Yes, North Korea has long been ruled by an eccentric dynasty of portly dictators with bad haircuts. Yes, the propaganda the regime regularly trumpets to shore up its cult of personality is largely ridiculous. And yes, we on the outside know better, and can take comfort in pointing fingers and chuckling at the regime’s foibles.

But it takes no valor and costs precious little to joke about these things safely oceans away from North Korea’s reach. When a North Korean inmate in a political prison camp or a closely monitored Pyongyang apparatchik pokes fun at Kim Jong Un and the system he represents—that is an act of audacity. It very literally can cost the person’s life, and those of his or her family members. To pretend that punchlines from afar, even in the face of hollow North Korean threats, are righteous acts is nonsense.

It takes no valor and costs precious little to joke about these things oceans away from North Korea’s reach.
What’s more, crowding the North Korea “story” with anecdotes of nutty behavior and amusing delusions may ironically benefit those in charge in Pyongyang. It serves to buffer and obscure the sheer evil of a regime that enslaves children and sentences entire families to death for crimes of thought, while building ski resorts, dolphinariums, and other luxury escapes for elites with funds that could feed its malnourished people for several years. How many people would have watched The Interview and concluded that they should do something to help change this odious regime and bring about human rights for North Koreans?

In Charlie Chaplin’s 1964 autobiography, the star discussed the backlash that he faced from Hollywood and the German and British governments when plans for The Great Dictator’s release were announced. He moved forward with the project despite these concerns, but years later suggested that he regretted that decision: “Had I known of the actual horrors of the German concentration camps, I could not have made The Great Dictator; I could not have made fun of the homicidal insanity** of the Nazis.”

Kim Jong Un is human, too. I am sure he is, as executives and actors involved in The Interview tried to portray him, a “complex” and “multidimensional” man. But he and his barons are also representative of a singularly horrific system, one in which the scale and scope of suffering among 25 million North Koreans does not, as a recent United Nations inquiry noted, “have any parallel in the contemporary world.”

North Korea is not funny. It is hard to imagine a comparable comedy emerging about quirky Islamic State slavers or amusing and “complicated” genocidaires in the Central African Republic. The suffering in question is happening now, as I write.

The day will soon come when North Koreans are finally free, and liberated concentration camp survivors will have to learn that the world was more interested in the oddities of the oppressors than the torment of the oppressed.


North Korea Is Not Funny: Let’s be clear: The Interview isn’t a courageous act of defiance against a dictator" by Adrian Hong


A Dictator’s Guide to Urban Design

Ukraine is the size of Texas, but for the last three months its burgeoning protest movement has largely crowded into the space of 10 city blocks.

The name for the movement itself, Euromaidan, is a neologism fusing the prefix euro, a nod to the opposition’s desire to move closer to the EU and away from Russia, with the Ukrainian (and originally Persian and Arabic) word maidan, or public square. And the term is about more than situating the demonstrations in Kiev’s Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti). Ukraine may be located in Europe geographically, but many of the protesters also see Europe as an idea, one that "implies genuine democracy, trustworthy police and sincere respect for human rights.“

The name speaks to an increasingly universal phenomenon as well: the public square as an epicenter of democratic expression and protest, and the lack of one—or the deliberate manipulation of such a space—as a way for autocrats to squash dissent through urban design.

Not all revolutions have been centered in public squares, but many recent ones have, including several in former Soviet states.

Read more. [Image: Olga Yakimovich/Reuters]


March 5th 1953: Joseph Stalin dies

On this day in 1953, the leader of the Soviet Union - Joseph Stalin - died aged 74. The future dictator was born in Georgia in 1878, and his birth name was Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili. In his youth Stalin read works by Marx and became active in the revolutionary movement against the Russian Tsar. After the successful 1917 revolution led by the Bolshevik Party, Stalin quickly rose through the party ranks, becoming general secretary of the Communist Party in 1922. After the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924, Stalin established himself as dictator of the Soviet Union. Under his rule, millions died due to his forced collectivisation policies and his purges of political rivals which claimed thousands of lives and sentenced many more to grueling work in the gulags. During World War Two Stalin worked alongside Churchill of the United Kingdom and Roosevelt of the United States as the ‘Big Three’ powers who formed the Allies in their battle against Nazi Germany and her fellow Axis nations. One of Hitler’s greatest mistakes during the war was invading Stalin’s Russia during winter, where the Soviet forces successfully held back the Germans; Russians were also eventually the first to reach Berlin. After the war, Stalin oversaw Soviet attempts to develop a nuclear weapon to rival that used by the United States on Japan - this arms buildup contributed to the escalation of Cold War tensions in the post-war world. In 1953, Stalin died of a stroke, leaving the future of the Soviet Union unclear. He was succeeded as general secretary by Nikita Khrushchev, who denounced Stalin’s repressive policies and 'cult of personality’, beginning a process of 'de-Stalinisation’ to move away from the Stalin era.

Transformed Into Females!! Biographies of World Dictators

China's Mao Zedong

North Korea's Kim Il Sung

Iraq's Saddam Hussein

Germany’s Adolf Hitler

The Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin

Italy's Benito Mussolini

Cambodia’s Pol Pot

Yugoslavia's Josip Broz Tito

Cuba’s Fidel Castro

Dominican Republic's Rafael Trujillo’s

Libya's Muammar Gaddafi

Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir

Other entries include:

Europe Vladimir Lenin,  Antonio Salazar, , Francisco Franco, Nicolae Ceausescu, Slobodan Milosevic, Józef Pilsudski, Alexander Lukashenko, Engelbert Dollfuss, Georgios Papadopoulos, Todor Zhivkov
Asia Hideki Tojo, Chiang Kai-shek, Kemal Ataturk, Ferdinand Marcos, Saparmurat Niyazov, Khorloogiin Choibalsan Bashar al-Assad, Lee Kuan Yew, Sarit Thanarat, Park Chung-hee, Suharto, Heydar Aliyev
Central and South America Manuel Noriega, Juan Peron, Augusto Pinochet, Hugo Chavez, Alfredo Stroessner,Maximiliano Hernández Martínez, Jorge Ubico, Getúlio Vargas, Hugo Banzer Suarez, Juan Velasco Alvarado, Anastasio Somoza Garcia

Africa  Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe, Jean-Bokasa Bedell, Hastings Banda, Mohamed Siad Barre, Mengistu Haile Mariam, Jomo Kenyatta, Charles Taylor, Modibo Keita / Moussa Traoré, Ahmed Sékou Touré, Kwame Nkrumah / Jerry Rawlings, Mobutu-Sese, France-Albert Rene, Teodoro-Obiang-Nguema, Habib Bourguiba, Hissène Habré , Juvénal Habyarimana

Book can be bought Amazon Japan


The Ballila Rifle,

When the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini came to power in Italy, one idea to help bolster the ideals of Italian fascism was the creation of a state run youth organization.  Founded in 1926, the Opera Nazionale Ballila (ONB) was such a group formed for boys and girls 8-18.  The curriculum of the ONB emphasized fascist indoctrination and physical education.  Among the activities of the ONB were rifle shooting.  I’m not talking about shooting bb guns or .22’s for the purpose of learning to hunt or shooting cans, but as early military training for the purpose of molding Italian youth into fanatical soldiers.  When they became adults, it was expected of them to form the legions which would reconquer the Roman Empire for Mussolini.

For training rifles, a variant of the standard military rifle, the 6.5mm Carcano, was used.  The Ballila Youth Rifle was no different from the Carcano with the exception that it was made smaller so that it could be used by a young child.  The barrel was cut down to 14 inches.  It was also outfitted with a smaller, lighter stock.  The Ballila rifle also retained the folding bayonet to make it as close to the real military rifle as possible.  

Most Ballila rifles were produced from surplus Carcano rifles, other were modified forms of the older Carcano Cavalry Carbine from the turn of the century.  I have seen some of these selling for as little as $150 at gun shows, and I was tempted to buy one as a novelty.  Alas 6.5 Carcano isn’t an easy caliber to find these days.

The ONB continued to operate up to World War II.  During that time all other youth groups were banned in Italy with the exception of those run by the Catholic Church.  When the German dictator Adolf Hitler observed the ONB in action while visiting Italy, he was inspired to created a similar Nazi organization called the Hitler Youth.

Like a lot of dictators, Hoxha would use doubles, as he feared assassination. But far be it from him to simply ask for volunteers. Hoxha kidnapped a dentist in rural Albania who looked sort of like him, then forced plastic surgery on him to make the resemblance even more uncanny. The poor guy had no choice in the matter; he had to leave his life behind and live on pretending to be the prime minister in hopes he would get shot (after the collapse of Hoxha’s regime, that man vanished – there is a book about his story).

More than he was afraid of assassination, Hoxha feared a Soviet invasion. Lots of people feared that back in those days, but Hoxha dealt with the threat in his own uniquely crazy way: He built 750,000 random bunkers all over the country. On one hand, Albania was a country of only 3 million, so this seems like overkill. But then you realize each bunker was only big enough to hold one person.

The 5 Most Shockingly Insane Modern Dictators