Myan­mar meme trolls the world

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse - RJ VOGT rj.vogt@mm­times.com

ONE of the best pranks in Myan­mar meme his­tory was an­nounced yes­ter­day by what ap­peared to be a Na­tion­al­ist Myan­mar Face­book page.

On Au­gust 30, the page had posted a meme that pur­ported to show for­mer UN sec­re­tary gen­eral Kofi An­nan – who was re­cently ap­pointed to over­see a hu­man rights com­mis­sion on Rakhine State – and stated, in English, “WE NO NEED COF­FEE AN­NAN HE GO AWAY”.

The man in the meme was not, in fact, Kofi An­nan, but rather the Amer­i­can ac­tor Mor­gan Free­man, who bears some re­sem­blance to the for­mer sec­re­tary gen­eral. As­so­ci­ated Press picked up the story and at­trib­uted the post to ul­tra-Bud­dhist na­tion­al­ist group Ma Ba Tha.

“Ma Ba Tha con­demned An­nan’s in­volve­ment in a Face­book post Mon­day that called him ‘a fun­ny­look­ing and dis­re­spect­ful per­son [who] can­not talk about our own is­sues in the coun­try’. It also called An­nan, who is from Ghana, a ‘kalar’, a slur used in Myan­mar against Mus­lims and In­di­ans,” AP re­ported.

Global news sources ran with the story, in­clud­ing The New York Times, The Wash­ing­ton Post and Ya­hoo News. But yes­ter­day, the ad­min­is­tra­tors of the page changed their cover photo to one stat­ing, “You just got pranked AP. Lol”.

It ap­pears that the orig­i­nal post was a joke, play­ing on in­ter­na­tional de­sires to mock ul­tra-Bud­dhist na­tion­al­ists, and that the page is not ac­tu­ally af­fil­i­ated with the Ma Ba Tha group.

The Myan­mar Times spoke with Isaiah Garza, a meme ex­pert/ hu­morist who has dis­sem­i­nated hun­dreds of sim­i­lar posts in re­cent months. Garza called the anony­mous posters “qual­ity trolls”.

“To be hon­est, it fooled me,” he ad­mit­ted. “The mis­spelling might have given it away, but it added to the hi­lar­ity.”

Garza added that it was the first Myan­mar meme he had ever seen that in­cluded English words – an­other tip that it might have been a ruse.

At press time, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the real Ma Ba Tha could not be reached for com­ment. Nei­ther could Kofi An­nan. Or Mor­gan Free­man.

Photo: Face­book/Umar Fa­rooq

This meme, posted on Au­gust 30 by what ap­peared to be a Ma Ba Tha-re­lated Face­book page, made in­ter­na­tional news be­fore be­ing ex­posed as a prank.

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