Wednesday, March 1, 2017

UN Censored 16: After Eviction, No Response from US Power, YouTube on Yemen & Sri Lanka, Ban Corruption

By Matthew Russell Lee, SeriesVideo III

UNITED NATIONS, February 28 – After the UN evicted me, people suggested I reach around Isobel Coleman to Samantha Power herself. But how? She traveled with bodyguards. So I wrote an open letter, postingit on Inner City Press. Thing is, I did it at 2 in the morning. It was picked up, on Twitter at least, in Burundi and Yemen, and then in Sri Lanka. But the US Mission, windowless, remains unmoved. I would have to try the press.

  The reporter from Courthouse News who was following the Ashe case had asked to interview me and I finally set a time. He suggested the Heartland Brewery in the Port Authority bus station. I got there early, wanting around the terminal which had no benches, finally sitting on the ground next to an outlet charging up. At the appointed time I went down. He was sitting on a stool in front of table with an order of salmon sliders and an iPhone. Let's get started, he said. And we did.

   I tried to stay about from issues of UNCA and just keep it on John Ashe and Ban Ki-moon but it was hard. He'd already called around, he said, and the UN uses as its support for ousting me that “the other journalists” wanted it.  Did the UNCA cabal really represent all journalists, even those resident at the UN? I didn't think so. I told him about the orders that I take stories off the 'Net, and the Voice of America documents I got through FOIA. I emailed him links as we spoke, an untouched Caesar salad in front of me. An hour later he left for his bus, and stayed put eating my salad and sending angry tweets. Outside it was raining, on tourists and jean stores and Times Square. It was all slipping away.

When I used to have an office, with the high speed Internet, I'd download video of the noon briefing and cut it into two or three minute clips, put it on YouTube. That took me five to ten minutes each. But over wi-fi in the bullpen it would take an hour, and half the time the download would fail. So I took to making Vines, 6-second videos that play in a loop. It made Dujarric look bad, and his deputy Haq when he did the briefing.  Four seconds were my question, two second were his dodge, again and again. They got some play in Burundi, on Yemen, less so on corruption.
  To make the Vines I had to use the focus booth, right across from the Spokesperson's Office. There were supposed to be four focus booths, each with a free phone to call the peacekeeping missions. That had been glad-handing landlord Giampaolo Pioli's promise before I fought and then quit UNCA. But now three of the four booths had been given out - lack of space was cited, though UNCA had a large clubhouse, almost never used - and there were no phones in any of them. I would work in the remaining one with people asking me to leave. Where to?

  Little by little I decided to try to make my peace with this arrangement, for example going swimming if only on Monday, Wednesday or Friday, when it was open swim before 7 pm, the witching hour I had to be back by. I'd listen to audio clips of PRI radio, swimming back and forth, then walk back to the UN eating a peach from the fruit stand, to go wet-haired through the metal detectors. I'd taken to chanting, under my breath or sometimes sounder, Ban Ki-moon, is corrupt. Ban Ki-moon, he's so corrupt! One night as I shouted this walking through the 47th Street walkway Robert Moses had demolished half a block for, someone through a bottle down at me. I only increased the volume: Ban Ki-moon, he's so corrupt! I gave me some peace. And, I was more and more convinced, it was true.