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What are we to make of the strangely incurious reaction by most media outlets and commentators toward the charges levied by the North Korean regime against Otto Warmbier? Even if one accepts that civilized countries should tolerate the manhandling of their citizens by thug regimes for such ridiculous “crimes,” I find it odd that nobody is really questioning the facts surrounding his arrest.
Most of the articles and commentary I’ve read (including those by people sympathetic to his plight as well as the “white frat boy had it coming” crowd) accept uncritically that Mr. Warmbier took down a propaganda poster in a restricted area of his hotel (to their credit @jaynordlinger and Jim Geraghty appear to be notable exceptions, but the Smart Girls and many other Ricochet podcasters appear to have accepted the factuality of Mr. Warmbier’s offense). This despite the fact that:
(1) Mr. Warmbier’s roommate says that he was never alone long enough to do the deed, and never gave any indication that he was even thinking of such a thing,
(2) his roommate’s account of the final day of their trip clearly suggests that Mr. Warmbier, as an American traveling alone, was deliberately targeted for kidnap by the regime,
(3) the North Koreans have a long and time-honored tradition of kidnapping foreigners for various purposes, including to use as leverage in the next round of interminable talks,
(4) the North Korean regime habitually lies about everything,
(5) Mr. Warmbier’s confession, wrung out of him at great duress, was clearly written by a non-English speaker, and paints a counterfactual picture of a poverty-stricken, churchgoing Methodist Warmbier family (Mr. Warmbier’s family does not appear to be in any financial distress and are non-observant Jews), and
(6) the only other evidence presented is a grainy video in which the poster is clearly visible but the perpetrator’s face is never seen.
In short, there is more evidence that Kim Jong Il golfed a 38 under-par than that Otto Warmbier actually removed a propaganda poster as he was accused. Yet media outlets across the political spectrum are almost uniformly uninterested in examining these claims, and accept them as true. A victory for the North Korean propaganda machine, I guess.