The Obama YouTube Interviews

January 30, 2015 7:00 AM

Aidan Foster-Carter beat us to this one, but we are happy to give him credit. Over at 38North he caught the fact that North Korea came up in a couple of the interviews President Obama did with three savvy YouTube content creators: Bethany Mota, GloZell Green and Hank Green. Hats off to them; each has in the millions of followers.

First, Hank Green asks Mr. Obama a North Korea-related question around 8:38 (see below):

Foster-Carter interprets President Obama’s YouTube interview as a brief for regime change and collapsism, but we had a somewhat more favorable and subtly different take on the exchange. First, it is interesting that Hank Green brings North Korea up as the case of outlier repressiveness that it is; this is not a planted question, but reflects a genuine concern with the human rights issues. Green then notes—again sharply—that the room for sanctions would appear highly limited, and it is in this context that Obama admits that there is not much the US can actually do until North Korea decides to change course, which strikes us about right. Moreover, Obama argues that change of—or at least in—the regime is likely to be affected by informational strategies, which we also believe has merit.

Green was not the only of the YouTubies to raise North Korea. In fact GloZell Green’s very first question asked about the Sony hack (at around 16:15, see below). She linked it to freedom of speech and asked why the government had not done more to protect the liberties of the Seth Rogens and GloZell Greens of the world. Note that this is a pretty different take than the skeptics who saw the hack as just another excuse to pile on North Korea. The question—again, not a plant—provided the President with an opportunity to talk about his initiative to improve public and private coordination regarding cyber threats.

You can decide for yourself whether Obama's interviews with YouTube celebrities was a novel way to engage a younger audience or a tacky publicity stunt. But just chew on this little factoid: at only 19 years old Bethany Mota has 2.33 million followers on Twitter (that's 700 times more than NK Witness). Getting the word out this way seems pretty smart to us.

Either way, these videos not only highlight social media's increasingly prominent role in driving discourse on policy issues, but the fact that the North Korean problem has surprising resonance. In contrast to our friend Aidan Foster-Carter, we did not see so much Obama’s collapsism as honest “WTF?” questions from the YouTube generation. And they are perfectly warranted.


Matzo Ball

Regarding Obama's 'collapsism', have you two ever commented on the RAND Corporation's "Preparing for the Possibility of a North Korean Collapse" (Bruce Bennett) report from over a year ago?

Liars N. Fools

The Kim family regime should be viewed in a three "R's" framework. They are resilience, resourcefulness, and Ruthlessness. Resilience is a national characteristic of a people that is used to outside pressures and less than ideal geographic and geopolitical circumstances. Resourcefulness has been the ability to play off China and Russia and South Korea and Japan and the United States among and between one another and to develop the asymmetric capabilities -- nuke, missiles, cyber, and conventional provocations designed to discomfit and unnerve. The really crucial "R" is Ruthlessness, in upper case. The willingness to purge, kill, and imprison anybody who poses even remote threats is what ultimately characterizes the Kim regime. Ultimately we want the Koreans in the North to be resilient and resourceful because those factors have been the key to the successes in the South, but the only way to deal with Ruthlessness is ultimately to get rid of the Kim regime.

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