The United Nations human rights office was accused of "bizarre" behaviour yesterday (Tuesday) after it deleted a "loony tweet" asking whether free market economics posed an "urgent threat".
The row came as Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, launched a ferocious verbal attack on Right-wing "demagogues" in Europe and the US, accusing Donald Trump and Nigel Farage of sharing Isil's tactics. Before Mr Hussein delivered this impassioned speech, his office in Geneva had sent a tweet to 1.5 million followers asking if "belief in the infallibility of free market economic policies" amounted to an "urgent threat".
Hillel Neuer, the head of UN Watch, a campaign group, called this a "loony tweet", adding: "While millions of people are suffering from genocide, sexual slavery and starvation, it is far from clear why the UN would instead focus its attention on unidentifiable 'urgent threats', let alone on economic subjects about which it has neither competence nor expertise."
Mr Neuer pointed out that socialist economics had brought suffering and misery to Venezuela without drawing similar criticism from the UN. "The same UN human rights office has failed to issue a single tweet about this past month's dire human rights crisis in Venezuela, where millions face mass hunger in part due to attacks on the free market," he said.
During a speech in The Hague, Mr Hussein chose to direct his fire at Western populists, singling out Geert Wilders, the leader of the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, Marine Le Pen, the head of the National Front in France - along with Mr Trump and Mr Farage. All were "demagogues and political fantasists", said Mr Hussein, and shared the "tactics" of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
"To them, I must be a sort of nightmare," he added. "I am a Muslim who is, confusingly to racists, also white-skinned; whose mother is European and father, Arab. And I am angry, too."
What the populists had in common with Isil was the goal of restoring a "past, halcyon and so pure in form, where sunlit fields are settled by peoples united by ethnicity or religion". Mr Hussein said the "proposition of recovering a supposedly perfect past is fiction" and its "merchants" were "clever cheats".
Mr Hussein conceded that the West's "nationalist demagogues" did not share the "monstrous" methods of Isil. But they used similar tactics - and Isil was strengthened by their endeavours.
"Both sides of this equation benefit from each other," said Mr Hussein, a Cambridge-educated prince from the Hashemite royal family in Jordan.