Friday, May 20, 2005

The UN's Bloated Ministry of Propaganda

One thing that nobody denies, as even the UN’s staunchest defenders know that doing so would be silly, is that the UN’s bureaucracy is grotesquely bloated--at the expense of, to a large extent, the US taxpayer. That makes a lot of people mad.

Well, get ready to get madder: It seems that one of the most ridiculously bloated segments of that bureaucracy is the army of people whose job it is to spin, fold, and mutilate public perceptions of the UN. In other words, the “Department of Public Information,” or Ministry of Propaganda.

The UN’s pliant, sometimes bought-and-paid for press corps hasn’t written one word on this entire thing, but this embarrassing subject came up today at a daily press briefing, a transcript of which is available online. In answer to a question, a UN spokesman said that the East River Debating Society employs SEVEN HUNDRED flacks, propagandists and flack-support personnel.

That's right folks. 700. Four hundred in New York and three hundred in the field. And according to the correspondent who posed this question, the UN's Minister of Propaganda, DPI head Shashi Tharoor, "has been unable to identify a single post in DPI that he doesn’t think is essential for the continuation of DPI."

Asked about that, the UN spokesman didn't deny it and said weakly that Tharoor "has revamped the Department and is trying to maximize its resources within the mandates that are imposed on it by the Committee on Information."

Then came this exchange:

Question: Were you to have flexibility, would the UN significantly cut back, for example, on the number of employees in DPI?

UN Flack: I will get you figures on the DPI post mandated jobs.

Translation: Drop dead.

The spokesman also ducked and weaved in response to a correspondent's assertion that Minister of Propaganda Tharoor "has admittedly himself said that the United Nations has failed and DPI basically, he said, failed in, what you call, containing the bad image the United Nations has. What has he to say about that? That you have such a big staff and a budget, but you have not been able to function properly."

The response: "I think we have been able to function properly. I don’t know where you got that quote from, but we can talk later." (Out of earshot, that is.)

What's amazing is not that the UN has "failed" to propagandize, but that it propagandizes at all--at the expense of member state taxpayers, chiefly on these shores. Of course, I suppose that the UN can respond to this horrific failure in its "public relations" by beefing up its fat bureaucracy even more, or hiring correspondent-consultants like Ian Williams of The Nation to write pamphlets or provide media training, or by paying "journalists" like Linda Fasulo of NBC and National Public Radio to write books glorifying the UN.

Another thing that is interesting, but not surprising, is the fact that you haven't seen one word written about the UN's bloated Ministry of Propaganda in the mainstream media. Still, at least one correspondent seems interested. Good for him/her. Let's see if a story results.