Who’s Afraid of Fat Boy Kim?


The media seem to be getting awfully excited by an alleged cyber-attack on a bad film by (allegedly) the North Koreans. This has been extrapolated to a threat to free speech and an attack on the American way of life. Some group called the Guardians of Freedom has also threatened to unleash terrorist attacks on cinemas screening the offending film and some voices are calling for the “war on terror” to target North Korea. We seem to be having another silly season. First some facts:

The film (“The Interview”) is based on a plot to kill Kim Jong Un. Those who have seen it have rated it pretty moderate or worse. It is a work of fiction, ultimately produced by Sony.

Sony has had its computers hacked. The FBI has said that the hackers were North Korean sponsored, although its evidence is (according to those that understand this stuff) less than 100% convincing and the FBI’s language is restrained

The North Koreans have denied that the hack was them (but they would say that). The US has refused to run a joint investigation (presumably not wanting to share techniques and capabilities.

Elements of the US have now got a bee in their bonnet about freedom of speech, (which they interpret as the right to publish anything without facing the consequences). Some are asking for the war on terror to be extended to include North Korea. A group calling themselves “The Defenders of Freedom” has threatened terrorist attacks on cinemas screening the film, generating more freedom of speech fury, although quite who they are is elusive.

North Korea has started making threatening noises to US.

Coincidentally, or not, the North Korean internet was taken out of action for 24 hours or so.

The media is getting terribly excited at the prospect of further conflict.

Now, some perspective. The North Koreans may or may not have a few nuclear weapons, which it might or might not be able to deliver and which might or might not work. That does not pose an existential threat to anyone. They also have a large army equipped with 1980s technology that is outclassed by US and South Korean equipment deployed in the peninsular. While it is true that the North Korean regime is eccentric in its world view I find it hard to believe that even their hardest hard liner thinks that they will survive an armed confrontation with the US, and using nuclear weapons would not change that. I am therefore not losing sleep about wither the likelihood of North Korea attacking, nor about the consequences of that if they were daft enough to do it.

I am concerned about the way in which a minor event is being hyped. For sure the US defence industry always has an interest in the US (and its allies) having plenty of adversaries, and they have US$125 Billion of arms sales at risk whenever peace breaks out. That’s an awful lot of jobs and votes, which could explain how all of this spat has occupied so much of our newspapers, none of which has actually explained how or why the hack happened.

Is it too much to hope that the Christmas break will give us relief from the onslaught of speculation? Can’t they find something more interesting to write about? Or rediscover the joy of silence?