The Huffington Post, Salon and Larry Wilmore all viciously attacked Otto Warmbier last year in shocking propaganda pieces which are worth taking a second look at in the wake of Warmbier’s tragic death.
Warmbier, an American college student, was imprisoned in North Korea and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly stealing a propaganda banner.
Warmbier was released last week after almost a year and a half in prison, but he was in a coma which the North Korea claimed was caused by “botulism” and the consumption of a “sleeping pill.” American doctors found no evidence of botulism and determined he suffered a “severe neurological injury.” His father said he believes Otto was “terrorized and brutalized.” Warmbier passed away on Monday afternoon.
The Huffington Post attacked Warmbier last year and said he deserved to be imprisoned because he’s white:
“That’s what the hell he gets. Good for him!” My mother had uttered those words in her typical matter-of-fact tone one morning as she watched the news. “He” was Michael Fay, an 18-year-old from Ohio who had confessed to vandalizing cars in Singapore, and was subsequently sentence to six lashes from a rattan cane. I was in sixth grade and all I could imagine was how horrible the pain would be. My mother was unmoved at the thought, remarking, “He earned that.”
I thought about my mother’s words a few days ago while watching video of 21-year-old Otto Warmbier, another man from Ohio who last week was convicted of subversion for stealing a propaganda banner in North Korea, and sentenced to 15 years hard labor. Just as in Fay’s case, I was shocked by the severity of the punishment. I’ve tried to imagine spending a decade and a half performing what the North Korean state deems hard labor and I can’t. But I’m not 11 anymore, 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.
…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 Nightly Show’s Larry Wilmore similarly attacked Warmbier and mocked him for crying while begging to be released:
Salon wrote an article last year highlighting Wilmore’s commentary and said Warmbier “might be America’s biggest idiot frat boy”:
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