Remember this semi-viral North Korea story from last week?
The comic spectacle is SO easy to picture: North Korea unveils their most advanced weapon to date, then at a big public reveal, the missile sputters, makes that wimpy noise from when a cartoon nerd tries to flex and their muscle dangles down, and crashes to the ground onto an anthill (not damaging it). Then a furious Kim Jong-un goes "NOOOOOO!!!" and slams a big long table and the other end flips up like a seesaw and knocks a painting of his dad on a horse up into the air and it crashes down on him so his face is bursting through the horse's ass on the portrait. The image is so vivid, you don't even need to read the body of the article to know that this exact scenario transpired verbatim.
But in reality, is this anywhere even close to what this story means? In a word, nah:
"Placing large emphasis on single tests is probably unwise," agreed Karl Dewey, a proliferation editor at Jane's Intelligence Review, a U.K.-based publication. "Until we know more about the missile type and design objectives, it's probably too soon to start speculating on how this failure informs this picture." ... "The DPRK is still struggling to perfect its missile technology," according to Cameron, at the EU-Asia Center. "Sometimes it succeeds as it did two weeks ago by launching four ballistic missiles at once; and sometimes it fails."
A story about one missile failing one test was deemed push-notification-worthy by news sites, then trended organically, because we all just can't resist a story that undermines North Korea's tough talk by making their military look like a joke. It's a pattern that dates back through all of America's recent wars, and it's repeating itself with North Korea. We simultaneously portray these rival countries as ...
1) rapidly militarizing, unstable supervillains who must be dealt with swiftly, but also
2) inept buffoons with a far inferior military whom the U.S. would crush instantly in any action.
These two somehow-not-conflicting notions then dovetail perfectly to help us both justify a war and make said war seem super easy and winnable. It's really a perfect propaganda tool for our military -- citizens are not gonna rush to enlist for some war where it sounds like they'll definitely be killed. But do you actually feel "afraid" of Kim Jong-un at all? Don't you feel like, 70 percent sure you could take him in an arm wrestling match or a game of darts, even though you definitively suck at both? Why do you suppose that is?
Take this New York Post headline: