On Sunday, details emerged in the case of Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student being detained in North Korea after an arrest two months ago as he prepared to depart the country. In a televised press conference, Warmbier confessed to attempting to steal a banner bearing a North Korean revolutionary slogan. He apologized for his “severe” crime and said that he was encouraged to commit the crime by the Friendship United Methodist Church, the Z Society, and the CIA. He begged for mercy, saying, “I beg that you see how I was used and manipulated. My reward for my crime was so much smaller than the rewards that the Z Society and the Friendship United Methodist Church get from the United States administration.”
Let me be clear: I’m very worried for Warmbier and don’t mean to make fun of his captivity, and hope he is returned soon. But to be honest, were the stakes not so high, this would read like world class trolling. For one thing, it’s pretty unlikely that the UMC is involved in funding petty theft of the sort practiced by university students with road signs on their walls all over the world. But what is the likelihood that the Z Society is involved?
Answer: pretty low. While you can choose to accept or not the Z Society’s denial of contact with Warmbier, the likelihood of their encouraging international hooliganism is quite low. The Z Society has always been the most staid of the University’s semi-secret societies, especially when compared with Eli Banana and their tradition of public processions with a huge bass drum, or the IMPs and their devil costumes and pyromania (not to mention their predecessors’ fun with taxidermy).
So: I think Warmbier is being forced to confess to his crime by a North Korean government that employs scriptwriters with overactive imaginations and inadequate research. If you’re going to frame an undergraduate for espionage, at least blame the right secret society.