HuffPo blogger is gleeful that a privileged white man was severely punished in North Korea

June 17, 2017 • 10:45 am

I’m sure you’ve heard the story: American college student Otto Warmbier,  then 21, was taking a five-day tour of North Korea at the end of 2015, and apparently removed a propaganda poster from the wall of his Pyongyang hotel as a souvenir. (There’s a video, but he’s not identifiable.) When leaving the country, Warmbier was arrested for “hostile acts against the state”, imprisoned, supposedly confessed (remember, this is the DPRK), and in March was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

After the U.S. interceded, Warmbier was released five days ago, but government officials learned only a week before Warmbier’s release that he was in a coma, which the North Koreans attributed to his getting botulism and then having taken a sleeping pill. He was flown home on a stretcher, where doctors determined that, contrary to the North Korean statement, he had extensive brain injuries. He is now in a “persistent vegetative state” with extensive loss of brain tissue, and the prognosis is not good. Most likely he will either die or remain comatose for a very long time. It’s not clear what happened, but the North Korean story is certainly bogus as there were no signs of botulism.

This is a sad tale, but of course it comports with the dreadful ways North Korea treats its own prisoners, often incarcerated for petty crimes—or no crimes at all. (Family members are taken to the camps along with the “convicted.”) How horrible—but how typical—that a self-styled Social Justice Warrior writing on HuffPo uses his sentence to gloat over how “white privilege” isn’t respected in North Korea. (To be fair, the author,  La Sha, who is black, updated the story in late March, before Warmbier’s medical condition was known.) But even ignorance of that can’t excuse her piece, which is simply gloating and reprehensible Schadenfreude:

After Sha describes her mother’s happiness when 18-year-old American Michael Fay was caned in Singapore (not hard, and not a dreadful punishment), she says she’s just as happy as was her mom. Why? Because Wamblier got what he deserved for being white and assuming his pigmentation gave him license to steal from the Koreans of Color. And of course it’s all due to American racism. Have a gander at this:

. . . and now, my mother’s callous reaction to Micahel Fay’s sentence is my reaction to another young white man who went to an Asian country and violated their laws, and learned that the shield his cis white male identity provides here in America is not teflon abroad.

As shocked as I am by the sentence handed down to Warmbier, I am even more shocked that a grown man, an American citizen, would not only voluntarily enter North Korea but also commit what’s been described a “college-style prank.” That kind of reckless gall is an unfortunate side effect of being socialized first as a white boy, and then as a white man in this country. Every economic, academic, legal and social system in this country has for more than three centuries functioned with the implicit purpose of ensuring that white men are the primary benefactors of all privilege. The kind of arrogance bred by that kind of conditioning is pathogenic, causing its host to develop a subconscious yet no less obnoxious perception that the rules do not apply to him, or at least that their application is negotiable.

. . . Yeah, I’m willing to bet my last dollar that he was aware of the political climate in that country, but privilege is a hell of a drug. The high of privilege told him that North Korea’s history of making examples out of American citizens who dare challenge their rigid legal system in any way was no match for his alabaster American privilege.

No, I think that Warmbier just wanted a cool souvenir. Can anyone not poisoned by their own toxic racism think that his “alabaster American privilege” even went through his mind when he took down a poster? After all, it was only a poster, and yes, it was illegal, but he got fifteen years of hard labor and now will probably die. Even given that Sha was ignorant of Warmbier’s illness, she has no excuse for celebrating the guy’s brutal incarceration. But it’s okay because, after all,  he is white.

Sha is even callous about his parents’ desperate attempt to get him released. One feels that she is even happy that it didn’t succeed, for, after all, Warmbier is white:

And while I don’t blame his parents for pressuring the State Department to negotiate his release, I wonder where they were when their son was planning a trip to the DPRK. Didn’t they impress upon him the hostile climate that awaited him? Didn’t they rear him to respect law and order? Did they not teach him the importance of obeying authority?

What a mind-blowing moment it must be to realize after 21 years of being pedestaled by the world simply because your DNA coding produced the favorable phenotype that such favor is not absolute. What a bummer to realize that even the State Department with all its influence and power cannot assure your pardon. What a wake-up call it is to realize that your tears are met with indifference.

How nice of her not to “blame his parents” to try to get him freed! In the end, Sha reveals her real motivation: she is black and oppressed, and in fact is just as oppressed in America as Warmbier was in a North Korean prison. (Seriously?) This article is not about Warmbier at all; it is about Sha’s perceived oppression and how people should pay attention to her plight. Me! Me! Me!  After all, Sha’s at least as bad off as Warmbier!

Here we have the Oppression Olympics stated about as baldly and callously as one can:

As I’ve said, living 15 years performing manual labor in North Korea is unimaginable, but so is going to a place I know I’m unwelcome and violating their laws. I’m a black woman though. The hopeless fear Warmbier is now experiencing is my daily reality living in a country where white men like him are willfully oblivious to my suffering even as they are complicit in maintaining the power structures which ensure their supremacy at my expense. He is now an outsider at the mercy of a government unfazed by his cries for help. I get it.

h/t: Orli

100 thoughts on “HuffPo blogger is gleeful that a privileged white man was severely punished in North Korea

  1. If there was ever an example of reverse racism, if we call it that, this would be it. I wonder if a visit to North Korea could be arranged for this Sha person. What a jerk.

    1. If there was ever an example of reverse racism, if we call it that, …

      Can’t we just call it racism? (Not to mention sexism.)

    2. This has been going on for so long now, though. We’ve been seeing hashtags like “kill all white men” on Tw**ter for years now. And people are wondering why white identity politics are suddenly returning? Maybe the far left shouldn’t try to fight racism by turning it around and deciding, “hey, let’s be racist toward whites as a group, most of whom had absolutely nothing to do with the racism of the past, nor did their ancestors (many of whom suffered racism themselves), just for revenge.” It’s pretty horrifying that they’re willing to judge and punish an entire group for the color of their skin. MLK would be severely disappointed in them, but of course, they no longer think that judging a person by the content of their character is a good idea.

  2. Sha’s comments are just plain mean. She should be ashamed of herself.

    White privilege, my foot. When I was about the same age as Otto, I visited Chile and took home with me a poster from a local election. I am glad Chile was/is not North Korea, or I might be in a long-term care ward now. All this for a souvenir?

    Shame on you, Sha, for your meanness to this kid and his family.

    1. And 3 friends and I took down a political poster in Florence, Italy ( we were students there, aged 19). We got caught, had our tushies hauled down to the local police station, and had to give statements ( in Italian). We were not maltreated but 6 months back at Stanford we got summoned to come stand trial in Florence. We hired a lawyer to delay things, and eventually were acquitted in absentia for lack of evidence, despute 4 signed statements saying we had taken the pister…

      This Sha woman sounds like a real twit and I can’t imagine what Warmbler’s parents must be going through,

    2. One drunken night while visiting my brother in London we mooned Kensington Palace while some foo-fa-rah was going on there. The bobbies chased us quite a ways. My brother and I, then competitive runners, got away. Our friend wasn’t so lucky. Nevertheless, the authorities were not harsh to him subjecting him little more than giggles and a scolding. A very different cultural perspective on harmless naughtiness.

      1. Some of my classmates “streaked” Red Square in the 60s and were not apprehended. I can imagine getting sent to Siberia for less.

  3. This is one more data point demonstrating how “privilege” rhetoric does not really address injustice, instead it decries the basic freedoms, expectation of fair treatment and sense of safety that should be enjoyed by all. It is an unproductive digression.

  4. This is one more data point demonstrating how “privilege” rhetoric does not really address injustice, instead it decries the basic freedoms, expectation of fair treatment and sense of safety that should be enjoyed by all. It is an unproductive digression.

    1. It’s the same sort of disgusting, poisonous ideology that allows wealthy white women of substantial means to look down on homeless men and not feel guilty over it even though they absolutely should.

  5. If a white, male blogger attributed mental attitudes to a black female, in the way that this blogger does to Warmbier, there would be outrage and derision saying that a white male didn’t have the “lived experience” of a black female and so could not possibly know or understand her attitudes and thoughts.

  6. Boosting a poster the way Otto Warmbier did had nothing to do with white privilege, everything to do with the hubris of youth. Could’ve happened to any college-age Western visitor, of any ethnicity or color.

    The arrest and punishment of Warmbier for anything more serious than malicious mopery is an affront to humanitarians everywhere.

    La Sha needs a check-up from the neck up.

    1. Yes, what happened to this fellow is the extreme example of what can happen on the overseas trip. I have no idea why he was in NK but in this age and at his age, I would never advise doing this trip. There are many places that are on my list of places not to go and this would be at the top of the list.

      I do not know why parents and others seem to think, all they need to do is give the state department a call and they can take care of these things. There are some really stupid ideas about overseas travel.

  7. Normally, she would be just another Person Wrong On The Internet, but alas, she not only has a platform at the madcap Huffington Post, but also represents views held by many.

    Ironically, the Huffington Post once titled:
    Men Sentenced To Longer Prison Terms Than Women For Same Crimes, Study Says

    Of course, for this current piece, the Huffington Post should be ashamed of itself, but I guess it works. They get clicks, and nobody cares about it in three days. That’s the problem.

  8. It’s truly horrifying how these people want to reverse racism to go the other way, almost exclusively in the name of revenge against their perceived enemies. It’s the same as what radical feminists have been treating men as a group for years. If these people ran society as they hope to one day, we’d probably see a genocide based on skin color and sex.

    1. Society is more fragile than most people realize. We may yet see widespread racial violence. All it will take is the erosion of some social norms, and a few entrepreneurial bands of enforcers.. This is why the decent left must defeat the regressive.

      1. “This is why the decent left must defeat the regressive”.

        Yes and the same could be said of your fellow travellors, Craw. A fight takes two sides.

        1. Mikeyc, Craw’s fellow travelers? What do you mean? I’m not being ‘cute’, I genuinely do not know what you are getting at there.

          1. Well said. We are living in an age of growing extremism on both ends of the political spectrum. In many respects, conservatives and liberals are self-segregating themselves from each other, including where they live. We are witnessing the failure of those politicians who do not wander too far from the political center to condemn the extremists, who in some respects, they may sympathize with. American society and democracy can collapse if the political leaders of both parties cannot compromise on fundamental issues. The current health care debate is an example of a society coming apart. Indeed, we live in perilous times and the kowtowing of the Republican leadership to Trump is not helping.

          2. Craw is not reluctant to make it clear he* is conservative – nor should he be as there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Just pointing out it takes two to fight and the right wing has it’s dangerous elements too.

            *apologies if I got the wrong gender.

            1. More a libertarian who supports the welfare state, if you want a quick catchphrase summary.

              I agree it takes both sides. Why do suggest I don’t?

              Btw, I have been banned from two libertarian sites specifically for arguing too much with their biases and logic. One guy said he couldn’t figure out what my actual position was, I seemed to support all sides. That’s because I only discussed logic and evidence! The other guy object to my mocking religion too.

              1. “More a libertarian who supports the welfare state.”

                Isn’t that an oxymoron?

              2. Not at all, Diane G. I basically consider myself the same, though I still agree more with the liberals than conservatives in the US. I support social programs and even a more robust social welfare system, but on nearly everything else I am usually libertarian. I think your view of libertarianism has been corrupted by left-wing media who says that all libertarians are just “dudebros” who “don’t want to admit they’re just conservative/right wing.”

              3. Craw: I often disagree with you; but you always (IIRC) remain civil and I think you add to the discussion. Well done.

            2. “… he is conservative … there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.”

              Yeah. I mean, I wouldn’t want my sister to marry one. 🙂 But I’m happy to debate policy with conservatives (and to grant them there valid points where they have ’em) all day long. Even better, if they’re of a libertarian bent.

        2. Yes. From the mid-20th century, when William F. Buckley, Jr., founded The National Review, through the Reagan administration and on to somewhere in the latter years of Bush the Younger’s presidency, the American right wing was a place of vitality and vigorous debate. Then, around about 2010, as libertarian intellectual Julian Sanchez (in)famously observed, conservative “epistemic closure” set in. We are suffering its aftermaths now. With the exception of the “never Trump”-ers (who will, I think, come out of this era with their nobility enhanced) American conservatives have sold-out not just their ideology, but their principles, perhaps even their metaphorical souls.

        3. Except for the problem that white nationalism and politics was basically dead until the left revived them by restarting racial politics on their own side, and refusing to condemn the truly heinous things being said and done in its name. Now we’re seeing an increase in white nationalism. Surely the two are related.

            1. There were only 3,000 members of the KKK left a few years ago. Now all of a sudden their numbers are rising again for the first time in over a decade.

        1. What I know is thus, Mr BJ:
          … … radical feminist = feminist.

          Over All of Time.
          Over All the World.


          1. And, t r u l y as well, vice versa:
            … … feminist = radical feminist.

            Over All of Time.
            Over All the World.


          2. Let’s try this out.

            Radical leftist = leftist
            Radical Muslim = Muslim
            Radical agenda = agenda

            Not looking so good for your equation.

            To be blunt when your rejoinder is “I am a radical feminist” I don’t see you offering an argument, I only see you trying to apply social pressure in lieu of argument.

              1. as in, ya’ know, mine be
                same equating argument as in:

                radical atheist = atheist
                radical determinist = determinist
                radical fact = fact

                ‘nd so forth ‘nd so on.
                No “trying out” needed.


              2. This has become incomprehensible. I honestly don’t know what you’re trying to say.

  9. Truly disgusting. Underscores the fact that the logical end of extreme, misguided moral righteousness can be complete moral degradation and apathy. With views like this the regressive left is handing everything to the right on a platter.

  10. It is times like these that I fear the decent left is losing to the regressive left. People thought this article was worth publishing. Noone asked if it was bilious and deranged.

    1. Well, I certainly fear the same is happening to the decent right, and in a far greater, far more consequential way. I’m all for calling out the illiberal left, but remind yourself who was elected, the people who support him, the recrudescence of their blood-and-soil ideology everywhere across the world.

      It’s all very well highlighting these identitarian pseudo-liberals and commenting about all the myriad ways in which they are awful, but if you’re a relatively objective person who’s trying to minimise their tribalist loyalties then you can’t ignore what’s happening on the other side either. But that is the impression I get from your comments here. You and a few others seem noticeably less enthusiastic in criticising one kind of idiocy over another.

      Perhaps it’s simply a case of emphasis, and in another arena you would focus just as much intellectual effort on the Trump-right/hard-right/far-right, simply because there you would be around people whose instinct it was to defend it to the death. I don’t know. In fairness I sometimes find myself defending the centre-right from the left and defending the left from the right depending on who’s talking to me. Maybe that’s what’s going on here. But it feels like a subtle kind of political inconsistency nevertheless, a ‘sin’ of omission.

      1. Apologies for replying here Craw… I think I clicked on the link and forgot that this article was from three sodding days ago.

  11. Good post. I don’t get into racial or sexist territory generally, because its so sensitive. Meanwhile, enough of the white privilege bullshit. Maybe the question of white privilege needs to be directed to the poor, homeless or disadvantaged white community – those living on the street or in trailer parks. How much white privilege are those folks enjoying?
    You’ll get a lot more traction from being a good productive contributor to society, no matter what your colour or gender. How about focus on that?
    In everything, there is balance. Everyone gets some shit in their life, some get way more than others. We are not living in the dark ages here, and we can only choose our company, and our reactions to how others treat us. In most environments, in most countries and communities, people are left to their own devices and generally respected. There is bad blood on BOTH sides of the equation, so lets not pretend this is some one way street of bullshit from either side or faction.
    I get it, but for fucks sake, some people are so busy being victims, that they are really selling themselves short – as human beings, all of which have uniqueness and add value, if they choose to. This here correspondent (me) is proud to be white and male, but that doesn’t mean I am disrespecting other groups in the community. Love yourself, love one, love all. Namaste.

    1. Any time this is brought up to these people, they either completely ignore the point or respond with, “yeah, but the white homeless person still has more privilege than the black homeless person.” There is no winning with these people.

    2. Just because there are idiots who overplay the white privilege card doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as white privilege. As is the case with sexism.

      1. I don’t think the concept is so much overplayed as misused; or rather, used in such a way as to be meaningless. “Privilege” I can understand, although it seems to me a very strange word to apply to such things as “not getting beaten to death”. But the suggestion that privilege comes in colours, one of which is white, strikes me as a category mistake.

        Okay, the “white privilege” crowd don’t make exactly this howler, but I believe their mistake is analogous. For instance, having wealthy parents is a privilege, and perhaps some races are more likely to have this privilege than others; but even the rare Somalians who have wealthy parents have the same kind of privilege as anyone else with wealthy parents. There’s no special “white” kind.

  12. North Korean travel agencies are quite eager to attract rich world visitors for the cash, so he was hardly unwelcome.

    1. Good catch. She probably simply assumes, based on her prejudices, that of course he is unwelcome he’s a cis white toxic male.

    1. “Didn’t they impress upon him the hostile climate that awaited him? Didn’t they rear him to respect law and order? Did they not teach him the importance of obeying authority?”

      I breathlessly await hearing that she has similarly lectured Dennis Rodman.

  13. Why did they publish it?

    While I’m inclined to say, “In order to normalize this kind of far-left moral pathology,” I actually think that’s giving them too much credit. They’re not thinking that far ahead.

    The real answer is probably much more mundane; it has to do with your post the other day about HuffPo going under. Outrage gets clicks, clicks get ad revenue.

    Indeed, I think that most of what passes for SJW “thought” nowadays isn’t really thought at all—just verbalized catharsis and shameless mining for social (and in the case of HuffPo, literal) capital.

  14. If she had started with this sentence of her final paragraph “The hopeless fear Warmbier is now experiencing is my daily reality” and gone with “welcome to my world”, I might have cut La Sha a lot more slack.

    If Warmbier acted on a sense of privilege, it was a sense of Western privilege, not a race-based one.

    1. If she started the piece with that, I’d have stopped right there. Never a good idea, IMO, starting an argument with a bald-faced lie. Sha is lying even at that. She does not in any reasonable sense experience anything remotely like what Warmbier suffered.

      And this is in no way about privilege of any kind. Warmbier made at worst a juvenile decision (I know…I know…he didn’t really) to steal a silly souvenir.

      1. Whether true or not, a different article posted on the internet said that a girl form his church (if I remember that rightly) offered him $10,000 to bring back a poster from North Korea so she could hang it in church. It was also stated that if anything went wrong, his parents would be paid $100,000 (by members of the church? I don’t know.) Young Warmbier supposedly agreed due to the difficult financial state of his family. If this was a church related thing, they bear some responsibility for what happened to the young man. If they weren’t aware of conditions and behaviors required for travel in North Korea, they should have been. All of us who may travel outside our own country need to research the laws and expected behaviors of the countries we’re going to.

  15. I am waiting for La Sha and her supporters to take the next logical step in their view of the world: a call for a return to a totally segregated America where each ethnic or cultural group lives in total isolation from each other. Of course, she would demand that “separate but equal” become a reality, which did not happen under Jim Crow. Unfortunately for her, I think she will be disappointed. This current spasm of ethno-nationalism will pass, just as did the enthusiasm for Marcus Garvey’s black nationalism movement of the 1920s or the Black Muslims of the 1960s and 1970s. But La Sha strikes me as a true believer, who will be ranting for decades to come, never realizing that she is just talking to herself or understanding that the principles of free speech allow her to do this.

    1. Many radical campus groups have already done what you said in your first sentence, demanding segregated dorms so the “oppressed” college students don’t have to “live in fear” of seeing white students in their building.

    1. I think Professor Ceiling Cat’s analysis is still spot on about people trying to make an Oppressed Minority Olympics that is a zero sum game.

      However, I think you bring up a valid secondary point, which is that the US has a terrible record on imprisonment – down to NK standards, but still pretty awful. The US has the majority of the world’s prison population. We have more people in jail in total *and* per capita than any other country. And the conditions are so bad that we just accept as a society, and joke about, the fact that prisoners will be raped.

      The US does not have the high ground when it comes to prison conditions in the “civilized” world.

      1. “We have more people in jail in total *and* per capita than any other country.”

        While this is indeed true, analyses by multiple statisticians have shown that even if we just jailed murderers and rapists (to say nothing of thieves, armed robbers, assaulters, and various other people who we all agree should get prison sentences), we would still have more prisoners than the vast majority of the world.

          1. Wouldn’t surprise me. But the point is that when people complain about the prison system, it’s not as easy to solve as people think. Even if we let out everyone who was put there for a non-violent crime, we would still have the most prisoners per capita.

  16. An American purloins a poster and gets 15 years?
    That’s a bit over the top isn’t it or merely a good way of keeping a hostage?
    Regarding La Sha, it strikes me that for her argument to hold any water a white youngster abroad should have expected to get away with murder but in this case it was only a stolen poster.
    Perhaps in some obscure way he has let La Sha down?

  17. As a school-kids in the seventies we went on a school-trip to the DDR organised by a communist teacher. It was an interesting trip, but for souvenirs I asked if I could take posters and flags. I could take some posters, but the flags I had to buy (for an amount a Western school-kid could afford, btw, something like half a dollar or so).
    That being said, I think to have terminal brain damage inflicted is nothing Sha experienced. Although, on second thoughts……

  18. That is one cold, mocking article that Sha wrote. It actually felt very close to the kind of vitriol we would see in North Korean propoganda, where they gloat over the punishment meted out to their victoms.

  19. “This is a sad tale, but of course it comports with the dreadful ways North Korea treats its own prisoners, often incarcerated for petty crimes—or no crimes at all” – there was a documentary made in Russia, about an editor in a magazine who was sentenced for the rest of her life to work camp somewhere Ian Siberia for spelling Stalin’s name wrong.
    As for Sha, I don’t know what kind of horrible human being could write these stuff.

  20. Sha is a terrible human being, this is a consensus opinion. But to gloat so openly, and to have your gloating published, you need an entire terrible subculture where such opinions are normalized. I fear that it has ensnared a part of the US black community as well as the (mostly white) CTRL-Left community.

  21. La Sha is taking the exact opposite meaning of “Do unto others…”

    I can truly believe that La Sha’s ancestors may have suffered if they were slaves and afterwards, under Jim Crow, but how is she suffering in comparison? I don’t think she has a clue as to what she’s talking about.

    The point made above about “no or low econ whites” has been applicable throughout US history (just more so now.) There have always been poor whites who struggled to improve their lot, farming or taking whatever jobs were available, if any. I know the history of my family, therefore, I know this is so. Each generation improved the lot of the next.

  22. Gross! Racist! How dare Jerry Coyne suggest that a person of color could ever do anything wrong?

  23. Worst case the whole incident was staged. But Sha has disgraced herself anyway.

    This is just a detail in Sha’s horrendous piece, but may be worth noticing:

    “And while I don’t blame his parents for pressuring the State Department to negotiate his release, I wonder where they were when their son was planning a trip to the DPRK. Didn’t they impress upon him the hostile climate that awaited him? Didn’t they rear him to respect law and order? Did they not teach him the importance of obeying authority?”

    I did not find it again, but these trips were described as targeting youths *precisely* with the lure that it would be disfavored among parents.

  24. Long time since I strayed over to Huffs. Never did I see poison like this. Stupidity aplenty but such gleeful malice, never.

      1. No because that would be the narrative of white supremacy that has marred their lived experience.

  25. “If she has been the victim of bigots, that’s bad, and I feel sorry for her”

    I don’t. If she was acting towards the “bigots” the way she’s acting in that “article”, she deserved it. Not because of the color of her skin, but because she is a huge c***.

  26. Unfortunately, this attitude is not uncommon these days. To some, “white privilege” now makes racists of all whites. If you are white, you’re guilty by birth…A conviction that, were it reversed, would surely brand the purveyor of such a concept as a bigot and a racist.

    To be fair, “white privilege” IS a thing. In a number of situations it is still a great social benefit to be white (and religious!). But there are many white people who have sidestepped their privilege for the benefit of equal rights in this country. Sha would do better to celebrate those people instead of simply issuing a blanket vilification of all Caucasians.

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