Some of the most serious and sober-thinking global media outlets routinely refer to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as a nut case.
To the general public, he seems a bit like one of those evil villains doing battle with James Bond.
Perhaps these weird images help explain why no one is quite willing to publish an outright denial of the story that Kim ordered his once-powerful uncle, Jang Song Thaek, executed by having him stripped naked and torn to pieces by 120 ravenous dogs.
Kim’s state-run radio and TV certainly screamed that Jang had been tried as a traitor and announced that he’d been put to death.
No specific form of execution was mentioned in the official broadcast, but Jang was pronounced “human scum.”
Almost all legitimate journalists are skeptical of the dog story, in part because it appeared in the Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po — which is a bit like the Chinese version of the National Enquirer.
Washington Post blogger Max Fisher listed five solid reasons to conclude that the story wasn’t true — everything from questions about the original source to the fact that the South Korean media, well plugged in to events in Kim’s northern outpost, haven’t published anything about Jang’s execution except that it was “believed” he was shot to death.
But even Fisher conceded that nothing attributed to Kim Jong Un can be totally dismissed.
“The thing about this story and so many others like it from North Korea is that there is a chance, however remote, that it could still be true,” he wrote. “The (North Korean) government has a well-earned reputation for taking political punishments to medieval extremes.”
Fisher even made a joke out of the whole business, quoting satirist Karl Sharro.
“The clue about the story of Kim Jong Un’s uncle being fed to 120 dogs being false,” Sharro said, “is who has time to count dogs at a time like that?”
To be fair to Fisher and others, it’s hard not to laugh at this nutty country whose most celebrated repeat visitor is former pro basketball bad boy Dennis Rodman.
Still, there are 25 million people suffering under Kim’s thumb.
Los Angeles Times foreign correspondent Barbara Demick wrote a book on North Korea called “Nothing to Envy” — and discovered that most people in Kim’s world live in total isolation, not only without the Internet but lacking the knowledge that such a thing even exists.
And it should never be forgotten that the same reckless thumb conceivably could launch a crude but deadly nuclear weapon.
Yes, there is a temptation to lump everything bizarre about North Korea together, and perhaps imagine it as a surreal Quentin Tarantino film.
But sadly, way too much of the insanity is real — maybe even the dogs.