YouTube creator Louis Cole seems like a really nice guy. His travel vlogs are generally inspiring and uplifting, focusing on the positive aspects of wherever he goes. We here at What's Trending even had him on as a guest once, back when his channel was still known as Food for Louis instead of Fun for Louis. (He got our host to eat a live cricket.) However, some of that positivity may have been misdirected in his most recent vlogs — to the point that some media outlets are even accusing him of being a propagandist for the oppressive regime of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
Over the past week, Cole has been uploading videos of his travels in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, commonly known as North Korea. His coverage is unfailingly positive, and seldom mentions the DPRK's long history of human rights violations, food shortages, and disturbing brainwashing.
Earlier this week, Vanity Fair called out Cole for this coverage. Here's an excerpt:
"The more you watch Cole’s videos from North Korea, the more you wonder if he’s plainly ignorant to the plight of many people in the country, or if he’s willingly doing an alarmingly thorough job of carrying water for Kim Jong Un’s regime—not really caring what the implications are, because, hey, cool trip."
Cole, for his part, responded in a vlog:
In the video, Cole explains that he wasn't paid by the DPRK government, and is in no way a propagandist. Cole goes on to say he's not a political commentator or investigative journalist — just someone trying to spread positivity in the world. He says "there are other places on the internet you can go to find those kind of things."
Whether that explanation flies or not is up to you. Though we here at What's Trending support Louis's message and very much doubt he's accepted money from North Korea, it seems to us that this move wasn't especially well-considered. Raving about the abundance of food you're offered in a country where most of the citizens are starving sends the wrong signal. Sure, Cole is trying to show the human side of North Korea — its people, not its government — but by choosing to remain silent on rights violations, Cole is dodging the elephant in the room.
What do you think? Is Louis Cole being insensitive, or is this a manufactured controversy? Let us know in the comments below or @WhatsTrending on Twitter!