I try to be open minded but must we envision basket’ball’s bad boy Dennis Rodman as global diplomat? Knowing what a media seeker he is, this feels much less weighty. Indeed, Secretary of State John Kerry indicated that Rodman ” was “a great basketball player, and as a diplomat, he was a great basketball player.”
Turns out this was more of a stunt than anything substantive–get in an be known for something more:
Mr. Smith described his staff’s chats about the trip: “We said to ourselves, ‘Well, if we go through normal channels, it’s almost impossible to get in. But what if we put together a sort of exhibition basketball team to go over there?’ ” It has been called “basketball diplomacy” in the press since Mr. Rodman and company arrived — “and that was the actual idea,” Mr. Smith added.
But Ian Crouch hits the right point in noting that this is a one-time tv moment that masks a deep horror and sadness–the true misery of the North Korean people–or a “dystopia”:
The response to Rodman’s trip also seems connected to a larger, more troubling phenomenon, which is the persistent strain in the popular imagination that there is something simply funny about North Korea itself. The country’s secrecy, its technological backwardness, its ham-fisted and anachronistic public pageantry, and the Kim regime’s well-documented eccentricity all add up to a subject for which the Onion headlines write themselves. When the most you know about a country’s leader is that he was a fanatical devotee of Michael Jackson, and the most you know about his son is that he loves basketball, then it is easy to look for the next joke in the news that trickles across that country’s borders. So last week, there was a sense that North Korea and Rodman, two versions of strange and damaging excess, somehow deserved each other. There are, of course, twenty-five million or so North Korean citizens who may disagree. Leave it to Gawker, which illustrated a post on the trip with photographs of North Korean famine victims, to remind us of the moral questions posed by Rodman’s goofy escapade. The world has turned on its head: dystopia, indeed.