Last week at the website I edit for, we published, Everything We Know About North Korea’s Bizarre Internet. It was written by Claire Broadley who is kind of the co-editor with me of the blog at WhoIsHostingThis.com. It’s one of the best things we’ve done. In one way, it is hilarious. In another, it is extremely sad. Even though it is about the internet and technology, it provides a great insight into North Korea itself.
My favorite part of it is, “On the majority of North Korean websites, the names of all three Supreme Leaders are displayed larger than the text that surrounds them.” This is actually what led me to add “bizarre” to the title of the article. To give you some idea of this, consider the Kim Il-Sung University. Since “Kim Il-Sung” is one of the supreme leaders, the name is in a larger font. So when “Kim Il-Sung University” is written, it doesn’t come off as a single unit. It’s silly.
Pettiness of Authoritarians
I was so interested in this that I went looking through their HTML and CSS. What I found was that every time “Kim Il-Sung” was mentioned, it was put inside a “span” tag with the class “august.” The “august” class was then defined in the CSS file to be bold and 10 percent larger than the text it was around. It was fun to find this out. But it’s pathetic for three reasons:
- Those in power are so insecure that they must deify their current and previous leaders.
- They used the word “august.”
- It was hand coded so it had to be put in the HTML every time one of the names was mentioned.
But this is hardly surprising. This is the nature of authoritarians. And you don’t even have to go to that level. Look at the state of the aristocracy in England two hundred years ago. Or even the way people treat the royal family today. Or remember when Wall Street banks got their feelings all hurt when Obama talked about “fat cat bankers”? Entitled people are amazingly petty.
What was so sad preparing the article on the North Korean internet is thinking about the millions of people who all have horrible lives just so that one man can feel like he is a god. And it’s all for nothing. Kim Jong-un isn’t the supreme leader of North Korea because he keeps most of the country living near starvation; he’s leader because China backs him. Without China, he would be executed and that would be the end of it.
North Korea vs America
The irony is, of course, that if he allowed as much freedom as the Chinese despots do, not only would the people of North Korea be better off, so would Kim Jong-un. Or he would be in all but one way: he wouldn’t be allowed the delusion that he is a god. He would just be an incredibly powerful man with more money than anyone could ever spend.
It’s hard not to see this all in the context of the recent American presidential election. The president-elect ran for office because he already had everything else. And that’s one of the reasons why he’s so dangerous. He seems genuinely ignorant of what a president is. He seems to imagine that he’s going to be Supreme Leader. And during my life, I’ve seen one political norm after another fall. So in addition to the Republicans getting all that they want — stripping away much of what is left of the New Deal and the Great Society — we will take another giant step toward kleptocracy.
Democracy is about a lot more than voting. In the coming years, we will see just how how much different we are from North Korea.
I highly recommend reading the whole article, Everything We Know About North Korea’s Bizarre Internet. I’ve barely touched on it. The article is fascinating — and probably the best work any of us has done over at WhoIsHostingThis.com.