Over on the Member Feed, Maggie Somavilla posted a link to a National Review book review of the horrifying memoir, Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West.
Reading NR's two page review of the book is overwhelming. We learn of the story of Shin Dong-hyuk, a young North Korean man who had spent his entire life from infancy in a North Korean gulag with up to 200,000 other prisoners. He and his fellow prisoners were kept as animals; they lived in squalor, disease, and brutality. Shin witnessed the beatings and executions of classmates and family members, and was even instrumental in bringing about his mother's and brother's hangings. The details of his existence in the prison camp reveal a human darkness beyond comprehension.
Being overpowered by sadness and disgust, I shared the review with a handful of close friends so that I wouldn't be alone with the burden of this horrific knowledge. One friend was outraged by the powerlessness he felt upon reading the review. "Why isn't the U.S. intervening?" he demanded. "Someone needs to do something!"
And then his anger over the situation turned into frustration toward me for making him aware of such an awful reality. "Well then there is no benefit in the media informing me about atrocities taking place in the res to of the world if no one is helping. I would prefer to remain ignorant in my San Franciscan community, and go to Giants games and shop at Whole Foods," he concluded.
That's the mentality that our own Claire Berlinski butts in to with her reporting of the goings on in Turkey. It's a fury induced by powerlessness that people feel when learning about atrocities in a faraway corner of the world. Either that, or an apathy that results from a desensitization to this kind of news; there will always be madmen and violence and horror in the world, and aside from praying, there's so little that any of us on our own can do about that.
Even if they often fall short, it's easy to see a clear purpose of domestic media—government must be held accountable by the citizens, and the citizenry must be kept informed in order to do that. But what's the purpose of the media when it comes to reporting on global issues? Why, for instance, is it important that some nobody like me knows about the horrors that seize North Korea? Is it merely knowledge for the sake of knowledge?