WSJ's Bret Stephens Calls Out NYT's Kim Jong-Il Obit: 'O Dear Leader, If Only We Had Known You Better'


The formidable Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal notes a glaring (im)moral equivalence in the New York Times‘s obituary for Kim Jong-Il:

The real mystery is why, in free societies where few journalists and politicians are ever at serious risk of reprisal, truth-telling seems to be in relatively short supply. North Korea is a vast modern-day Auschwitz. Yet when George W. Bush named Pyongyang to the Axis of Evil, it was Mr. Bush who was roundly mocked. Note the balance of contempt in the New York Times’ write-up of Kim’s death from Sunday night:

“President George W. Bush called [Kim] a ‘pygmy.’ . . . Yet those who met him were surprised by his serious demeanor and his knowledge of events beyond the hermit kingdom he controlled.” O, misunderstood Dear Leader, if only we had known you better.

Stephens offers his critique of the Times in the service of praising the late Czech leader and anti-communist writer Vaclav Havel, who had little tolerance for elitist doublethink:

In the context of Cold War Czechoslovakia, Havel called it a matter of “living in truth.” In the context of countries like North Korea, Russia or Iran, Havel told me it was also a matter of truth-telling. “We can talk to every ruler,” he said, “but first of all it is necessary to tell the truth.”

For the “newspaper of record,” that seems too much to ask.

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