Hating on the UN – whatever happens

by | Apr 21, 2009

In the FT, Gideon Rachman argues that yesterday’s conference walkout during Ahmadinejad’s speech will be bad for Ban Ki-Moon:

Rather than walking away from a conference that was obviously turning into a farce, Ban Ki-Moon – the UN secretary-general – has thrown his prestige behind the meeting This looks like a bad mistake. With the Obama administration in power, the US is clearly keen on the idea of re-engaging with the UN. Obama has made Susan Rice, one of his closest aides, ambassador to the UN – and given her a cabinet position. But the Geneva conference will play into the hands of all the UN-haters in America.

So how have the UN-haters reacted? By pretending the walkout didn’t happen. Take the National Review’s coverage. Steven Groves and Brett D. Schaefer, from the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, are sending back dispatches from Durban II, reflecting the importance of the event to the American right.

Yesterday, Groves and Schaefer reported that Ahmadinejad “rose to great applause from many of the government delegates and, shamefully, from some of the NGOs. Some protestors did rush the stage wearing clown wigs, but they were removed.” They then provide a brief account of the Iranian President’s speech and note that he “concluded his remarks to great applause among a portion of the delegates.”

That’s right. The bit in the middle – a classic piece of summit drama, with Europe’s delegates storming out – doesn’t even get a mention! Mark Steyn, meanwhile, argues that the conference marks the “mainstreaming” of Ahmadinejad, an act that exceeds Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler:

It is in the face of far more public and more explicit eliminationist threats. And, unlike Chamberlain’s generation, this crowd will not be able to plead that what was being planned was so unprecedented it was beyond their capacity to imagine: Every time Ahmadinejad denies the reality of the last Holocaust, he reminds the Merzes [the Swiss President] of the world that the apologists for those planning its sequel won’t have the excuse that they didn’t know it was coming.

Steyn, who sees his role as “explaining” Europe’s decline to the American public, delights in weaving a sick fantasy for his audience. European countries are overrun by immigrants. They are thus desperate to abase themselves to any Muslim leader, whatever the cost. 

When the facts – a noisy European boycott, for example – don’t fit. He, like Groves and Schaefer, simply airbrushes them out. As the saying goes: if the facts don’t fit the story, change the facts.

Update: For those of your interested in a primer on Steyn’s world view, see Jules in the comments below, or this post from last year…

Update II:  I should note that Groves and Schaefer have now acknowledged the EU walkout. I still can’t understand how they missed it from their contemporaneous post on Ahmadinejad’s speech, but there is a reference to it in their latest dispatch.

Update III: Welcome, visitors, from Mark Steyn’s website, where he has bestowed on me the honour of ‘reader of the day’. To pay back the favour, I’ve collected together some of the greatest hits from a man who dreams of Europe in flames, ‘darker forces’, and ‘white flight’. Read the whole thing.


  • David Steven is a senior fellow at New York University, where he founded the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children and the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, a multi-stakeholder partnership to deliver the SDG targets for preventing all forms of violence, strengthening governance, and promoting justice and inclusion. He was lead author for the ministerial Task Force on Justice for All and senior external adviser for the UN-World Bank flagship study on prevention, Pathways for Peace. He is a former senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of The Risk Pivot: Great Powers, International Security, and the Energy Revolution (Brookings Institution Press, 2014). In 2001, he helped develop and launch the UK’s network of climate diplomats. David lives in and works from Pisa, Italy.

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