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UN Secretary-General wages war on “contemptible memes”

Antonio Guterres may not know what memes are but he's not a fan.
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The purpose of the existence of the United Nations (UN) has been called into question a lot over the past years and even decades from some quarters, seeing how ineffective “the world organization” was been in dealing with some of the most serious global crises.

Most of these are political in nature, often resulting in armed conflict, where it does become objectively difficult to interfere in any way without also taking sides. (NOT what the UN is supposed to do.)

But at least a global health crisis like coronavirus would be a chance for the UN and its many agencies (most relevantly here, the World Health Organization, WHO) to shine, right?

Well, wrong, because WHO has at this point become embroiled in one too many disputes with various governments, most notably that of the US, and also seems to be navigating the minefield of politics and conflicting information and recommendations during the healthcare scare not particularly well.

Now, here comes UN chief, Antonio Guterres, a Portuguese politician – and is his a diplomatic voice that calms the situation and elevate the standing of the organization?

Not judging by this report of his address on Friday that showed the UN on the defensive, looking to shift blame onto the world, which Guterres said was all too often now engaged in “hate speech”.

The range of evils that Guterres mentioned in this context is somewhat astonishingly broad: anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, anti-migrant, misogyny and ageism; they’ve all surfaced thanks to the pandemic, he argues.

It’s unclear whether the veteran politician understands what memes are, but he mentioned them anyway – as yet another example of harmful online content while urging social media to step up their censorship activities.

“With older persons among the most vulnerable, contemptible memes have emerged suggesting they are also the most expendable,” he said. “And journalists, whistleblowers, health professionals, aid workers and human rights defenders are being targeted simply for doing their jobs.”

The online world is a pretty bleak place, according to Guterres, whose comments were supposed to address the issue of human rights in the time of coronavirus – but one thing we haven’t heard from him here is any attempt of accountability for the mistakes or missteps made by the UN itself and its agencies in this now months-old global mess, that is doing serious damage in more ways than one.

They complain about memes instead.

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