The UN’s Twitter war against nukes
Why Ban Ki-moon’s teenage Twittering about the evil of nuclear weapons has only 1,064 followers.
According to UK Conservative Party leader David Cameron, the trouble with social-networking site Twitter is that ‘too many twits might make a twat’. While I don’t doubt Cameron’s over-familiarity with the accurate use of synonyms for female genitalia, whether spending hours pumping out 140-character-length statements really does make you a twat is a moot point. But if the Twittering effort of United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon is any indication, one thing lots of twits do not make is a successful campaign.
That’s right, on 13 June this year, Ban Ki-moon launched his own multimedia ‘WMD – We Must Disarm’ campaign, an attempt using Facebook (1), MySpace (2) and Twitter (3) to persuade the world that nuclear weapons are a bad thing. If it passed you by, don’t worry, you’re not alone. The MySpace page has a paltry 36 friends; the Facebook page a slightly more respectable 3,000. That there are so few people interested in these pages is perhaps understandable, seeing as they are only static information pages and don’t actually do very much.
The Twitter page, though, is a different phenomenon entirely. Updated a few times a day, it ought to be a bit more interesting. And indeed it is, although perhaps not for the right reasons. Each tweet/twit, following on from the statement ‘WeMustDisarm’, begins with a ‘because…’, after which Ban Ki-Moon gives whatever reason for nuclear disarmament that happens to have grabbed him or his intern that hour. Here are a few examples:
‘because we can’t wait 4 a perfect security environment 2 come along, rather advancing disarmament will promote security. pls RT’
‘because in add 2 killing millions a nuke war wld cause an environmental crisis of epic proportions. pls RT’
‘because nuke’s very existence = more chance of use in war, terrorism or by accident. pls RT’
‘because as #UN SecGen I know a nuke war wld b the ultimate catastrophe. pls RT’
‘because KIJong is bad man. No LOL:( pls RT.’
‘because #UN SecGen had AllBrn for breakfast. Again. WTF. Dnt RT’
Okay, the final two twits are fabrications, but all the others are real. There’s no getting away from it: the chief of the United Nations, a man nominally responsible for providing a framework for international governance, is made to sound like a hyperactive 13-year-old desperate to impress a rather weary teacher. ‘Shhhh… Because nothing, Ban.’ More embarrassing still is the sheer dearth of people interested in his 140-characters-or-less insights and statements. Ban Ki-moon’s anti-nuke Twitter page has 1,064 followers. To put that in perspective, he has 694,000 fewer followers than comedian Stephen Fry, a man famous for bon mots and malady, and 317,000 followers fewer than Katie Price, aka Jordan, a woman with huge breasts and a miserable voice.
By fewer followers, then, I don’t mean slightly fewer, but loads fewer. Epic loss, as Ban Ki-moon would probably say while doing something really yoofy with his hand.
That so few people are interested in Ban Ki-moon’s txt-speak and ruinous syntax is no bad thing, considering the nature of his message. He seems determined to exploit the contemporary politics of fear. Whereas 20 years ago, the nuclear threat was at least specifically identified with the Cold War adversaries of America and the Soviet Union, now it is depicted as a free-floating threat, to be applied anywhere and nowhere. ‘[W]e find ourselves still facing serious nuclear threats’, writes Ban in a recent article. And what are these threats? They are indistinct, ranging from the prevalence of the doctrine of nuclear deterrence to the supposition ‘that more countries or even terrorists might be seeking the bomb’ (4).
The attempt to raise the spectre of a nuclear attack seems like little more than an attempt to give an object to a more general anxiety, to exploit and to mobilise that anxiety in the name of nuclear disarmament. That the head of the UN should seek to do this says more about the UN’s want of practical purpose and yearning for some moral substance than it does about the actual threat posed by nuclear weapons.
Then there is the sheer hypocrisy of the official campaign for nuclear disarmament. While it was fine for the ‘two scorpions’ of Russia and America, plus their allies, to have weapons of nuclear destruction, because they knew that to strike would be mutually destructive, today there is an ever-expanding ‘nest of scorpions’ apparently. And the problem, it seems, is that some scorpions are less trustworthy, less sensible and more barbaric than others.
The only country that gets mentioned by name in Ki-moon’s article is, of course, North Korea, whose recent rocket tests ‘lend new urgency to this cause’. Yet far from wanting to nuke the world, North Korea, isolated since it lost its Soviet support, seems far more intent on gaining international acceptance. Its on-off nuclear programme and testing of what are effectively attention-seeking missiles are not threats to mankind as we know it, so much as the only diplomatic bargaining tool possessed by a nation made into an international pariah.
As the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968 shows, the issue of nuclear disarmament always contained within it a view of the world divided up between the civilised and the uncivilised, between those who were responsible enough to have nuclear weapons and those who were not. This was why its principal pillar focused on ensuring that non-nuclear states do not develop nuclear weapons. It was not the existence of nuclear weapons that was the problem, apparently, since those that had them – America, Russia, Great Britain and France – were decent, morally respectable nations. The problem was the nations that didn’t have them: the developing nations, the nations long deemed colonial and, by default, morally inferior.
Such a division is undercut by one salient fact. America, the only country ever to use a nuclear weapon in conflict, currently has over 4,000 warheads – and yet in Ban’s inane daily Twittering, America is treated as a paragon of respectability in contrast to those states and terrorist groups that don’t have nuclear weapons but might one day get them. LMAO.
Tim Black is senior writer at spiked.
(1) See the WMD Facebook page here
(2) See the WMD MySpace page here
(3) See the WMD Twitter page here
(4) My plan to stop the bomb, Guardian, 3 August 2009