called the episode “More ‘Jackass’ Than Journalism,” and pointed out that, in light of the regime’s abuses and recent reports of cannibalism among a starving population, “those remarks and current headline on the Vice Web site that ‘North Korea has a friend in Dennis Rodman and Vice’ seem a bit, well, tasteless.”Vice has never been celebrated for good taste.
The company started in Montreal, in the mid-nineties, as a free magazine with a reputation for provocation.
Once, after its editors were accused of sexism for featuring nude porn stars in the magazine, they posed nude as well.
Current articles combine investigative reporting with a sensibility that is adolescent, male, and proudly boorish.
It operates a record label, which, in 2002, began putting out albums by such of-the-moment bands as Bloc Party and the Raveonettes; book and film divisions (Vice recently helped market the R-rated “Spring Breakers,” directed by Harmony Korine); a suite of Web sites; and an in-house ad agency. O., “The over-all aim, the over-all goal is to be the largest network for young people in the world.”Vice’s most significant move has been from print to video.
These ventures are united by Vice’s ambition to become a kind of global MTV on steroids. On its You Tube channel, which has more than a million subscribers, the company has branched into more serious journalistic fare—a recent series was titled “In Saddam’s Shadow: Baghdad 10 Years After the Invasion”—though it still has features like “The Biggest Ass in Brazil” and “Donkey Sex: The Most Bizarre Tradition.”Vice executives sometimes refer to their company as “the Time Warner of the streets,” and in the financial press there is occasional discussion about the price a potential sale might bring.
Not long after Rodman’s trip, I went to see Smith at the company’s headquarters, a set of converted warehouses in Williamsburg.
Smith met me in the Bear Room, a conference room decorated with a Persian rug and a grizzly bear, now stuffed, that had been shot after surprising Vice producers filming in Alaska.
The idea for the trip, he said, had come about during the making of a previous Vice documentary in Pyongyang, in 2010. Over the years, he has worked in ad sales and, increasingly, in a managerial and editorial role, which includes starring in the HBO show.
Afterward, Rodman, with one hand in his pocket, delivered a speech.
“First of all,” he said, his words echoing in the immense stadium, “I would like to say thank you. You guys have been very, very kind to me and to my compadres from America.” He paused as his North Korean translator struggled with “compadres.” Rodman continued, “I’m sorry that my country and your country are not on good terms, but for me and—the country . .” Seeming to lose his train of thought, Rodman turned and bowed in the direction of the Supreme Leader, who had been watching him with a slightly nervous expression. stunt by Vice now looked like cozying up to a dangerous dictator.
The company’s cameramen were in the crowd, filming for a weekly news-magazine series, “Vice,” that will air this spring on HBO.
Not long before the game started, the crowd, which included the state’s diplomatic and military élite, began to chant “”—the traditional invocation that means “Ten thousand years, so long live Korea!