The Associated Press just published a story about Dennis Rodman's latest endorsement venture and his untethered blather about what good buds he is with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Read the whole thing here, if you have two minutes for an extra-large helping of starry-eyed banality. Here are some excerpts:
A Rodman-branded vodka is set to debut this week, just the latest business venture he's had a fling with, stretching from wrestling to authoring a children's book to even, yes, unofficial basketball ambassador to North Korea. He can count Kim as a fan of the vodka — the duo drank from two cases Rodman brought over for his recent visit in September, where they talked hoops and planned an exhibition game in January.
Dennis Rodman. NBA champion. Hall of Famer. Reality TV star. Peace broker?
Rodman, who once wore a wedding dress to a book signing, said all his work should have earned him a Nobel Peace Prize.
"People put that label on me like it's my responsibility to save the world," he said. "If it happens to come to that, then yes, I guess I'm all for it. Let's just all get together and keep everything cool, man."
The former Chicago Bulls star poked fun at his controversial relationship with the North Korean leader in a pistachios commercial that saw a Kim lookalike press a red button and "blow up" Rodman. He also appears in a Foot Locker ad that imagines Mike Tyson returning Evander Holyfield's ear, Craig Sager setting his garish suits ablaze, and Rodman ordering a one-way ticket to North Korea.
It's all just part life of The Worm.
So maybe it's time to shake and stir the political world with a shot of vodka. Or a vodka-soda with lemon. Whatever. Rodman just wanted to lobby the president to reach out and talk with Kim.
"I opened doors in North Korea and made people go, 'Wow,'" Rodman said. "It don't hurt to pick up the phone and just see what's going on."
Now, look. I get it that Dennis Rodman is a human cartoon, and a singular genius at snaring rebounds, and famous enough to warrant at least a nod when he wanders back into the public lens. But his dealings with North Korea are a bona fide circle jerk among him, Kim and Vice, which lugged the Worm to the Hermit Kingdom. Rodman can skirt by primarily on America's residual ability to feel shocked at androgyny, no problem. When he hawks his new vodka and invokes it in these cockamamie discussions of brokering peace, though, Rodman is trading on Kim's reputation as a blood-soaked madman as much as he's trading on his own wilting fame.
Kim's infamy becomes Rodman's celebrity in this arrangement, and any journalist who sashays through 600-plus words of Rodman's deluded daydreams is letting him line his pockets while Kim, the despot, gets a media-friendly liaison in the Western press.
Meanwhile, Navi Pillay, the United Nations' human rights chief has called for investigations of Kim's regime, saying it's no improvement on his father's. Reuters reported in January:
The reclusive country's network of political prison camps are believed to contain 200,000 people or more and have been the scene of rampant violations including rapes, torture, executions and slave labor, according to Pillay, a former judge at the International Criminal Court.
These "may amount to crimes against humanity", she said.
Living conditions in the camps are reported to be "atrocious" with insufficient food, little or no medical care and inadequate clothing for inmates, she said.
"The death penalty seems to be often applied for minor offences and after wholly inadequate judicial processes, or sometimes without any judicial process at all," Pillay said.
"People who try to escape and are either caught or sent back face terrible reprisals including execution, torture and incarceration, often with their entire extended family."
Two hundred thousand people! This month a South Korean newspaper reported that North Korea publicly executed 80 people about three weeks ago. Their crimes may have included such misdeeds as viewing South Korean movies, distributing porn and possessing Bibles. According to the paper, North Koreans were herded into stadiums to watch people get machine-gunned to death.
All of which is why, when Dennis Rodman claims he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, a reporter should have the decency to nod solemnly and turn off his tape recorder. Better to tell your editor the story fell through than to launder the delusions of a famewhore making bank on people who are tortured along with their families.
Photo credit: Getty