UPDATE: see end of this post for an important and intriguing correction.
Yesterday, Australian historian and UN-watcher Michael Fullilove took a pot-shot at Ban Ki-moon’s twittering style…
Dear SG, part of me feels you could be doing more with Twitter. RT @secgen: Meeting H.E. Mr. Blaise Compaoré, President of Burkina Faso
— Michael Fullilove (@mfullilove) September 26, 2013
Now it’s very easy for an independent thinker like Michael to mock an official like Ban about writing dull tweets. It’s hard for the Secretary-General to be informal or snappy online, because he always risks offending people. But I think that Michael is also missing something deeper and more fundamental here. A close reading of Ban’s tweets suggests that he isn’t just trying to tell us who he is meeting or where he is. He also sees Twitter as an art form, offering moments of minimalist surrealism that verge on the poetic. Here are some examples that, to me, represent the high-points of Ban’s art-form:
— UN Secretary-General (@secgen) September 22, 2013
— UN Secretary-General (@secgen) September 16, 2013
— UN Secretary-General (@secgen) September 10, 2013
— UN Secretary-General (@secgen) September 3, 2013
…Women (UN WOMEN)
— UN Secretary-General (@secgen) August 19, 2013
Truly, this man is a Zen master of the twittered word.
UPDATE: 2 well-placed sources have pointed out that the “@secgen” account is entirely unofficial. Despite having nearly 250,000 followers, it is in fact the work of someone (reportedly in the UK) who simply tweets Ban’s official schedule hour-by-hour. Which must be quite dull. So, I am pleased to (1) say sorry to the SG; and (2) pose the question that will now surely shake global diplomacy: who is the (un)real Ban Ki-moon? [Technically, the answer is that the best accounts to follow are @UN_Spokesperson and @UN.]