International Forecaster Weekly

Selling Stories For War and Profit

Such is the way of the world: the military-industrial complex is more than happy to supply the money if you're willing to supply a good story to whip up public outrage against an enemy. This is why it's never too difficult to make money for a conscience-less psychopath.

James Corbett | March 7, 2015

Speak Korean? Ever lived in North Korea (or are you at least able to fake it)? Then you just might be able to cash in on a booming cottage industry: selling stories about North Korea to South Korea's media. The trend is picking up as TV channels continue to proliferate south of the DMZ. Sadly, just as television networks across the globe continue their race to the bottom in the competition for ever dwindling viewing numbers, so too is South Korean media hungry for salacious stories about the Hermit Kingdom to feed their credulous viewers, the more outrageous the better. The truth, as always, is optional.

    Just ask Kang Myung-do. He's the son-in-law of North Korea's former premier who made headlines when he defected to the South in 1994 and held a news conference announcing that North Korea had built five atomic bombs. It wasn't until 2006, however, that the North held its first confirmed nuclear test, so the veracity of Kang's claims, as well as their sourcing, remains uncertain at best. He hasn't backtracked on his original story, confronting recent developments that seem to undermine his story with a metaphorical shrug of his shoulders. He's just sharing the information he had at the time.

    But he is certain that the waves of defectors being offered decent money for frequent appearances on talk shows, news programs, and panel discussions is causing some to stretch the truth in return for some quick cash. “I think broadcasters that are sometimes being pushy on people is one of the problems,” he explained in a recent Reuters report on the issue. “There are too many people on TV titled 'Kim Il Sung's doctor,' which I don't think is true. Kang should know what he's talking about; he receives 100,000 Won for his daily appearances on four of Seoul's TV stations and 500,000 for a weekly appearance on an entertainment talk show that features fellow defectors. If entertainment talk shows do not seem the right venue to be discussing the actual conditions inside North Korea, that's because they're not.

    Don't have an actual North Korean experience of your own? Don't worry, as an unscrupulous tabloid editor or webmaster you can still generate some extra ad revenue by propagating ridiculous, made-up stories about the country. Remember the story about Jang Song-thaek, Kim Jong-un's uncle, being fed to a pack of rabid dogs by the sadistic dictator? The story sourced back to a single Beijing-friendly Hong Kong tabloid, Wen Wei Po. It was then picked up by the English language Singaporean publication, The Straits Times, and then, perhaps predictably, spread like wildfire across the internet in December 2013. The story was complete bunk, of course, with Ri Su Yong, one of the people supposedly purged along with Jang, turning up alive and well as North Korea's foreign minister in recent months, and subsequent investigation found that the original story had actually been lifted nearly word-for-word from Chinese social media satirist Pyongyang Choi Seongho, but what does it matter? It's a crazy story about a largely-unknown part of the world, so it must be true, right? Meanwhile a lot of websites generated a lot of clicks and a lot of ad revenue spreading the false story. And the best part is that if you want to appear like a reputable site you can even generate some more clicks (and ad revenue) by then making clickbait-y articles about how people got suckered by such an obviously silly story.

    Don't have any salacious stories about Korea at all? Don't worry, any story suitably denigrating any of America/NATO/Israel's primary enemies will no doubt be bankable with the usual suspects in the dinosaur media. You might even get 15 minutes of fame on Capitol Hill while you're at it. Take Ahmed Chalabi, for example. He made an entire career out of making up oh-so-convenient lies about Saddam Hussein's regime in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, eventually becoming (appropriately enough) the country's interim oil minister and even Deputy Prime Minister. That the once-darling of the neocons flagrantly fabricated most of the damning evidence of weapons of mass destruction and al-Qaeda links that the US based its war push on is not at all controversial; Chalabi himself actually boasted about these fabrications in the Sunday Telegraph in 2004. Similarly, it should come as no surprise that he was subsequently embroiled in a massive Jordanian banking scandal, or that French intelligence has openly asserted that he is likely an Iranian agent. If any of this gives you pause for thought about making up your own lies about a nation for fun and profit, though, don't worry; as numerous outlets reported last year, Chalabi is 'back from the abyss' and is once again a force to be reckoned with in Iraqi politics.

    Not that money is the only thing that can be bargained for a good story. Just ask Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, who you might better know as "Curveball." He's the brother of a top aide of Chalabi and back in the early part of last decade he was looking for a green card to live in Germany. Luckily for him the US and British government just happened to be in need of Iraqi defectors with stories to tell around that time, so despite the fact that both the German Federal Intelligence Service and the British Secret Intelligence Service warned them that he was spreading disinfo, the Bush and Blair governments used his "intelligence" on Saddam's mobile biological weapons labs to help justify the 2003 invasion. Curveball's claims started to fall apart almost immediately and subsequent investigations found that even his German intelligence handlers believed him to be a "congenital liar" who had graduated bottom of his class (not top, as he had claimed) and had been arrested for embezzlement before fleeing the country. In 2011, he himself admitted that his claims had been made and that he had watched in horror as it became the basis for the 2003 Iraq War. But no matter; in the end, he got his green card and Bush and Blair got their war. Oh, and a million dead Iraqis.

    Sadly, there are no shortage of such cases to cite from recent years.

    When NATO needed a reason to bomb Libya back to the stone age, an unnamed UN diplomat stepped forward with a story of how Gaddafi was feeding Viagra to his troops in order to fuel mass rapes as a weapon against his opposition. The story, equal parts lurid and ludicrous, spread like wildfire across the MSM and caused International Criminal Court chief investigator Louis Moreno-Ocampo to proclaim that the drug is a "tool of massive rape" and vowing to bring charges before the court. The claims were eventually found to be bogus and no charges were brought, but by the time the 10,000th news outlet had covered the story, the propaganda had done its job.

    Or there's the story of Nayirah. She was the "young Kuwaiti girl" who sparked international headlines for her shocking testimony before the Congressional Human Rights Congress in October, 1990. In a tear-stained speech she told a harrowing story of how she, as a young volunteer at the al-Addan hospital in Kuwait, had watched as armed Iraqi troops "took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators and left the children to die on the cold floor." The only problem? "Nayirah" was not some anonymous Kuwaiti girl, but, as a subsequent CBC investigation discovered, she was Nayirah Al-Sabah, daughter of Saud Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the United States. Her testimony had been written for her by Hill & Knowlton, a PR company hired by the Kuwaiti government itself to help sell the Gulf War.

    To be fair, this is not a new phenomenon. Back in the 17th century, lurid stories of Irish Catholics ripping babies out of the wombs of pregnant Protestant settlers were used by Cromwell to justify the massacre of Catholics at Drogheda and Wexford in 1649. In the 19th century, stories of Spanish atrocities against the Cubans were routinely fabricated by infamous yellow journalist William Randolph Hearst and his competitor, Joseph Pulitzer, as part of the run-up to the Spanish-American War.

    Nor is this phenomenon limited to enemies of the US/British/NATO/Israeli alliance. Just ask the Uzbeks who were accused of raping Krygyz women in their dormitories during an outbreak of ethnic tensions in southern Kyrgyzstan in 2010. But the fact that selling stories about a nation's enemies is always a lucrative business is no consolation to the real victims of those stories, the demonized "enemy" who are portrayed as evil incarnate.

    Such is the way of the world: the military-industrial complex is more than happy to supply the money if you're willing to supply a good story to whip up public outrage against an enemy. This is why it's never too difficult to make money for a conscience-less psychopath.

    Of course, the ease with which these lies are sold to the public brings with it a pleasant flip-side: it is stunningly easy to defeat this propaganda. All it takes is for the public to demand proof of a lurid, sensational story before committing themselves to war. Or, better yet, a jaded and cynical, informed 21st century public can just roll their eyes and refuse to click on the latest propaganda nonsense about Kim Jong-un feeding his uncle to starving dogs in North Korea or Colonel Gaddafi feeding his troops Viagra to fuel mass rapes.

    Sadly, though, war is still a racket and business is still booming.


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