And they weren't the only ones:
Now, when this young man was first detained, I remember thinking
"Why would any American put themselves in so much peril by crossing the border into North Korea?"
I certainly didn't think anything like "Well Otto, you broke their law and now you're subject to their justice," because, for one, I don't give any credence to anything this monstrous regime states or claims. Keep in mind, this is the same regime that has sent operatives to Japan to kidnap Japanese citizens and bring them to North Korea. This is only one of their horrific crimes and the number of people murdered by the regime must now be in the millions, but it is a good example of just how rogue a rogue State can go, and if they can actively kidnap people in their own country, they are obviously not above detaining an American in theirs, based on an entirely fictitious "crime."
Secondly, the alleged crime was defacing and/or stealing a propaganda poster (of course that's not how the regime described the poster) and to the regime, this is not a minor crime. I would bet that people have been executed for this same "crime." Unless 15 years of hard labor is the minimum sentence for anything considered a "crime" in NK, that this is the sentence Warmbier received, suggests the regime didn't view his alleged act (whether actual or fabricated) the same as jaywalking. Right from the start, I feared Warmbier was going to be punished far more harshly that his "crime" warranted.
I also didn't chalk this up to simply a matter of foreign (in both senses of the term) justice applied to a foolish American "criminal" because not only did I know the regime has a history of detaining foreigners, with no justification, for political purposes, I knew that the treatment of Warmbier both before and after his "trial" was going to be extremely brutal. This wasn't just the case of an American receiving a much harsher sentence than he or she might have expected for the same "crime" in the United States.
All of this though is immaterial when you examine why the miscreants cited in these articles reacted as they did. If someone took the position that you shouldn't complain about the punishment you receive if you commit a crime in a foreign land, and applied it consistently across the board, I would still take issue with the position, but I wouldn't consider them vile...though I would also expect them to take a similar position to crime and punishment in America.
The people cited in these articles, of course, would not apply that position consistently across the board, and certainly not in terms of US crime and punishment. No, they took the position because Warmbier was a white, middle-class, male, heterosexual, a privileged "Frat Boy," and the symbol of a class of people they hate
, and it afforded them the opportunity to not only express their hatred, but to gloat about the horrific fate in store for this hated figure.
None of them knew anything about Otto Warmbier the person other than he seemed to fit all of the criteria required to be a loathsome individual deserving of punishment. None of them had any idea as to whether or not the regime's allegations were true, nor had the slightest interest in questioning them. All of them knew what that punishment was likely to entail, and they were particularly gleeful that this perfect symbol of what they hate was going to receive this punishment because, it seemed to them, that he had triggered it by exhibiting his sense of that most heinous of human characteristics, privilege
. The irony was too delicious, and that it meant Warmbier's life was to be ruined, only made it sweeter.
Warmbier's death due to brutal torture wasn't a certainty, but his brutal torture was. Anyone who claims they truly believed that a) Warmbier's sentence would have a rational connection to the severity of his "crime" or b) 15 years of hard labor in a North Korean prison wouldn't be a cakewalk but would be no harsher than the time spent by the oppressed masses unjustly imprisoned in America
, is either a liar or an ignorant fool. (An additional note about (b): Even if the treatment of prisoners in NK jails is no worse than that found in US prisons (and it is much worse) Otto Warmbier is not responsible for the conditions in US prisons or whether or not any inmates have been unjustly incarcerated. There is no basis, at all, for viewing Warmbier's fate as ironic
. Such thinking is simply another demonstration of the broad and indiscriminate hatred of the people)
Hatred is poisonous. It isn't more poisonous if it is based on race, gender, class or sexual orientation and it isn't more poisonous if, as in the case of Warmbier's critics, it is based on a mix of two or more of them but, make no mistake, his critics certainly believe this to be the case and each one of them each has displayed that their hatred for Warmbier and those they believe he symbolizes, is based on physical traits and accidents of birth, not deeds and not even words, and so by their own measuring stick, this places them squarely with all of the racists, sexists and homophobes they claim to abhor...not to mention stunning hypocrites.