Hey Internet? You’ve gone and pissed off a dictator.
A humorous YouTube video has been making the rounds this week in which North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s likeness (as well Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin) is placed in absurd, dangerous, or just plain goofy scenarios. Check it out:
The elementary “special effects” only add to the humor and absurdity of the video, and bonus points to the creator for including the “Carlton Dance.” (For those unable to view it: The short’s auteur simply plopped cut-outs of Kim Jong-un’s face on top of the moving characters in the video, similar to how the Saddam Hussein character was animated in 1999’s South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut. That is, to hilarious effect).
North Korea, being North Korea, was predictably not pleased, to say the least. Concerned that the video “seriously compromises Kim’s dignity and authority,” the country has demanded that China extend its Great Firewall to prevent the cultural contagion from spreading further. China, in a surprisingly cool move for a government seemingly dedicated to controlling information and expression, was “unable to oblige.” The video remains on Youtube, with nearly 2 million views at the time this post was drafted.
There’s a very famous term for situations in which the attempt to quash online content results in that content becoming more popular. The Streisand Effect is named after a 2003 attempt by singer Barbara Streisand to sue a photographer in order to have images of her home removed his website. News of the lawsuit naturally piqued people’s curiosity, and resulted in more attention to the photos than they likely ever would have gotten, had Streisand just left the situation alone.
While the world’s most recognizable socialist dictator is trying to get ahead of the embarrassment, it seems that our own President has taken the Streisand Effect lesson to heart in recent years. Whether it’s Barack Obama pushing Obamacare on “Between Two Ferns,” or his communications team canonizing the very word “Obamacare,” leaning into public mockery has shown that it can buy the president plenty of good will. It’s more valuable to a politician’s public image to go on the Daily Show or Saturday Night Live, take his comedic flogging, and prove to the audience that he’s just a regular guy with a sense of humor and an army of death robots at his command.
Kim Jong-un could really take a lesson from a world leader whose public image has its own wikipedia page. Obama, as well as other prominent American politicians (see also: Chris Christie in Dad Pants, Joe Biden on Parks & Rec) have figured out that parody and derision is part and parcel of the job. Better yet, public ridicule serves as a great distraction for constituents, who’ll be too busy Tweeting about how Obama Won the Internet to even notice that ~80% of a Congresscritter’s time in office is spent soliciting campaign donations from “The One Percent.”
So come on, Great Leader, start that Twitter account. Slip a few references to these memes into a Reddit AMA. Have your PR team secure a cameo role in Trey Parker & Matt Stone’s next musical. The public demands a leader they can relate to.