A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about the common habit we human beings seem to have, notably that we do and say things without considering why we do it. We do it out of habit and convention, or because we think there is no other way. It is not always bad to be so certain that we don’t need to think, of course, and there is not always need to re-consider every opinion all the time. But sometimes, it is indeed also important to do so.

Today, I shall revisit this topic, and I shall use the North Korea-US crisis as an example of talking without thinking.

President Donald Trump and his communication officers have made us all rethink the content on media and how news is presented. They have made us use and reflect on terms like ‘moral equivalence’ and ‘fake news’, and many other issues in the information and media world we live in.

In the past, too, we knew that news could be biased, but not outright wrong and fake. We knew that news could be tilted, based on political leaning, social and economic understanding of the world, with sympathies and antipathies, and so on. But we rarely thought that news, at least not in the mainstream media, could be outright wrong, and most radio and TV channels tried to live up to the fair ‘BBC ideals’. We also didn’t believe that politicians could lie about things, important or not, all the time without blushing.

It was, and indeed is, the role of the media to evaluate information that becomes news. The gatekeeper role of all journalists, indeed editors and sub-editors, is essential. The Trump-era has helped us become more aware of the risk of fake news, disinformation and propagandistic presentation and tilting of facts. The social media comes in handy for those who want to spread misinformation and whitewashing untruths. Sometimes, the social media has a positive effect and democratises news and information flow. Furthermore, it is important to realise that the media is part of the mindset and time we live in; there are certain things that are considered true and right without questioning, as I touched upon in the introduction to this article. We should also remember that major news media, indeed TV channels, and trendsetters in the industry often have a Western leaning.

Why has the North Korea-US issue become so topical in recent months, and also, why has it been kept as a media topic for so many years? The short answer is that it is in the West’s interests to do so, and today, in the Trump-era, it may be used as a diversion from other, more important issues. Besides, North Korea itself has also contributed to being high on the news agenda by its nuclear development programmes and missile tests.

The West, and the media, as part of the ‘accepted worldview’, long ago set the agenda and standard for how we should all look at North Korea as a pariah state. Most of the information – and disinformation – about North Korea was circulated long before the Trump-era. We have all come to look at North Korea from a Western, indeed American, angle. We use vocabulary and concepts that are opportune for those who support the West’s and USA’s interests. They are not neutral and objective.

The current North Korea – USA crisis, with exaggeration on both sides, is presented through tinted glasses, and usually North Korea is ‘bad’ and USA ‘good’. Looking deeper and less biased at the issue, we might ask: Is it North Korea or USA that is the greater threat to peace in the region? Sadly, it is USA, too, but we have ‘learnt’ not to see that. A relatively small country like North Korea (with about 25 million people and an underdeveloped economy) can hardly be a threat to USA. South Korea, with twice as many people and a strong economy, and under America’s thumb, would be seen as a threat by many North Koreans.

The Korean Peninsula was left divided because of the interests of USA, China and the Soviet Union during and after the Cold War. It is not likely that North Korea is a threat to peace on the peninsula and in the region, even if it develops nuclear weapons, and it is more than far-fetched to say that far-away USA, with all its missile shields and more weapons than anyone, should feel any threat from North Korea. The only threat would be if there was aggression from China, which seems unlikely today.

Furthermore, we should remember, too, that it was USA that used the nuclear bombs the only time they have been used. Yet, USA is still allowed to be the main watchdog, even taking the moral high ground. As seen from North Korea’s side, having the world’s superpower USA in South Korea (and in Japan), it might well see USA’s presence as a threat (and so may China and Russia). Can we not see that possibility? Even many South Koreans are sceptical of USA’s role in their land, but the country has developed fast thanks to America’s help.

It ought to be the responsibility of those countries which created the situation on the Korean Peninsula, as a result of the Korean War (1950-53), to play a proactive role in solving and normalising it. The two Korean countries themselves must be in the driver’s seat, along with China, Russia, Japan and other Pacific Ocean neighbours, although all of them, too, have a mixed past. When the situation was created, the United Nations, indeed with USA and UK, played deciding roles. They are still important in searching for a durable solution – when the time is ripe and as the Koreans want.

Is North Korea frozen in a time gone by? Yes, in many ways it probably is, but that can change. Is our understanding of North Korea frozen? Yes, it is, and it is based on an American, Western worldview. Can we not get above and beyond this? Yes, we can, but we seem to not want to. Intentionally or unintentionally, the Trump-era has made us consider the situation anew, and as we do that, we come to see that the media was part of the mindset and interests of the powerful. And then, something good can come out of the Trump-era’s strange ‘reality shows’ and handling of information and news in so many fields.

In future, the role and responsibility of the media will grow, as will that of professional media associations, and media training and research institutions. We need to upgrade our values, knowledge, skills and methods so that we can meet the challenges of our time – either they are part of the Trump-era or just part of the Western and other biases in our mindset and practices. It was my intention today to shed some light on these issues, using the North Korea-USA crisis as an example. I hope I managed to show how important it is that we have a critical mind and don’t take things for granted – even when we have been bombarded with half-truths, one-sided information and outright lies for decades. It remains important to not be conventional but question and search for answers. That is more possible today thanks to easy access to information on the Internet and in the media, but we mustn’t swallow anything wholesale. Don’t even believe me, but trust my concern!