chapter  6
19 Pages

What is wrong with the United Nations?

Cynicism and the translation of facts
WithSebastian Schindler

This chapter argues that the creation of Thomas Weiss’s picture hangs closely together with how facts are dealt with. It focuses on one single set of facts, namely the facts about an individual United Nations (UN) leader that Weiss depicts as a particularly ‘bad egg’, an example of ‘egregious incompetence’. The chapter traces the references, or acts of translation, through which the facts about Edouard Saouma reach Weiss. It suggests that cynicism is, ultimately, what is wrong with the UN. Weiss’s description of Saouma’s alleged incompetence is very brief: ‘Saouma was lambasted by many, including the much-publicized criticism by Graham Hancock in Lords of Poverty. The Washington Post article demonstrates that Hancock’s depiction of Saouma is partial and biased. In contrast to Peter Gill’s documentary, which aired right before the elections, Gill’s earlier book A Year in the Death of Africa provides a more nuanced account of Saouma and his behaviour.