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PETER HITCHENS: Now even this North Korean warns we're being brainwashed! 

The most bitterly funny story of the week is that a defector from North Korea thinks that even her homeland is ‘not as nuts’ as the indoctrination now forced on Western students.

Yeonmi Park fled from the Hermit Kingdom when she was just 13, and endured horrible things during her escape. Eventually, she reached South Korea. But she thought she had truly begun a new life when, in 2016, she transferred to Columbia University in New York City, one of America’s finest colleges.

Almost immediately she met the new, sweet and sticky marshmallow totalitarianism which has taken over so many Western seats of learning. A staff member ticked her off when she revealed that she enjoyed classics such as the books of Jane Austen.

‘I said, “I love those books.” I thought it was a good thing,’ she told Fox News in an interview. But the staff member replied: ‘Did you know those writers had a colonial mindset? They were racists and bigots and are subconsciously brainwashing you.’

Yeonmi Park (pictured) fled from the Hermit Kingdom when she was just 13, and endured horrible things during her escape

After encountering the new requirement for the use of gender-neutral pronouns, she concluded ‘Even North Korea is not this nuts… North Korea was pretty crazy, but not this crazy.’ 

She came to fear that making a fuss would affect her grades and her degree. Eventually, she learned to keep quiet, as people do when they try to live under intolerant regimes, and let the drivel wash over her.

Anyone who has lived through the past two years in this country, especially the takeover of the National Trust by radicals, and the increasingly politically correct behaviour of major universities, will know that her account has the ring of truth. 


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But what is important is that a survivor of North Korean terror is saying it. She is not claiming that the modern West is like the thuggish Kim regime. 

She is saying that we willingly give in to what has to be forced on to Koreans by police terror, sealed borders and labour camps. And we ought to be ashamed of ourselves.

As Ms Park says, at least North Koreans, who live under a regime of brainwashed fear and who are forcibly isolated from all news of the outside world, have an excuse for believing the mad bilge pumped out by their government. We don’t.

‘North Koreans, we don’t have the internet, we don’t have access to any of these great thinkers, we don’t know anything. But here, while having everything, people choose to be brainwashed. And they deny it.’

She warns: ‘You guys have lost common sense to a degree that I as a North Korean cannot even comprehend.’

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attending the 3rd Plenary Meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang

You may think she is laying it on a bit thick. But I don’t. One of the strangest periods of my life came nearly three decades ago. I had returned to this country after several years living abroad, including more than two years in Moscow. When I had left England, in summer 1990, we had been almost euphoric about the accelerating fall of Communism in Europe.

You may think she is laying it on a bit thick. But I don’t, says Peter Hitchens

I had expected to settle back into my own country with relief. But again and again, in my first few weeks back in Britain, I experienced behaviour, events or conversations which gave me an eerie feeling of familiarity.

For some time, I could not work out what it was. And then, suddenly, it became clear. I was reminded of the stupidities, prejudices, obstructions and dogmas which I had experienced in Soviet Moscow – and seen defeated there.

Somehow, they had escaped through the gaps in the Berlin Wall and taken up residence here. Bit by bit, especially after the Blair victory of 1997, they hardened into a whole new political system, hostile to the traditional married family, scornful of tradition and patriotism, filled with hate for Christianity, dismissive towards the books, art and music that I liked, actively intolerant of dissent.

I had not come back to Britain but to somewhere else. I have not been able to find my way back to Britain since then, and do not know how to get there.

Last week I went to the cinema for the first time since March last year.

I recalled that distant evening, watching Kristin Scott Thomas in Military Wives, in an auditorium almost totally empty. At that stage we were still free to go out as we wished, but the intellectuals of North Oxford, among the best-educated people on the planet, were already in a state of total panic. That night the pubs and the restaurants were empty too.

I should have grasped then that many people actually wanted to be afraid, wanted to stay at home, wanted to wear masks, wanted to shut down society. But I didn’t.

The film I chose to see last week was A Quiet Place Part II, the sequel to a clever movie in which the world is invaded by aliens who cannot see us, but have incredibly sensitive hearing. Emily Blunt, looking beautiful but cross, is one of a tiny group who have learned how to kill these monsters. A fair amount of the story takes place in abandoned scenes of a deserted civilisation, and the huge, empty complex in which I watched it rather reminded me of this. I viewed it entirely alone, in a large theatre, feeling a bit like Stalin as I did so.

A disaster movie in the middle of global panic is rather an odd experience. But as I watched the monsters ripping and crashing through an ordered and peaceful civilisation, at unbelievable speed, I thought they made a pretty good metaphor for the inflation that’s now definitely coming our way, as predicted here quite a lot.

And you won’t be able to fight that off with a wonky hearing aid and a shotgun.

The radicals in our boardrooms  

I am genuinely unsure why a collection of politically correct advertisers have targeted the new TV channel GB News. Nothing I’ve seen so far about this station suggests any really radical break with the conventional thinking of our age, even if you could hear what they say properly.

And will the Grolsch brewery, for instance, notice if I boycott them back? I doubt I drink enough Grolsch to make a difference. The point which struck me very hard was this. People who believe that capitalism is naturally conservative, and will stand up for freedom and tradition, are utterly wrong. Nowhere has been more totally taken over by wokeness than the boardrooms of the West, greener than Greta Thunberg, ready to take both knees if asked rather than just one, in love with Stonewall and the rest of it.

Karl Marx was wrong. The revolution he wanted is more likely to be achieved by the makers of Nivea skin creams than by the horny-handed sons of toil, who these days no doubt are not horny-handed, but thoroughly moisturised. 

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