Random jargon generators—those online applets that string together endless variations on the clichés of postmodern theory, corporate management-speak, and other specialist dialects—have been around since the dawn of the Web, but
never has the genre risen to quite the levels of hilarity and poignancy found in NK News‘ random North Korean propaganda insult generator. Click the insult me again button and take cover: “You black-hearted political dwarf!” Click again: “You swollen-headed beast, we will annihilate you with a fresh revolutionary upswing!” And click: “You extra-large reactionary, you would be well advised to behave with discretion!” Picture the Kim Jong Il marionette from Team America mouthing these gems (as a photo of the fat-faced puppet glaring from every page of the site invites you to do), and you’re looking at comedy gold. Compare them to the Korean Central News Agency articles from which their phrasings are drawn (as the site’s database of KCNA archives going back to 1996 also proposes), and the tragedy sinks in: There are 20 million people whose only source of information is a regime that, as NK News creator Geoff Davis puts it, “talks and acts like a deranged four-year-old.”
Davis sees the database partly as a resource for journalists and scholars, but he acknowledges it’s also, in its own way, propaganda—and as such it succeeds in ways our propagandist in chief could learn from. Throwing insults like “axis of evil” at a government that invents 10 twice as lurid before breakfast is a sucker’s game. Expose that government’s comic tackiness to the smirking millions of the Web, however, and they’ll never see it coming. Team America‘s famous prescription for dealing with the likes of Kim Jong Il—”only a dick can fuck an asshole”—may well be true; but NK News shows that sometimes just a little prick will do.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 11, 2005