Not enough people think of the television news industry as a vendor of goods and services, as just another for-profit industry seeking revenue.
Perhaps I am too cynical. Perhaps journalism actually exists on television. Perhaps, though, I am too cheap to pay for the satellite services that would bring me these channels.
Lucky for the regular news industry, the world is full of buyers.
Despite my cynicism and unfounded arrogance, I am an avid shopper. And recently, the product in most storefronts has been an aggressive North Korea.
Thing is, I've seen this product countless times before. I remember buying it, in fact, a few years ago. I ingested it and convinced others of its potency, of its value as a product.
So what's different about it this time? What's it doing back on the shelf, a seemingly old product with a new, younger label?
They're rereleasing Jurassic Park, but now it's in 3D. That, I get. Is North Korea in 3D now? Wasn't Dennis Rodman just promoting it?
Before I buy again, risking buyer's remorse, I had to do some research. So I found Mike Kim, author of the book, Escaping North Korea. It's a current events memoir about his experiences at the China-North Korea border helping North Koreans escape the regime. He has appeared on CNN Anderson Cooper 360 and it was after his interview on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart that there was interest from Hollywood in turning Escaping North Korea into a motion picture.
I pressed Mike with my frustrated curiosity. What is the difference between Kim Jong Un and his dad? Is this purported threat -- their recent aggression toward South Korea, their saying they're targeting major U.S. cities (including, um, Austin, TX), and all of that nonsense -- worth my time? I am so sick of news on this issue, I told him. And I am so sick of seeing it in the TV news marketplace.
Mike was quick to agree, but with caution. "We have seen all of this before, yes," he said. "The closing of the hotline. The threats toward America, the pointing of the missiles, and their saying they'll make Seoul into a sea of fire. But what we haven't seen before is all of this at the same time and tensions escalating so quickly. This time, these things aren't isolated; their concentrated."
"Add to all of this," Kim said urgently, "That they are no longer acknowledging the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953."
All right, I hear that, especially the last part.
But didn't we once discover that the missiles that they march down the road, alongside their organized soldiers, huge posters of former leaders and amidst cheers, were actually fake? Wasn't that a huge international joke? And didn't they recently Photoshop pictures to make themselves look more intimidating? I mean, they may have used Photoshop!
"At the end of the day, I don't think North Korea intends to go to war," Kim said matter-of-factly.
"Not too long ago, North Korea did attack South Korea. In 2010, they attacked the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong. In the same year, they sunk the Cheonan, a South Korean military ship, killing 46 men aboard."
Inner turmoil, Kim added, could be contributing to the current situation.
"Again, I don't think their intention is military conflict. But that's different from misunderstandings and miscommunication in their inner circles leading toward war. It's a new leader, a new regime. Kim Jong Un is apparently under a lot of pressure to prove himself to the Generals. He purged some of the higher-up officials when he first took the job. Now, I think he's out to prove himself as the decision maker here."
While I've since changed the channel, speaking with Kim has turned me into a pseudo-believer, a likely return shopper, so to speak. His book is full of first-hand accounts and facts that should not be missed, and which certainly better inform curious minds of the reality of the situation.
All we can do now is wait and see what happens, but I would recommend Escaping North Korea as a source over talking heads any day.