So it’s the aftermath of the summit, and the nattering nabobs of the mainstream media (MSM) continue their ankle-biting assault on our president’s Singapore meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. No surprise there.
What I found most interesting was the invective and criticism reserved for the “Destiny Films” Production video shown by the Trump delegation to Kim in Singapore. While I thought it was an inspired piece tailor-made for its targeted audience of one, others were not so sanguine. MSM criticism of the video being “amateurish” are typically way off the mark.
I find it ironic that the Mainstream Progressive Media, who so pride themselves on their diversity and inclusivity, are blind to the basic fact of Cultural Literacy. Actually the MSM is not — but they are so driven by a blind hatred of all things Trumpian that it outweighs every other consideration. That Trump outsmarts them at virtually every turn is a testament to his instinctive grasp of culture — he not only understands the “culture” of the MSM but also that of the North Korean leadership.
In lectures on Intelligence, I often speak about the need for “cultural literacy.” Cultural literacy is critical to intelligence operations — and negotiations. Many books have been written about Do’s and Don’t in various cultures; while useful for a tourist, they are all-important when working abroad. Being an effective Case Officer means understanding your audience, their traditions and viewpoints; just because Kim is the ruthless head of a Stalinist State does not mean he cannot be swayed by video appeals along emotional lines. This is where cultural literacy comes in.
Americans need to understand that what can seem a cheesy, contrived or downright silly message to our “refined” western sensibilities often resonates in different cultures. This can include both the spoken word and the imagery of film. Many cultures, including those with violent histories, for example, embrace sentimentality far more openly than our society. President Trump used this basic fact to leverage Kim.
I learned these truths as a CIA officer overseas. I was often involved in sensitive negotiation with widely disparate foreign counterparts. Know your audience; I often found myself making pronouncements to interlocutors that, had they been delivered to a Westerner, would have drawn guffaws all around, but when uttered to the right people — whether they were Azeris, Albanians, or Russians — helped “close the deal.”
Once a Tajik source said to me “…I have always wanted an American friend.” If you think that the proper reaction to that should have been an eyeroll, then intel is not the field for you, my friend. The man concerned was speaking from the heart, and I didn’t care how “cheesy” it sounded…
Hence the production of the video.
The president understands that the Kim Clan has had a fascination with the West and particularly its movies. Kim’s father even went to the extreme of abducting a famous South Korean actress to star in the DPRK’s burgeoning film industry.
Kim’s relationship with Dennis Rodman also indicates the apple has not fallen far from the tree.
The video presentation was a textbook example of targeting not only culturally but psychologically. With video appeals that “few in this world can make a difference,” Trump is cannily laser-sighting Kim’s ego and undoubted desire to outperform both his father and grandfather. No mean feat when grandpappy is referred to as “The Great Sun of Life,” has 500 statues nationwide and all citizens must wear a pin with his image!
The video functions like a recruiting film — who wouldn’t want to sign up? Images of wealth and prosperity depicted in the video are sure to resonate with a man whose father spent big on whisky and cigars and who happily took photos of the Singapore skyline.
President Trump’s former incarnation as a businessman and purveyor of luxury brands all showcasing The Good Life is the icing on the cake. I am sure that if Kim is seriously contemplating denuclearization and the transformation of his country (I remain cautiously optimistic), he is thinking that if any head of state can deliver — it would be Donald Trump.
We have only taken the first steps in what will be a long journey to denuclearization.
While not assured of success, President Trump has made it clear to Kim that the United States will prove a generous partner in any future proceedings — and a determined adversary should the continued talks reach an impasse.
Scott Uehlinger is a retired CIA Station Chief and Naval Officer. A Russian speaker, he spent 12 years of his career abroad in the former Soviet Union. In addition to teaching at NYU, he is a frequent Newsmax TV and Fox Business TV commentator, and has a weekly podcast, "the Station Chief," that can be found on iTunes or at www.thestationchief.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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