Those Who Criticised Otto Warmbier’s “Privilege” Should Be Ashamed of Themselves


On Monday night we learned the sad news that Otto Warmbier, an American student who had been detained in North Korea since 2016 for allegedly (I am very sceptical) stealing a propaganda poster, has died, only a week after he was returned to his family in a vegetative state.

God only knows what happened to Otto whilst he was held captive. According to the US government’s Human Rights website, “starvation, forced labor, executions, torture, rape, forced abortion, and infanticide are commonplace” in North Korean prison camps. These claims are supported by research undertaken by Amnesty International and Anti-Slavery International, who have also reported inmate’s being forced to eat wild rats and frogs to survive.

All of that is human barbarism at its very worst. And yet when Otto Warmbier faced the prospect of having to endure this living hell for the next fifteen years, there were people who actually said that he deserved it. I am sure you can guess who they were, the usual “privilege” obsessed moral invertebrates.

The Huffington Post ran a piece entitled “North Korea Proves Your White Male Privilege Is Not Universal”. In it a blogger named La Sha wrote,

What a mind-blowing moment it must be to realize after 21 years of being pedestaled by the world simply because your DNA coding produced the favorable phenotype that such favor is not absolute. What a bummer to realize that even the State Department with all its influence and power cannot assure your pardon. What a wake-up call it is to realize that your tears are met with indifference.”

Salon called him “America’s biggest idiot frat boy”. That piece has now been removed from their website.

Bustle published an article with the callous headline: “Why Do People Blame Otto Warmbier For His North Korea Sentence? Privilege Can Sometimes Come At A Price.”

It is astounding (or perhaps drearily predictable) that all these foolish people swallowed the North Korean version of events whole. They seemed only too ready to believe that Otto Warmbier was some spoiled prankster who waltzed into North Korea with a huge sense of entitlement. That is because they are the prejudiced ones, their heads full of ugly stereotypes.

Otto Warmbier nearly died alone, helpless and very far away from the people who loved him. He died because North Korea is a brutal, totalitarian regime. He died because human beings, despite all their innate gifts, are capable of immeasurable cruelty to one another.

The worst that could be said of him is that he was young and naïve.

Anyone who mocked or derided his terrible ordeal should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.



Candice Holdsworth

Candice Holdsworth is the founder and editor of Imagine Athena. It is mythologised that she sprang fully formed from its pages. Candice has an MSc in Political Philosophy from the London School of Economics, and thus can be most commonly found discussing ideas and culture. Her writing can also be found on Thought Leader and On Netflix Now. Follow her on Twitter @CandiceCarrie and Instagram @candicecholdsworth