Did the Onion Start World War III?


Responsible Journalism




Supreme Leader Threatening Nuclear Strikes

As the world scrambles to deal with North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong-Un’s threats to make pre-emptive nuclear strikes on the US mainland and its Pacific bases in Hawaii and Guam, nobody acknowledges what may have provoked Kim Jong Un’s rage and his threats.
Even Communist China is nervous and disapproves of his posturing.

According to Steve Forbes, the security umbrella provided by the US, which has prevented world wars from developing since the 1940’s, is degenerating. As respect for the U.S. decreases, the boldness of despots and terrorists increases.

What Could Have Sparked This?

What could have sparked North Korea’s Kim Jong Un’s recent rash of seemingly deranged rage and threats towards the United States?  Anybody keeping an eye on the news in November 2012, however, might have a suspicion.

Less than a year after his ascent to power, the youngest head of state in the world, just 29 or 30 years old, faced global humiliation and ridicule.  The young man who loves American Basketball, Michael Jordan, and collects expensive Nikes, was ridiculed over an Onion article.

Slide1The Onion, a news source specializing in parody, named Kim Jong-Un the “Sexiest Man Alive.” Clearly a joke, to those familiar with the Onion’s reputation for tongue- in-cheek humor.   However, China’s biggest newspaper fell for the hoax story, taking it to be complimentary, and reprinted that article in China.

The Chinese newspaper wrote: “With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman’s dream come true.”

Global Ridicule

So the new despotic supreme leader of North Korea was subjected to global ridicule, with hardly a news source missing the opportunity to describe the double public humiliation-  the Onion’s ridicule of Kim Jon-Un’s appearance, as well as the gullibility of the Chinese press in taking the parody as a compliment.

Rational Response

Rational, experienced world leaders would not risk starting World War III in response to an insulting parody.

Global Despot Response

But to those who know more about global despots, Kim Jong Un’s new found vitriol for the United States, his recklessness, his drive for retribution and vindication, and his narcissistic rage, are frightening, and are not surprising.Slide1

The main question is whether this particular despot will follow through with his threats, instigate a war as Saddam Hussein did with his weapons of mass destruction claims, or will he back down somewhat as Fidel Castro did, averting a global, this time nuclear confrontation?

The Onion’s Response

Meanwhile, oblivious to any danger, the Onion continues to mock and parody Kim Jong-Un and those around him.  Journalistic ethics and responsibility be damned, the Onion wants to sell more papers and get more website hits, at any cost.

The Onion continues its reports on Kim Jong-Un with parodies on Kim Jong-Un’s wife Ri’s position on the nuclear threats, with claims of Kim Jong-un’s support of gay marriage, and with other articles designed to ridicule the narcissistic despot.


Some Background on Despots

Apparently, global despots  tend to be narcissistic damaged people who cannot tolerate criticism or dissent.

M. Kets de Vries is a world renowned authority on narcissistic leadership, and has been recognized as one of the world’s most influential thinkers by Thinkers 50.  His credentials are too long to list here.

De Vries writes in his paper entitled Entering the Inner Theatre of a Despot: The Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein: “Despots (like Saddam Hussein) are often sadistic, paranoid, anti-social megalomaniacs who use terror tactics and are prone to reality-testing.   He also quotes From Kernberg 1975; Kets de Vries 1989; Kernberg 1998:

Malevolent antisocial personalities, besides incorporating a blend of paranoid and sadistic features, also have a touch of the narcissistic disposition.  An early, devastating “narcissistic injury” (or wound to the self-image), with its compensatory self-aggrandizement, fuels the thoughts and actions of most antisocials.  Results include excessive self-reference and self-centeredness, grandiosity, entitlement, exhibitionism, recklessness, a drive for retribution and vindication, a low tolerance for frustration, and narcissistic rage when thwarted.

De Vries goes on to say that the distrust underlying narcissistic isolation can be the downfall of leaders with a malevolent antisocial character.   They see enemies in every friendly face, and they are attracted to, and invite danger.  They engage in provocative behavior, which often leads to their downfall, as in the case of Saddam Hussein.  Saddam Hussein, for example, achieved narcissistic satisfaction through intimidating and humiliating others.  He did this on a personal level, ordering the torture of his own son, on a national level, killing hundreds of thousands of his own people,  and on an international level, threatening to use weapons of mass destruction on his opponents.


M. Kets de Vries lists not only Saddam Hussein, but also Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Kim Il-Sung (Kim Jong-un’s grandfather), Robert Mugabe, and Fidel Castro in this legacy.  It would not be surprising to find that Kim Jong-Un also belongs to this group.

Expert Opinions

According to Phillip Yun, former Clinton adviser on North Korea, Kim Jong Un is testing and pushing the envelope.  However, being as young and as new as he is, Yun says that Kim Jong Un may not know where the edge of the envelope is, so we need to be worried about miscalculations.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was quoted as saying “We’re in deep doo doo” on North Korea.  Kim Jong Un is unpredictable and does not share the United States world view, he said.  Referring to Saddam Hussein, Cheney said “you never know what they’re thinking.  Cheney advised Republican leaders in Congress not to “eliminate any possibility.”

Bottom Line

Bottom line is that that this is a serious situation.
Who can know whether Kim Jong Un’s imprudent actions are independent of, or a direct result of his global ridicule??
Imprudent journalism can have serious repercussions.
Bullying of people can drive them over the edge- whether in the schoolyard, or on the global stage.

Global despots are often products of cruelty, neglect and abuse. The hand that rocks the cradle can truly rule the world, at both extremes – from the great influence effected by the parents of Abraham Lincoln and Pope Paul the Great, to the catastrophic influence exerted by the parents of Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Un.b6_nuke_world_2011

In the case of Kim Jong Un, the hand that rocked the cradle may just be the hand that NUKES the world.

And the Onion is not doing anything to help the situation which it may have sparked off.

Further Relevant Questions

  • Is there any subject that journalists voluntarily consider to be taboo?
  • Why is bullying tolerated by our culture?

Tolerated very arbitrarily, by the way:
O.K. to bully and ridicule Kim Jong-Un, Catholics, Tea Party…..
NOT O.K. to bully and ridicule Obama, Islam, Democrats…

  • Why was the creator of the movie that supposedly sparked off Benghazi-Gate arrested and imprisoned, while the Onion staff are admired and commended?
  • Do any journalists today consider the possible repercussions of their actions?

The Answer

Self controlThe answer is NOT found in more legislation and more hate crime regulations.
As pointed out by Bishop Morlino ten years ago in a lecture to UW Madison’s Future Society, the answer is creating a culture of voluntary self-restraint.
Self-restraint and fairness in the media and in our personal lives.

Something that has been taught by religion for millennia, something that works much better than legislation, and something that no nation can survive without.
No police force can control an entire population that practices no voluntary virtue and no voluntary self-restraint.
Even if we had one policeman per citizen, who would be policing the police?
And the only philosophy teaching voluntary self-restraint above retaliation and self-service is religion.


Religion, in addition to being a common-sense practical answer, also happens to have a powerful ally in the sky, Who can be relied upon to step in, in response to prayer, and help us out of the mess we have created.

So we need to “do unto others as we would have them do unto us,” we need to be nice, in our playground, in our politics and towards Kim Jong Un.  Kim Jog-Un is a human being after all. We, including journalists, need to treat all human beings with respect.  And above all, we need to pray.

Pope Francis’ AdviceSlide1

Pope Frances recently exhorted us on Good Friday “Christians must respond to evil with good.”
Somebody should send Kim Jong Un a Valentine.

Set up the defense missiles for sure, but back off on disrespect and ridicule.
Who in their right mind disses a rattlesnake?
Apparently The Onion.  And The Onion‘s state of mind is somewhat questionable right now.


Postscript (added May 7, 2013)

One month later, the crisis appears to be over, as North Korea appears to have withdrawn missiles from the launch site.
The role played by The Onion in this drama, despite being my unproven speculation, may well have been significant; apparently global megalomaniacs care enough about The Onion to hack its website.  On May 6, 2013, the Twitter feed of The Onion seems to have been hacked by a Syrian group calling itself the Syrian Electronic Army, which appears to be aligned with the government of President Bashar al-Assad, and which has previously claimed credit for hacking Agence France-Presse, the Associated Press, and other news organizations.

Apparently The Onion is watched by way more than just college students in the USA.