channel at 2 a.m.

20 Comments

  1. Although I agree that his comments were not particularly deep, I thought Mr. Zakaria thoughts were refreshing. His basic premise is that North Korea is predictable in that its actions towards certain countries are generally designed to provide some benefit to NK through blackmail or a series of promises and reneging. The sinking of the Cheonan does not fit into this pattern and Mr. Zakaria seemed honestly perplexed. In this time where no one analyzes for knowledge but rather develops analysis to support an agenda, it was good to hear a commentator answer honestly instead of providing responses that are simply designed to reinforce an agenda.
    I would have thought you would have found this refreshing also since this site has more than a few posts of you mocking commentators who claim to know exactly what North Korea is thinking.




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  2. There are many ways to deliver junk analysis. Zakaria chose the easiest way, which is to bring nothing to the discussion except a lot of fancy, overpaid calligraphy for “I don’t know.” What we see more often is the analysis of academic types who genuinely know many facts about North Korea because they’ve collected a skewed selection of them as stepping stones toward a pre-ordained and illogical conclusion. Naturally, these people always think they know the ultimate answer, regardless of the facts. Both kinds of junk analysis are suitable targets for ridicule.

    In the end, the quality of analysis is judged by its predictive value. I suppose I should credit Zakaria for not even pretending to offer any. For the last two decades, most of the foreign policy establishment held the illogical, counter-factual view that Kim Jong Il wanted to reform and disarm if only we’d give him enough aid and security guarantees to ease the political, economic, and military insecurities that made him do all those bad, bad things. The 2009 nuke test and the Cheonan incident have shifted the establishment’s views decisively toward views that I’ve held from the beginning of this blog in 2004 — that Kim Jong Il may be happy to take our money, but he doesn’t want any of the things we think we’re buying, such as reform, good relations, disarmament, Sunshine, cultural exchanges, or the welfare of the great majority of its population. Even back in 2004, the great weight of available evidence supported that conclusion.

    There are, of course, a few die-hards: Feffer, Chinoy, Harrison, etc., but this time, they’ve really marginalized themselves by suggesting that this is somehow South Korea’s fault. It’s obvious at this point that no revelation of fact could possibly change their views.

    Most of the establishment finally gets that only regime change will solve the problem. For years, many of these people were so obsessed with sticking pins in their George Bush voodoo dolls that the inescapable escaped them. With that distraction removed, The Washington Post, Richard Haass, Don Kirk, Gary Samore, and John Bolton suddenly sound very much alike. Unfortunately, the establishment is still at a loss as to how to influence events in that direction.




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  3. Well said. I was based in in Seoul 2001-4 and already by then, it was clear that South Korea’s enthusiasm for rapprochement was unrequited by North Korea. Recall that the family reunions rather quickly tapered off, and what ones they had all shifted to Kumgang. North Korea also stepped up its campaign to mobilize the South’s considerable useful idiot brigade in pro-North (anti-South) rallies in Pyongyang. The North also dragged their feat on the cross DMZ rail work and squeezed more money out of the process…I think the North Korean authorities understood better than the South’s Kim-Roh era establishment what true rapprochement and reunification implied (and still does). Shortly after Kim Il-sung died, recall that South Korea tried and jailed (although later pardoned) Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo for acts that were relative child’s play compared to what Kim Jong-il has on his rap sheet.

    Zakaria is decent enough on globalization and US-Islam at the Newsweek columnist or CNN level for the general masses who lightly follow world events between sports and American Idol. But it is a mistake to tap him for this issue or incident.




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  4. Is this that much of a surprise? CNN goes to Mike Chinoy of all people for “expert” analysis. And at least Zakaria does a little better than the normal CNN commentators and hosts (who are too nauseating to watch). CNN really needs to make some adjustments and restructure their east Asia research team.

    Speaking of restructuring, I’m surprised you haven’t touched on NPR’s coverage of North Korea, which is equally nauseating, vapid, and stupid (for God’s sake they aired an interview of BOBBY EGAN. BOBBY EGAN.). I love me some Kojo and Diane Rehm, but if NPR went to a Bobby Egan-BBQ restaurant owner-I negotiated peace with Vietnam and North Korea for coverage on any other region of the world, then there would be hell to pay.

    I’m almost tempted to call both CNN and NPR out on a subtle racism of the liberal elite.




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  5. We’re shooting fish in a barrel here. At least nobody actually thinks this guy knows anything, in which regard he is far less dangerous than some of the others named…




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  6. Hey, just be glad they didn’t bring in a guy whose status as a North Korea expert is based on his experience in a South Korean jail after a drug bust.




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  7. A good comment under Fareed Zakaria’s talk:

    “how do we know NK isn’t telling the truth… has a neutral party reviewed the findings from SK to see if they really did sink it… and by neutral.. i don’t mean the USA… find someone from sweden or something..”

    Sweden? Now, why did no one think of that?




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  8. Zakaria wrote:

    “This is genuinely irrational since I can’t put together the logical process by which they would have arrived at this decision. And that’s troubling because they are a nuclear-powered nation..”

    —————–
    This seems incredibly naive to me. It’s just so hard for some people to believe that there is genuine evil in the world- no logic needed.




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  9. I confused the two leading weekly news magazines, and I’m not the least bit embarrassed. Won’t miss these dinosaurs when they become extinct.




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  10. And anyways, Jeffery, at least I can sort out the Korean names of far leftist, pro-North media organizations. 🙂




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  11. Speaking of irony, did anyone else catch this poor choice of cliches?

    The Chinese have been pretty straight with the North Koreans in saying that they want some degree of stability and predictability. “Just don’t rock the boat” seems to have been the Chinese mantra.

    “Don’t rock the boat”? Ouch.




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