Dennis Rodman is a name we all somehow still remember, despite his contributions to basketball, film, and international politics all ranging from forgettable to… well… unforgivable. The man who once played alongside Michael Jordan while making public appearances in a wedding dress would eventually go on to star in terrible movies alongside Jean Claude Van Dam, before ultimately grasping for the last bit of headline-worthy stardom he could reach, and serving alongside a dictator as the tallest cog in the North Korean propaganda machine.
We’ve been blessed by a reprieve of Rodman’s antics in recent years, but all good things must come to an end, and he now believes that another trip to the reclusive North Korean state is in order amid serious tensions surrounding his friend, Kim Jong Un, and the dictator’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons.
You may think calling the cruel dictator, Kim Jong Un, Rodman’s “friend” is a form of editorializing, but it’s actually how Rodman himself refers to him. Rodman is also quick to point out that Kim is a “very good guy.”
Ya know, aside from all the estimated hundred thousand Korean citizens he has in labor camps thanks to a policy of punishing three generations of a family for crimes committed by an individual, the regular propaganda he has released showing North Korea destroying American cities with nuclear weapons, ordering the assassination of his own half-brother, and that sort of stuff. Dennis Rodman probably means aside from that sort of stuff.
When asked if Rodman planned to use any of his facetime with the Korean dictator to address the four Americans that are still being detained by the North Korean government, Rodman seemed as disinterested in their plight as he is about the North Korean people living under Kim’s rule.
“Well that’s not my purpose right now… My purpose is to go over there and try to see if I can keep bringing sports to North Korea,” he told CNN. In his defense, North Korea could probably use some help bolstering their professional sports. A lack of food can really hinder an athlete’s ability to perform.
In fairness to Rodman, some believe he sees his trips as an act of goodwill intended to help warm over relations between North Korea and the United States.
“We all have specialties, but Dennis does have a view about human beings and the natural state of affairs — his view seems to me is that if people will talk and interact and if there’s dialogue and exchanges and interactions, this process will naturally lead to de-escalation,” explained Daniel Pinkston, a professor of International Relations at Troy University in Seoul.
Rodman seems to either think that his efforts may actually help, or at least that he can convince some Stateside that his trips are about something bigger than his own dying celebrity status. Although Rodman ignored questions about whether or not he would be meeting with Kim directly during his visit as he was mobbed by press at the Beijing airport, he did respond when asked if he’d spoken to President Trump about the visit. Rodman appeared on Trump’s reality show “Celebrity Apprentice” twice, and endorsed him for president.
“I’m pretty sure he’s happy at the fact that I’m over here trying to accomplish something that we both need.” Rodman said of the American president. Of course, he also made sure to show off his tee-shirt that advertises the marijuana based digital currency that’s sponsoring him… because Rodman cares about bringing basketball to the masses only slightly more than he cares about securing a ridiculous endorsement deal.
Rodman, it would seem, has fallen into the same trap that brought Limp Bizkit front man Fred Durst to Crimea where he set about producing Russian propaganda films backed by the Kremlin. Is it because these celebrities are too foolish to appreciate that they’re simply tools being used to shape public perception? That seems likely. Guys like Durst and Rodman see their fame fading in the United States, but these oppressive regimes, eager to find a face they can stick in front of cameras as an indicator that maybe they’re “not so bad after all,” are happy to play the part of star-struck fans – injecting a sense of importance into the deflating self-esteem of celebrities like them with a desperate need for the spotlight.
Should we care that Dennis Rodman is heading back into North Korea? That depends. It seems incredibly unlikely that his presence will have any effect on U.S./North Korean relations, nor does it seem as though Rodman himself is interested in helping advance U.S. strategy in the region.
The only thing we really need to be cognizant of is how Rodman tries to present Kim’s North Korean regime upon his return. Like Tom Cruise and Scientology, Kim knows Rodman will have an audience, and he will almost certainly work to manipulate Rodman into believing – and sharing his belief – that Kim is the victim of American hostility; which has been the North Korean PR strategy for months now.
The only damage Rodman can do at this point is work to change our cultural perception of Kim and his despotic rule – something we can all expect out of the interviews he has almost certainly already started booking for his return.
Images courtesy of ABC News, ESPN, Getty Images