Is Donald Trump United Airlines and Kim Jong Un Doctor Dao?

United Airlines made a massive mistake when they played "passenger roulette" the other day and selected to remove Dr. David Dao. Whether you want to call the Vietnamese medic pluckily stubborn or allude to possible "mental issues," Dao dug his feet in and refused to budge, leading to a messy display of violence by the flunkeys of the airline, and perhaps tarnishing its image forever. Dao will probably get a massive settlement but it will take billions to correct the bad image generated by this one incident.

Removing already boarded passengers in this way is designed for sensible, reasonable, rational people who are not in a heightened emotional state—in short, bourgeois sheep. Most of them can be persuaded to give up their seat for a little money, which means the company can keep using the system of overbooking and thus maximise its asset utilisation.

With Trump apparently moving against another awkward Oriental in the person of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, it is tempting to draw analogies between how airlines handle their passengers and how the US-led global system works.

Like the passengers on the United Airlines flight, most countries tend to go along with what America wants or does. While this generally just means sitting in a seat that is rather too cramped and putting up with second-rate food and third-rate in-flight entertainment, it can also mean being told to go sit somewhere else, get a later flight, or sit passively by while other, less compliant passengers are brutally removed because they refuse to cooperate.

Of course not everybody is in economy class. The more important nations like Russia and China, as well as the "special friends" of the airline, all travel in first class, so seat removal is not generally an issue there.

As long as the US-led global system sticks to pushing around the lesser saner passengers, the system works fine, but occasionally they draw a Dr. Dao, and problems flare up.

Right now America is marching up the aisle to Kim Jong Un, the portly Korean dictator wedged tightly into his seat, with the same sort of compliance test that the United Airlines staff had for Dr. Dao. "Excuse me, sir, we would like you to take a later flight." Although in this case the issue is the small Asian nation's right to develop its nuclear arsenal so that it might be considered for inclusion in the First Class seating arrangements.

We are not sure what will happen. Maybe they will go ahead and catch him on a good day and he complies after receiving a message from one of his friends in first class—unlikely!—or they might show more tact than the UA goons, and realize things are just going to get messy and lay off. Otherwise we are going to be treated to the geopolitical equivalent of a passenger being brutalized, basically the system showing its true colours—a major PR disaster, but a win for the Alt-Right, which has always emphasised the raw Schmittian violence that underpins all political and diplomatic systems.


  1. I hadn't really thought of this analogy. Colin nails it.

  2. I, living in Korea, was very disappointed that Trump didn't attack during the N. Korea anniversary parade. All the major players were in one spot! I guess it was a fear of televised violence. But, we need to stop with the 'he punched someone' panic and embrace the inevitability of violence, if we're to stand up to evil.



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