The entertainment highlight of the Trump-Kim negotiations is undoubtedly the fake movie trailer for A Story of Opportunity that the White House showed to North Korean officials and displayed before Trump’s press conference in Singapore. Perhaps the most interesting aspect to the Trump trailer fiasco is how commentators and critics have responded, trying to hide the US’s embarrassment and shift the blame for this cinematic monstrosity onto North Korea.
The four minute video, make in the style of a trailer for an action movie, presenting Kim with a simple choice between the ‘light of hope’ and the poverty and isolation of the old way. As a piece of political theatre it was lame. As a piece of psychological warfare it was surreal.
The video is bad – worse even than Game of Pawns, the FBI-produced video on the Glen Shriver story. Trump’s trailer for A Story of Opportunity is little more than a string of stock footage clips and pictures of Trump and Kim, with a voice-over and music that sounds like it’s from a Christopher Nolan movie. The script, presumably designed to entice the North Korean delegation and make them feel glamorous, is riddled with clichés, elitism and capitalist propaganda:
Seven billion people inhabit planet Earth. Of those alive today, only a small number will leave a lasting impact. And only the very few will make decisions or take actions that renew their homeland and change the course of history.
History may appear to repeat itself for generations—cycles that never seem to end. There have been times of relative peace and times of great tension. While this cycle repeats, the light of prosperity and innovation have burned bright for much of the world. History is always evolving, and there comes a time when only a few are called upon to make a difference. But the question is, what difference will the few make? The past doesn’t have to be the future. Out of the darkness can come the light. And the light of hope can burn bright.
What if… a people that share a common and rich heritage can find a common future? Their story is well known but what will be their sequel?
Destiny Pictures presents a story of opportunity. A new story, a new beginning. One of peace. Two men, two leaders, one destiny. A story about a special moment in time, when a man is presented with one chance which may never be repeated. What will he choose? To show vision and leadership? Or not?
There can only be two results. One of moving back. Or one of moving forward. A new world can begin today. One of friendship, respect, and goodwill. Be part of that world, where the doors of opportunity are ready to be opened—investment from around the world, where you can have medical breakthroughs, an abundance of resources, innovative technology, and new discoveries.
What if? Can history be changed? Will the world embrace this change? And when can this moment in history begin? It comes down to a choice. On this day. In this time. At this moment. The world will be watching, listening, anticipating, hoping. Will this leader choose to advance his country and be part of a new world? Be the hero of his people? Will he shake the hand of peace and enjoy prosperity like he has never seen? A great life or more isolation? Which path will be chosen?
Featuring President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un…. in a meeting to remake history. To shine in the sun. One moment, one choice, what if? The future remains to be written.
While the trailer says that it was made by Destiny Pictures the CEO of the real Destiny Pictures in California has repeatedly denied any involvement, even posting a notice on their website saying ‘Destiny Pictures Had No Involvement In President Trump NK Summit Video’. Eventually the National Security Council admitted that they were responsible for this horrible mistake, in a statement saying:
The video was created by the National Security Council to help the president demonstrate the benefits of complete denuclearization, and a vision of a peaceful and prosperous Korean peninsula.
The US is clearly embarrassed by such a low-grade piece of manipulation being made public for the whole world to see, though most of the commentators cited in media reports seem completely unaware of the US government’s century-old, massive-scale use of entertainment as propaganda. Ned Price, a former National Security Council Spokesman said:
From my understanding, they were just using ‘Destiny Pictures’ as a play on words. It just so happens there’s a studio by that name in California. Leave it to this White House to fail to conduct basic due diligence. And that, of course, leaves aside the fact they thought it prudent to try to out-North-Korea North Korea in the propaganda department.
Given that the total number of Hollywood movies, seen by literally tens if not hundreds of millions of people worldwide, that have been vetted and co-opted by the US government is around 1000 and the number vetted and co-opted by the North Korean government is 0, I’m not sure how Price can justify this claim.
Meanwhile Michael Cornfield, a political science professor at George Washington University, commented:
Most world leaders would be appalled by such a cheesy appeal to choose the world of colour over the world of black and white. Or they might be secretly pleased because they would figure anyone negotiating on such primitive terms would be easy to roll.
But Kim is the man who freaked out over his mock assassination in the feature film The Interview back in 2014. He had his cyber-team hack Sony Pictures and his threats of terrorism caused theaters to cancel screenings. So perhaps this is a way to forge a bond.
In other words, ‘We made an awful video, but it’s really their fault because of the unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that the North Korean government hacked Sony Pictures’. This is the first time I have seen the Sony Pictures hack mentioned in the news for at least two years, and it was invoked with the sole purpose of drawing attention away from the hideous, humiliating National Security Council attempt at propaganda.
The Washington Post reported that – in part due to the Korean language version of the video being shown before the press conference – that some journalists thought they were watching North Korean government propaganda, not realising it had come from the White House. The White House made the dubious decision of posting the video on facebook, where many of the commenters are saying they thought it was a satire video or scientology propaganda before they realised where it had come from.
Both the instinctive responses of people watching the video and the ‘expert’ opinion offered in newspaper coverage highlights how the Western populace has become so conditioned by entertainment propaganda that they only notice it when it’s as naked and obvious as a promotional video for a piece of real estate. Coupled with a long-conditioned tendency to just blame the other side whenever we’re caught doing something, the responses to this video have revealed an ugly secret. If anything, it is the Western public who have been powerfully propagandised by their government, more heavily and more successfully than those in North Korea. Not a single article on the trailer for A Story of Opportunity has made the connection with the US government’s entertainment liaison offices, and while that remains the case the notion that we have any right to criticise North Korean propaganda is as laughable as Trump’s straight-to-DVD schlock.