Dennis Rodman recently got back from a trip to North Korea (aka NK) with the Harlem Globetrotters team for a new HBO series produced by New York-based VICE television. Footage and pictures from Rodman’s visit to the isolated and heavily criticized nuclear power known as North Korea show the NBA Hall of Famer sharing smile after smile with the country’s 28-year-old leader, Kim Jong Un (aka KJU). However, instead of celebrating this small but possibly meaningful step towards loosening tensions with a potential nuclear threat, the US instantly went on to attack one of its own citizens. Before I get this pool full of wisdom and diiive in it, I want to remind you that Dennis Rodman is a retired professional athlete who is not and has ever claimed to be a politician, diplomat, or anything of the like.
Firstly, I encourage you to hit Google and brush up on some of NK’s history and relations with the US in order to form your own opinions. My purposes here aren’t to influence public opinion of Kim Jong Un, North Korea, or their regime, but to take the media to task on their condemnation of Rodman and to expose the tactics they use to force-feed public opinions. Let’s start by checking out his interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on This Week:
Colonel Stephen Ganyard’s comments that “There is nobody at the CIA who could tell you more personally about Kim Jong Un than Dennis Rodman, and that in itself is scary.” Sounds to me like Ganyard should be begging the CIA to learn from Rodman rather than attempting to throw salt on “arguably the best rebounding forward in NBA history and one of the most recognized athletes in the world,” as NBA.com describes the retired baller. You mean to tell me that a retired athlete has better diplomatic and investigative skills than the United States CIA? THAT, my friends, is what should be frightening if anything.
At first sight, this interview pissed me off the way Rodman was on the attack. But then I looked at Rodman himself and noticed how little of a damn he gave about Stephanopoulos’ attempts. He, in true Dennis Rodman fashion, sat up there the entire time in his dollar-dollar-bill sport coat and sunglasses on and gave logical and sincere responses to each “question” asked. No, he didn’t use big fancy words to get his point across; no, he didn’t have a diplomat’s vocabulary. But guess what… HE’S NOT A DIPLOMAT. “Do you think you have a responsibility to ask [Kim Jong Un] about [his political background] so that you don’t be perceived as propping up his regime, his cultive personality?” This is the question that Stephanopoulos, a former political adviser, professional journalist, and member of the Council on Foreign Relations asked Dennis Rodman, a basketball player who probably could care less about politics. What Rodman cares about is basketball, the sport he dedicated his life to. It just so happens that Kim Jong-Il, the 28-year-old North Korean leader’s father, loved basketball and instilled that same love into his son. Rodman, who was a bright star in the NBA, playing for 3 years alongside Michael Jordan on the Chicago Bulls, is easily a well-known figure in North Korea as well as the world. It should come as no surprise that Rodman emphasizes “he loves basketball” and that’s just what they talked about. Now Rodman, being that his degree is in basketball defense with a Master’s in rebounding, he offers a suggestion based upon this background: Obama and KJU should talk basketball and loosen some tension. What’s so wrong with that suggestion? Can the president’s love of basketball only be used as a domestic diplomatic tool by the media; exploiting a stereotype to further perpetuate the image of Obama as not merely the president, but the “Black President.” I wonder what Frantz Fanon would have to say about that. These, of course, are questions for another discussion.
SEE ALSO: God, Obama, and Kool-Aid
The interview continues with Stephanopoulos asking Rodman about KJU’s intentions and attitude towards the US. Now I’m no expert, but it seems to me that the chances that a leader of a nuclear power would share such intimate details with a foreign athlete there for a couple of days are slim to none. He asks how Rodman can refer to the man as a “great guy” despite his presiding over prison camps, attempting to humiliate the NBA star. But still, Rodman keeps his cool and defends himself, reminding his attacker that the US subjects people to similar torment. Then the incompetent interviewer asks “we have prison camps in the US?” Nice try sir. Though the prisons part the system of incarceration here often mimic the conditions of a prison camp, they technically don’t qualify. We do however have US prison camps in other countries and I remind you now of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Enjoy the pictures below of US soldiers in the infamous Abu Ghraib prison camp showing some down home American hospitality to some of their captives.
I think we all get the point here so I’ll move on to another interview, this one on ESPN’s Outside The Lines with Jeremy Schaap and his guest, Dr. Han S. Park, discussing Rodman’s comments:
I challenge you to find one difference between these two interviews and the responses of Rodman and Dr. Park. Sure, one was able to use more informed and colorful language, but does that make Rodman’s any less credible? Does the fact that Park has those golden letters “D” and “R” in front of his name make his words truer than those of the sports figure? To some, sure, but in reality the message dances to the same beat of logic. The ESPN news team clearly thought they hit the jackpot: an expert on North Korea who helped free two American journalists from the North Korean prison camps. Surely he’ll elaborate on the evils of North Korea and condemn this display of false diplomacy… Wrong. Dr. Park actually served to corroborate Rodman’s responses and attitudes while providing a realistic understanding of North Korea. He states that North Koreans know as much about us as we do about them, which is slim to none. He believes this is an unexpected but promising first step in a shared understanding of cultures between our lands. He uses his personal knowledge from traveling there numerous times to combat generalized perceptions of the country and its leader, ultimately providing context for Rodman’s praises. Most significantly, Dr. Park says North Korea on the ground isn’t what it seems from what we are allowed to see, clarifies the structure of their government, and offers contradictory accounts of public support for Kim Jong Un. This, however, isn’t what Schaap wants to hear.
“You’re certainly not suggesting though that this is a regime that treats its population the way that it should, or in accordance with international standards…?” Schaap asked this question so boldly, as if he has a foundation of practicing what he preaches; as if the United States of America is indeed a regime that treats its population the way that it should, in accordance with international standards. Need he be reminded of the fact that El-Hajj Malik El-SHabazz, better known as Malcolm X, during the time of his death was petitioning to the United Nations to hold the US in contempt for violating the human rights of the Black man in the US. Need he be reminded that Amnesty International has chastised the US for constant violations of human rights, including in the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. In regards to Abu-Jamal’s trial, Amnesty International says it “failed to meet international standards safeguarding fair trial proceedings.” I won’t even get into the 1985 bombing of the MOVE organization in an all-Black neighborhood that killed 6 American adults, and 5 American children. The military-grade C-4 bomb was of course provided by the FBI and dropped from a Philadelphia Police Department helicopter. Not to mention, the United States’ destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is the first and only time in history that nuclear weapons have actually been used.
Why not bring things to the present in order to be fair and put this presidency’s dark side on the chopping block with… THE DRONES! Futuristic phallic symbols of imperialistic power, or to put it plainly, high tech remote control assassins. The rise of the US drone program provides context for the international protests of the 2009 awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama. The President received the award just days after opting to maintain Bush’s Afghanistan war by escalating US troop presence in the country; a contradiction which upset anti-war organizers, such as Frida Berrigan, who believed awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to a wartime president diminished the honor. Now today, the Nobel laureate commands the highly secretive drone program, which carried out 333 drone strikes in Afghanistan this year alone – more than the entire drone strikes in Pakistan over the past eight years combined. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham estimated last month that the current death toll has reached 4,700, many of which are indeed classified as civilian, non-hostile, or a “suspected [not confirmed] threat.” It has even now been brought into discussion to use drone attacks on US citizens on US soil if they present a “considerable threat to national security.” Of course it must me asked who is defining “considerable threat.”
Back in the day Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, the entire Black Panther Party, and countless other American citizens were verbally referred to by Presidents and other governmental officials as threats to national security. This leads me to wonder if they were alive today, would their names be on a drone strike list here in the US? As mentioned earlier, a neighborhood was bombed on US soil by US law enforcement to stop an organization they considered a threat to the peace so I honestly am inclined to think so. I become even more certain in this belief when I hear the justifications of the Jordan Davis, Stephon Watts, Darius Simmons , and countless other murders of innocent American youth; slain for looking suspicious or “threatening” and connected by the one thing they have in common (see their pictures below and see if you can figure it out).
Getting back to the subject, I would encourage Mr. Schaap and his brothers and sisters in the media to wake up and actually do their jobs, but then again, that may in fact be exactly what they are doing. What is the role of the media today anyway? It certainly isn’t to educate and inform; a concept almost more hypothetical than the system of democracy that we live under in this country. In reality, the media’s role is to forcefully shift public opinion in the direction that pays the biggest dollar at the expense of people such like our brother Dennis Rodman. This is a job they do by any means necessary including of course: defamation of character, undermining of accomplishment, and predetermined agendas.
All over the news and the sports television networks we are reminded of Rodman’s wild past of cross-dressing, promiscuity, tattoos, this, that, and the other. These are thrown in our faces alongside the KJU footage in an attempt to force us to have the same negative image of Rodman as we do the North Korean leader. This is a similar tactic used in the portrayal of young people such as Darius Simmons, Trayvon Martin, and the other youth mentioned earlier. Any bad report card, suspension, disciplinary record, or known record of stepping on a crack to break their mama’s back is used as a justification for their unjust murders. It’s as if to say, “see, these vigilante murderers did society a favor.” Sadly enough, they are successful most of the time. The next tactic is to defame Rodman’s career and legacy as a professional basketball player. An evening CNN host and countless other media figures make it a necessity to use Rodman’s nickname, “the worm” to further force those who know nothing about him into a negative opinion of the legendary player. Of course, I’m speaking of those who don’t know how Rodman earned this nickname on the Trenton, New Jersey b-ball courts for the way he’d worm his way through defenses and offenses much like he would in the NBA. It was there that he wormed his way to be a 7-time NBA All-Defensive First Team-er, 5-time NBA Champion, 2-time NBA Defensive Player of the year, 7-time NBA rebounding leader, and #48 of SLAM Magazine’s 50 top players of all time list. But again, to the average viewer of these media outlets a worm is nothing but a disgusting looking, dirt-eating creature that makes many people vomit at the mere sight of it. Clever ploy…
Further, in the videos above, Stephanopoulos and Schaap also had clear cut agendas that they intended on fully completing regardless what the two responded. Rodman himself, again, clarified that there was a lot he didn’t know about Kim Jong Un and his past/present, but only knew he treated him well while he was there. He then goes on to discuss how the US acts like it doesn’t do the same things. No matter how many times he attempts to take the high road and stress that he is not and has never claimed to be a diplomat, the interviewer throws yet another political question in his face. It was painfully obvious that they wanted Rodman to look like a buffoon and to crumble under the pressure, however to me the opposite occurred. He has no top secret clearance; he has no ulterior political or any other kind of motives; and is in no way shape or form, a threat to national security. However, the media seems hell-bent on breaking down Rodman in any way it can in order to maintain and further promote the political agenda of vilification of North Korea. This way, if push came to shove, the US can invade, bomb, or sick the drones on the country without a word of American public disapproval; the same tactics used to get the people to support the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and so on that continue to drain our economy. With that, I want to turn the tables and put the US and media on the chopping block.
Did you know that ESPN is owned 80% by Disney and 20% by the Hearst Corporation? Did you know that the Hearst Corporation also owns 50% of A&E networks, the home of the adored show “The First 48”? Finally, did you know that on May 16, 2010 while the show’s cameras rolled on a cold night in Detroit the police were readying for a military-style raid to apprehend a drug suspect. Officer Joe “Brian” Weekley, member of the Detroit SWAT Team, fired a flash grenade through the window of the home where 7-year-old Aiyana Jones was sleeping. He then burst through the front door, opening fire and shooting the child in the head. She would never wake up (MORE HERE: http://goo.gl/ejWa) . This is a case that questions the morality and danger of filming such shows. The last thing we need is the camera making the adrenaline pump in already trigger happy police who wish to have their masculinity and “heroics” showcased on national television. But the show continues today because there’s a delete button on the camera and hard working media personnel like Schaap and Stephanopoulos to direct public attention to what really matters, a retired basketball player going to a foreign country for work making the US butt-hurt.
Moving on, I want to address the portrayal of Kim Jong Un as a man who presides over unjust prison camps, allows millions to starve, and has threatened to destroy the US. Let’s play a game of “what do these national leaders have in common” with the help of President Barack Obama who will act as the representative of the US government’s present and past (which he has functionally upheld). KJU presides over an estimated 200,000 prisoners out of 22.7 million citizens for a percentage of about 1%. However, to be fair, I’ll add to this the number of refugees hiding away in China (300,000), and those who have died in the history of the country’s prison system (400,000). This gives a total of about 900,000 for a new percentage of a little less than 4% of North Korean citizens falling victim to unquestionable and non-debatable injustice. President Obama presides over 2.3 million Americans presently incarcerated out of about 315 million citizens for that same initial percentage of about 1%. Now if we throw in the total of US citizens under some sort of correctional supervision by the state, we now approach 7.5 million for a new percentage of about 3%. This of course doesn’t include the countless Americans senselessly murdered at the hands of slavery, Jim Crow, war and those who’ve died in US prisons in their history.
Next, KJU is criticized by the US State Department for allowing millions of his own people to starve while he “wines and dines” Rodman. This is a very serious accusation which I can’t argue against. But hmmm… in 2011 FeedingAmerica.org reported that 46.2 million Americans, or close to 15%, of American citizens were living in poverty; 9.5 million families (or 11%) were living in poverty, and also in 2011, “50.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 33.5 million adults and 16.7 million children.” Now I could be wrong, but I haven’t yet heard the State Department moving to condemn the United States for allowing millions of our own people to starve while the White House “wines and dines” hundreds of state executives at its annual Governor’s Dinner. You can explore the blog “Obama Food-O-Rama (link)” to see more food the White House is dishing to people who have the resources to feed themselves despite many of their constituents suffering from 3rd world plight in a 1st world’s front yard. I also haven’t heard the urge to condemn the US for spending $500,000 to $1 million per unit for an advanced new drone despite these very statistics and the fact that we are about $17 Trillion in debt (MORE HERE: http://goo.gl/TE7it). Maybe this viral video below can help us understand what’s happening here in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
We live in a country where mass incarceration is big business. We live in a country that profits off of the criminalization of people based on race. One can look at the purchase of naming rights for Florida Atlantic University’s athletic stadium by GEO Group, the nation’s largest for-profit prison corporation, and wonder what country this is. The answer is that it is the same country it has always been, despite the image it tries to give off and the color of the person in the White House for 4-8 years. No matter what color they may be, this landmark’s name will forever be a poetic double entendre. So no, I do not condone the evils that Kim Jong Un may be spewing into the world, but on paper, Rodman and I are citizens of a country that profits off the plight of its own people (or alleged people) so what else do you expect him to say? They probably treated him better out there in North Korea than any Black man is treated by the likes of the US government and society as a whole. I am supposed to be a citizen of a country that literally murdered some of the greatest leaders in US History all because they looked like me; all because they wanted me to be a citizen more than just on paper, but in practice. I am supposed to be a citizen of a country that spends more on war, political campaigns, foreign aid and exploits, and corporate bail-outs than it does on education, healthcare, community wellness and recovery, and victims of natural disasters here on our own turf? Until these, along with the many other faults of this country get sorted out, I think the human rights reports and condemnation should stay right here at home. As a thank you for hanging around to the end of this sincere commentary, check out Stephen Colbert’s take on GEO Group’s recent purchase: http://youtu.be/dut9Nx9oHDg
It’s only appropriate that I leave you with a message from the great hood prophet Tupac Amaru Shakur from his ballad Only God Can Judge Me:
“Recollect your thoughts don’t get caught up in the mix
Cause the media is full of dirty tricks
Only God can judge me”
On a MOVE!