In the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the most blatant whoppers were disseminated around the more credulous part of the Fourth Estate. Saddam Hussein did not only have the grandly titled Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), but he also had the capacity to take out, well, anywhere with Our Brave Boys in residence. So if we didn’t act, he’d wipe out Cyprus. Allegedly.
United Nations Building, New York City
The fairy stories got worse: Iraq could hit the UK! All this was, to no surprise, conveniently forgotten as soon as it became clear that Saddam Hussein did not have any of the purported WMDs. There were no nuclear warheads, and no biological weapons programme. This was part of the reason for Tone suffering a decline in his personal popularity. Fortunately for him, the Tories went along with it too.
So when the scaremongering starts over North Korea, as it has with the Super Soaraway Currant Bun today, readers should remember the stance that Rupe’s downmarket troops took over Iraq. Even after the news came that there were no WMDs, the paper kept on loudly asserting that Saddam had plans to get some, and that the evidence had just been moved.
The North Korea frightener is in the same amateurish vein: “Crackpot Kim could nuke UK” screams the headline. This is total bullshit. Kim, crackpot or otherwise, could not nuke the skin off the nearest rice pudding. North Korea, as the dastardly BBC has pointed out, has not yet mastered the technology of miniaturising nuclear warheads, needed to use them as missile tips.
Indeed, since the 1960s, North Korea has managed nothing of longer range than to attack three nearby warships, and an island just over the border with the South. Its missiles could have the range to reach US territory, but it probably hasn’t yet figured out how to ensure an accurate strike – or how to ensure an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) re-enters the atmosphere properly.
And the missile the Sun claims could reach the US mainland and even the UK is equally likely to damage North Korea: it’s hardly been tested. All the Sun story really is, is cheering on Young Dave’s push to have the Trident weapons system renewed. The tens of billions this will cost, and the mildly inconvenient fact that it isn’t an independent deterrent, is somehow missed in the retelling.
Instead, the old “Brits 45 mins from doom” story has been exhumed. It was a pack of lies back then, and the modern version is equally untrue today. Kim Jong-un may or may not be a delusional crackpot. But no matter how shrill the rhetoric, he will not be nuking the UK, or indeed any other country, just yet. And if he started a war, it would soon bankrupt his country. So this, too, is unlikely.
But it’s a good way of keeping the readers buying the Sun, so that’s all right, then.