North Korea (Again): A Short Exercise in Logic
Deus Ex Propoganda
It’s not very fallacious to say that North Korea has had a surge in popularity over the last few years. Kim Jong Un’s accession to power has spawned a combination of alarming, unsurprising, and sometimes downright amusing events. North Korea is known as one of the most economically and socially isolated political entities on earth, and its belligerence has contributed to its downward cycle of impoverishment. The country constantly defies “logic” by alienating its benefactors (China), and threatening to annihilate its enemies in spite of the fact that it lacks sufficient resources to do so. Can a trace of rationality be found between all the saber rattling and enigmatic rhetoric?
Finding a suitable “argument” from the regime has proved to be a daunting task, in spite of the fact that the entire nation is a tireless propaganda machine. The “Korean Central News Agency” is notorious for its misconstrued interpretation of world events and idolization of the Kim dynasty, the “democratically” elected leaders of the world’s vanguard socialist utopia. Their adoration has crystalized into a cult of personality reminiscent of the Soviet era, and its ongoing embellishment would make Stalin jealous. The “mythology” surrounding the country’s founding father, Kim-Il-Sung is dogmatic in nature; his well-known (now deceased) son, Kim-Jong-Il inherited the aforementioned cult of personality, an important fact needed for establishing the context of the “speech” about to be analyzed.
The Brilliant General's Speech
Kim-Jong-Il’s successor, “general” Kim-Jong-Un is still a fledgling in power, and his success at consolidating his own cult of personality is still in question. One of his earliest speeches to party officials relies on his father’s legacy as its primary argument. The speech, titled, “Let us Step up the Building of a Thriving Country by Applying Kim Jong Il’s Patriotism” is an attempt to consolidate his own legitimacy through the application of his father’s patriotism. (The title says it all, obviously.) Before delving into any technicalities, let us assume that we know nothing of Kim-Jong-Un (in an attempt to avoid committing an Ad-Hominem) and his rigorous continuance of the status-quo. Let us assume that Kim-Jong-Un is the leader of a legitimate political entity, legitimately addressing the needs of his country, and let us eliminate any preconceived biases before continuing. Only then can we attempt to analyze this masterpiece for what it is, and attempt to analyze its logical coherency:
The Beginning of the End of the Beginning...
The argument unsurprisingly begins with Un’s Conclusion, “In our implementing of the cause of building a thriving socialist country today, it is very important to apply Kim Jong Il’s patriotism.” Now what merits this application? Why is Kim-Jong-Il’s patriotism a crucial factor in building this “thriving socialist country”? What kind of premises and what kind of reasoning warrant this conclusion? These were questions that were constantly asked during the course of reading the argument. Questions which, unfortunately, remained mostly unanswered.
The argument primarily suffers from two large informal fallacies; a bad case of Begging the Question and an ubiquitous Appeal to Authority. (We’ll soon see why.) He builds up the conclusion of his argument as a premise, continuing with another opening statement:
“We emphasize Kim Jong Il’s patriotism to encourage officials, party members and other working people not to merely shout is as a slogan or to hold it up like a banner, but to learn from the ennobling examples of patriotism set by the great General Kim Jong Ill and apply his patriotism thoroughly to their practical activities in building a thriving country.”
Needless to say, this statement already presents several visible problems. Who is this “we”? Is it merely a metaphorical we, or is it already assuming that the masses are rallied behind this cause. It’s a large set up for “ad-populum”, (Anecdotal evidence already supports the whole country to be a large case of ad-populum.) an ad-populum that would most likely result in death or severe punishment if not fallen for. Sarcasm aside, many questions are brought to mind, particularly the importance of this patriotism.
Un goes on to highlight the profound depth of Kim-Jong-Il’s patriotic fervor, using what seems like inductive reasoning to support his point. Many heavily detailed anecdotes (with questionable cogency) are brought up in an attempt to fortify this point. Kim-Jong-Il is depicted as having an undying, obsessive love for his nation; “Being determined to be the master of the revolution in Korea from the first day of embarking on the road of revolution,” he (according to Un), “continued to follow the road of love for his country and people until the last moment of his life.”
The speech is filled with enough tender passionate rhetoric for Kim-Jong-Il to make any uninformed (or brainwashed) listener marvel at the wondrous benevolence of this leader. This praise eventually strays into dangerous Red-Herring territory, (Why were we talking about this guy again?) eventually using an anecdote of his Parka (article of clothing?) as an analogy for the love of his country.
Heart of the Analysis
Alright, it’s been established that Kim-Jong-Il possessed a great amount of patriotism, but this establishment is rooted in very tentative assumptions which have been invalidated by various eyewitness accounts and testimonies. Regardless, let’s assume that Un establishes Il’s sense of patriotism as a premise for the country needing to have more patriotism. Fair enough. From this point let us symbolize this end-point, this conclusive dire need for patriotism as (P), in order to attempt to later analyze the speech in a more syntactical form.
Un argues that the country “is demonstrating its dignity as a world class military-power” and that it “owes its matchless military might to the wise leadership of the general. The fact that this “wise leadership” is a product of patriotism is already implicit (and revealed in later paragraphs) so let us rewrite this as PつL (Patriotism therefore wise leadership) According to Un, this wise leadership lead the country to formidable military might, so let’s also symbolize that portion of the argument as LつM.
Un argues that Il’s “patriotic devotion led to the transformation of our (his) country’s appearance and the laying of the solid cornerstone for building a prosperous and powerful nation. LつT. Let’s combine the last two statements to make Lつ(M . T). (The period between representing the ‘dot’ in syntactical form.) His later attempts to argue the conclusion are therefore presented in this form: PつL / Lつ(M . T) // P. One can already see the faults of this argumentative form via a quick analysis; it seems like the bastard child of an alcoholic syllogism. The argument gets even more disturbing, as Un attempts to justify Kim-Jong-Ils allocation of funds to the computer and programming industry, funds which he basically admits could have gone to feeding the populace.
Un argues that “although he (Il) was haunted by the thoughts of the people who were suffering from food shortage, he decided shedding his heart’s tears spend the precious funds, which could be called all in the coffers of the state, for the introduction of CNC technology was a courageous decision and the best choice born of his patriotic will to raise the international profile of his country, his motherland, by fostering its might. “ So Il painstakingly let his countrymen die of famine for the introduction of this technology? What a brave, noble, act. Unfortunately, we’re straying too far from logic and too dangerously close to emotionally driven ethical rage. I’ll simply leave the syntax of this argument and let you draw your own conclusion: F^T / P // ~F.
Indeed, the need for Patriotism is heavily emphasized (this can’t be emphasized enough) throughout the course of this argument, but doesn’t really arrive at any tangible outcome. It calls out for selfless devotion by citing slogans like “Let us live not merely for today but for tomorrow!” as evidence, trying to inspire a collectivist mindset that promotes patriotism at the expense of the individual. It builds its premises on the assumption that Kim-Jong-Il is the ultimate authority on every matter pertaining to everything, and uses that assumption to promote the conclusion (P). Phrases like “Education for implanting Kim-Jong-Il’s patriotism deep in the hearts of the people should be strengthened” re-direct the argument to make it seem like it assumed the form of PつP. (Quite possibly the most beautiful argument form I’ve ever seen.)
It doesn’t end there; more analysis unravels the intricate workings of this propaganda piece. “Patriotism is wholehearted devotion to the country and people,” Un says. “Education in Kim-Jong-Il’s patriotism should be based on reality and conducted with the specific situations.” All these phrases give off the air of a False Dichotomy. What about the option of not being patriotic? What happens if people simply choose to go about their daily business and live their lives normally, without any kind of “revolutionary” zeal? Non-existent. Un is already too far into his own assumptions and leaves absolutely no room or tolerance for any alternative. Can we say we’re surprised?
Let us summarize the argument as a whole using the following syntax: L (Leadership/Devotion)つP(Inspires patriotism)/ ~Lつ~P // P. P is the all-encompassing solution. Computing the argument into an indirect truth-table reveals it to be invalid. With all this being said, it’s not surprising considering the fact that it’s a product of the Hermit Kingdom and a deranged mind. I just committed an ad-hominem, but what better way to end an analysis of a fallacious argument than with a fallacy?