Blogs > Cliopatria > Silences

Dec 16, 2008 4:35 pm


Silences



Money is the big news. And rightly so. An international economic meltdown touches lives in every country. But other issues are out there. Barack Obama keeps building his cabinet. The unignited threats in France gave an adrenaline shot of fear this morning. The all-too-effective Mumbai attacks have forced a debate in India concerning its security laws. These have made headlines, too. And rightly so.

But other stories don’t get the headlines they deserve.

Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee issued providing new confirmation of the United State’s use of torture and links that to the highest levels of the outgoing administration. Big news? Hardly. As Glenn Greenwald at Salon points out the major TV outlets have largely ignored it. It’s old stuff about an outgoing administration, and no one in it—or, apparently, in the incoming one either—seems to want much to do with it. As for the media, It’s not a bomb threat; it’s not money; it’s not even corruption under a bad toupee. It’s something that the majority of Americans, and the majority of their leaders, wish to ignore. The silence of the media enables that desire.

Such silence isn’t limited to Americans. This utterly painful story of a North Korean’s escape from a prison camp ought to have a spotlight on it. A really bright spotlight, as it makes clear that North Korean prison camps far exceed even the post-Stalin Gulags in their cruelty.

The escapee, Shin Dong-hyuk, has written a book, Escape to the Outside World. It’s only sold 500 copies in South Korea. (There is no English version.) The article does not say how much the Korean media have (or have not) discussed it. The clear implication is “not much.”

Perhaps his book does not have the genius of a Gulag Archipelago. Perhaps some people don’t believe him; escapees from these camps are few and far between. But mostly, like the stories about the American use of torture here, it’s just not what South Koreans are interested in right now. Silence enables them to ignore the pain just north of their border and focus on what they believe really matters.

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