[lit-ideas] Re: Why is the UN & EU silent? And Bob.

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 04 May 2004 09:49:50 -0700

on 5/3/04 9:25 PM, John McCreery at mccreery@xxxxxxx wrote:

> On 2004/05/04, at 12:30, Stan Spiegel wrote:

> Two reasons I can think of:
> The first has to do with the human condition in the world of 24-hour
> news. When our TV screens are filled with horrors from all over the
> place--communal massacres in Ambon, ethnic cleansing in the Sudan, 108
> dead in battles in Southern Thailand--numbness sets in.
> The second has to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict itself. The
> news that one side has killed some more of the other is now perceived
> as an almost daily occurrence--the usual numbness is reinforced by an
> appalled but unsurprised, "There they go again."

We all know that there are at least two standards at work in the world of
news and story telling: what is new, and what is emotionally engaging.  By
the first standard, the wall is new; horrifying death in this and other
contexts is not.  By the second standard, people will pay attention to the
murder of a pregnant woman if there is a reason to pay attention: a new way
of telling an old story, a local connection, a fanning of the emotional,
human connective flames.

(Phone conversations with my mother often stumbled on the fact that
emotionally laden news stories are often local stories, told because they
affect local people.  "Isn't it awful," she would say, "the story of those
two boys and the wee girl."  And, half way around the world, I would reflect
and then say, "I don't think we got that one in our papers, remind me how it

But Stan's friend's point is not that the murder of a pregnant woman should
be considered news; he says that attention paid to the wall and to the
murder *in the E.U. and the U.N.* may not be entirely even handed.  He is
accusing diplomats and other national representatives of what?  Not
responding emotionally to each and every horror?  Of trying to work out some
kind of policy?  Of having to try to find a path through a morass?

No.  He is saying that the E.U. and the U.N. railing against the wall but
failing to express outrage when a woman is murdered, is evidence of bias
against Israel.  

I can't see how this observation helps anything except, perhaps, local
feeling.  It is the cry of an aggrieved man, a cry all have heard at one
time or another.

The EU and the UN are never silent.  People babble and waddle and flap and
posture and meanwhile, somewhere in the back, in committees, people stumble
towards the future, towards the moment when we can finally say, "There, a
solution, done, Bob's your uncle."  When there is any progress at all, it's
staggering (pun intended), arrived at in spite of prejudices and posturing,
taking account of, but not greatly attending to, the flames of local

I am suggesting that diplomacy must be dispassionate.  (I apologize in
advance for all visions of snooty British diplomats this suggestion
conjures.  Snootiness fixes nothing.)  I am suggesting that posturing--"the
U.N. is silent"; "the E.U. is outraged"--is no more than this.  I am, I
fear, telling you no more than you already know.

I levered in the phrase, "Bob's your uncle," meaning "a solution simply
achieved," often used ironically, because I read yesterday that its popular
use dates from the rise to power of Arthur James Balfour, he of the Balfour
declaration.  It was a meteoric rise to power helped in some measure by
"Bob," his uncle, Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of

One day I hope we'll say, "Bob's your uncle."  We will be finished with
Balfour.  (I also included a reference to my mother because she was a
Balfour, unrelated, as far as I know, to Arthur James).  An acceptable
solution--not a good one, not a great one-- will one day be agreed, and
murder in Israel will return the status it has elsewhere in the world: local

One can but hope.  

David Ritchie
Portland, Oregon 

To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts:

  • » [lit-ideas] Re: Why is the UN & EU silent? And Bob.