Razib, as you say they are literate, but not in a free way. Note that I didn’t say North Koreans were illiterate, just that their ignorance reminds me of places where people are illiterate. The issue isn’t being theoretically able to read but rather being able to find information and be skeptical. I could have made that clearer. After all there are lots of literate fundamentalists who aren’t skeptically literate. However being illiterate in places like Afghanistan or Haiti makes the situation that much worse. Being literate but not reading through choice (as with some Americans) or through restrictions (countries like N. Korea) ends up largely being a difference without much of a difference in terms of results. Omar, most groups are informed about what they encounter regularly. (Although even there one finds a lot of nonsense – look at water dowsing in the US) Outside of that experience though they are ill informed and typically open to a high level of nonsense. I don’t think indoctrination vs. ignorance really captures what I’m getting at. Someone may be bright but unable to think through issues critically. Of course that can happen here in the US as well. There’s no shortage of urban legends Americans believe. But in places like North Korea, Haiti or many other places the lack of access/ability to read about the world leads to huge problems. The problem is that when leaders try to manipulate the public and enflame them they can quickly lose control precisely because of this problem. But as you both note, one should distinguish literacy from ignorance. BTW – I don’t think Cuba is a good analogy to N. Korea. While the US has had a travel ban others have been able to go to Cuba and interact with people widely. (Canadians were quite positively viewed by the Cubans and it wasn’t hard to go on vacation there) Further consumer goods were a little more widely dispersed in Cuba along with telecasts and radio from the US. (I’m not sure how much exposure to S. Korean media N. Koreans have as a practical matter) I’m not playing down Castro and what he did, but I think it gets a mite bit exaggerated in the US. On the other hand N. Korea is a whole other world from what I can tell. Cuba I think most of us would recognize, even if we chaffed under the restrictions in say the 80’s.
4) Are we going through the Great Stagnation? 5) And finally, your weekly fluff fix: