Friday, December 23, 2005

UN Hacks Display Their Yellow Streak


The UN correspondents' mascot

The UN has released a transcript of the press conference at which Kofi Annan threw a tantrum and attacked Times of London correspondent James Bone. What's interesting, and missing from the news accounts, is the totally craven reaction of the other reporters in attendance.

In contrast to the tenacious follow-ups Annan would have received if actual journalists were present at the press conference, the cowed UN hacks obediently dropped the line of questioning raised by Bone. (He was probing Kofi's son's tax-free shipment of a Mercedes to Ghana, using his dad's name to avoid paying the taxes.)

After Annan finished his tantrum, another reporter piped in, "James, are you finished?" and procceded to ask a long-winded softball question about Kosovo, preceding it with the excuse, "I was waiting for this question. I believe that I was even before James Bone."

So it went for the rest of the press conference. The spirit of master-slave conviviality, and solidarity with Annan against Bone, continued unabated.

Instead of hammering away at Mercedesgate, as would any self-respecting reporters, these these hacks tossed their usual softball questions and showed off their ideological bias. One reporter chimed in helpfully about "Ambassador Bolton’s rhetoric on a number of issues" and asked if that contributed to an "atmosphere of intimidation and fear" -- ironic, considering the weak-kneed response of the assembled "journalists" to the bullying of one of their own.

"Mr. Secretary-General, happy holidays," gushed another reporter. "And we know you have made a great effort on the United Nations reform in the 60-year celebration of the United Nations."

After that came a couple of oh-so-gentle references to the tirade against Bone, but they hardly caused a ripple in the room. One correspondent made a meek reference to the tantrum, shyly saying that Bone was a "hard-working journalist trying to get to the bottom of issues of transparency within the Organization."

Annan, still fuming, snidely snapped, "I think James would be happy to know he has a lawyer in the room. Unfortunately, he’s gone, but I’m sure others will tell him."

At the end of the press conference, UN Correspondent Assn. president Jim Varner served up a weak-kneed defense of Bone, but only after obsequiously apologizing: "Sir, I’m sorry. I really have to do this for the record, Sir."

The cowardice shown by the UN media on Tuesday was only the latest example of what has long been very clear: The UN press corps is little more than a craven extension of the UN p.r. apparatus.

UPDATE: Bone expounds on the root causes of the hissy fit in the Wall Street Journal.
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