The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed “a virus of hate,” United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said Thursday, calling for a coordinated global effort to end all forms of targeted speech.
As the virus has spread around the world and shut down nearly every country in some capacity, the secretary general said that factors like age, occupation, religion, national origin, and refugee status had all been weaponized to target individuals and populations.
“I ask everyone, everywhere, to stand up against hate, treat each other with dignity and take every opportunity to spread kindness,” Guterres said in a video message on Twitter.
Although he did not mention specific countries or incidents, he said certain groups have been especially prone to suffering from a “tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scaremongering.”
As speculation has raged about the origin of the virus, foreigners have been targeted both online and in person, with some migrants and refugees vilified and then denied medical treatment. Conspiracy theories have peddled anti-Semitic myths on the web, and Muslims have faced attacks in connection with the virus, too.
Politicians and others have suggested prioritizing the economy over public health, particularly that of the elderly, and Guterres condemned “contemptible memes” that suggested seniors are “the most expendable.”
The virus, he said, “does not care who we are, where we live, what we believe or about any other distinction.”
Among several pleas, he called on political leaders to demonstrate solidarity with all people, and urged social media companies to remove racist and misogynist posts and other forms of hate speech from their platforms.