North Korean leader Kim Jong Un went out with a bang last year when he presided over the nation’s most powerful solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile test on Dec. 18. While the missile flew a distance of 1,000 kilometers and climbed 3,730 kilometers into the sky, it was his 10-year old daughter Kim Ju Ae that caught the world's attention.
A South Korean policy think tank observes, “It’s a part of a strategy to intensify his own image as the ‘Wise Father.’ North Korea’s leadership is intensifying efforts to idolize Kim Jong Un, not announce his successor.”
While the missile, which is theoretically capable of reaching anywhere in the mainland United States, is unlikely to make that particular journey, "the US imperialists and their vassal forces’ vicious ambition for confrontation will not abate of its own accord,” the dictator declared, to global buyers at odds with the West.
U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby confirmed Tuesday that North Korea supplied the missiles that were fired on the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Jan. 6; South Korea's intelligence agency on Monday provided its first photographic evidence that North Korea supplies weapons to Hamas in its war with Israel; and as British and U.S. militaries strike over 60 targets at 16 sites in Yemen this week, Houthi attacks on vessels in the Red Sea used anti-ship ballistic missiles for the first time in history. The United Nations confirms North Korea has and continues to sell a range of conventional weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen.
All this and more was translated to North Koreans via the Korean Central News Agency. “The wise father’s powerful sword to protect peace brings bright smiles and beautiful dreams of future generations.”
Perhaps why “Oppenheimer” swept up five major wins at the Golden Globes this week, Christopher Nolan’s epic biographic thriller about the “father of the atomic bomb” and the consequences of a nuclear arms race. Where politics and storytelling collide is called sensationalism: an editorial tactic conflating fact-based news and information with emotion and bias over neutrality. Cases in point:
The case for the Iraq War was “inaccurate and wrong and in some cases deliberately misleading,” the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell reminds us; Weaponizing the judiciary against a political opponent is antithetical to a republic; and, finally, supreme leaders don't always make wise fathers.
Sensationalist news first appeared on the Acta Diurna in 59 BC. Daily notices transcribed on metal or stone and displayed at the Forum for a vastly illiterate Rome. NYU’s Mitchell Stephens observes in “A History of News:”
Sensationalism brought tabloid journalism to plebeians: laborers and farmers who worked land owned by the patricians. They had little need to understand Rome's politics or economy, and were vastly inclined to be controlled by sensationalist news stories supplanted by the patrician class.
Today it’s called spin, a form of public relations propaganda, achieved through knowingly providing a bias interpretation of an event, or campaigning to influence public opinion about a policy, organization or public figure.
President Emmanuel Macron appointed the youngest and first openly gay prime minister of France on Tuesday. Gabriel Attal, 34, who was serving as education minister, has been referred to as a “Baby Macron” in terms of his ambition, strong media presence and centrist politics, and is considered the best-known and most recognizable face of the close circle of young politicians around the president.
Moving beyond unpopular pension changes; a recent row over the introduction of a hardline immigration law; and shoring up Macron’s centrist party in June which lags behind Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally lies the fourth prime minister and fifth government in seven years. Among the most popular politicians in France, the French media speculates that he’s the man to beat in the 2027 French presidential election.
"Strengthening Respect for the Principles of the Republic" was Macron’s legislative strategy "to counter the insidious but powerful communitarianism that is slowly eroding the foundations of French society," and overwhelmingly approved to strengthen oversight of mosques, schools and sports clubs to safeguard France from radical Islamists and promote respect for French values.
However, it was hotly contested by Muslims, lawmakers, and others who fear the state is intruding on essential religious freedoms by pointing a finger at Islam, the nation’s No. 2 religion. The youngest-ever president – who once embodied hope, triumphantly defeated the far right and claimed to have broken the political mould by rising above traditional divides – has gone from being admired to boo’d and despised.
Macron's uncompromising ban on abayas and “any religious symbols of any kind that has no place in French schools under the country’s principle of laïcité,” effectively translates to secularism. Macron observes:
“Schools in our country are secular, free, and compulsory. But they are secular. Because this is the very condition that makes citizenship possible, and therefore religious symbols of any kind have no place in them. We will vigorously defend this secularism." Enter Attal.
As the new prime minster details how he suffered bullying at middle school, including homophobic harassment, he illustrates a conflict between religious and civil affairs. However, if we're defending secularism in the public square, perhaps Macron should pass on lighting Hanukkah candles inside the Salle des Fêtes?
A member of the Renaissance party, Attal rapidly rose up the political ranks following his election to the National Assembly in June 2017; became the Junior Minister to the Minister of National Education and Youth in 2018; the Spokesperson of the Government in 2020; the Minister of Public Action and Accounts in 2022; and the Minister of National Education and Youth in 2023.
But can the youngest and first openly gay French PM revive Macron's popularity? In fact, legacy is reductive. People tend to be remembered for just one thing. Getting in front of that message is the business of legacy.
Bread and Circuses
In a political context it means appeasement. A means to generate public approval not by excellence in public service or public policy but by diversion, distraction, and perversion.
It was the Roman poet, Juvenal, who coined the phrase in Satire X when addressing patrician neglect of civic duty. Preceding the fall of Rome, Juvenal observes that plebeians has grown indifferent to its historical birthright of political involvement.
He refers to the Annona (grain dole) which began under the instigation of the aristocratic politician in 123 BC; a subsidy that enabled the poor to attend costly circus games and gladiator events and other forms of amusement which appeased the plebeians, and, in due course, the patrician's political nature.
Martin Luther King warned of indifference and referenced Juvenal in his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech at the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. And because the U.S. is experiencing it's lowest unemployment run in 25 years, we pass it on to the forced and often unpaid laborers of North Korea; the pensioners of the French Republic; and their 2.3 million unemployed whose path to self-reliance, liberty and equality created the modern welfare state.
Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People who once handed out military command, high civil office and legions have abdicated their duties. Give them bread and circuses and they will never revolt.