Ron Paul vs. UNESCO

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On
June 3, 2004, Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) called
on Washington to pull out of the United Nations Educational, Cultural
and Scientific Organization (UNESCO).

Among
the reasons Dr. Paul cited for withdrawing: UNESCO was "providing
support for a global u2018cultural diversity' convention, which would
severely impede the ability of the United States entertainment industry
to sell its products overseas."

Why
worry about this convention? For one thing, repressive governments
might use it as a pretext to keep unwanted foreign movies, music,
books and other cultural goods from their markets – while claiming
to "protect" local cultures from being "polluted."

Dr.
Paul's warning about the UNESCO threat to America's cultural exports
fell largely on deaf ears. A handful of his colleagues stood by
him, but few within the Beltway heeded the call to arms. Some may
have thought it was too far-fetched to be believed.

Let's
fast forward to October 20, 2005. On that day, in Paris, UNESCO's
members overwhelmingly voted in favor the cultural diversity convention
mentioned by Dr. Paul. Only the US and Israel opposed it.

Louise
Oliver, the US ambassador to UNESCO, raised the sort of objections
to the treaty that one could easily imagine coming from Dr. Paul,
based on his earlier assessment. She fretted
that the convention could threaten "the free flow of information
and freedom of choice in cultural expression and enjoyment."

And
on October 21, movie industry representative Dan Glickman also echoed
Dr Paul.

“No
one should use this convention to close their borders to a whole
host of products…What's to stop a country saying that it’ll only
take 20% of U.S. films, or taxing our films but not its own?” Glickman
said.

What
seemed far-fetched in 2004 became reality in 2005. The news out
of UNESCO came as a surprise only to those who did not read Dr.
Paul's warning in 2004.

By
forecasting UNESCO's actions so accurately, Dr. Paul showed he knew
his history. The key here was not some special insight into the
future, but rather a keen understanding of UNESCO's past.

Many
Americans may not remember that it was only a couple of decades
ago that UNESCO peddled a bundle of policies known as the "New
World Information and Communication Order" (NWICO).

A
coalition of authoritarian and totalitarian states promoted NWICO
through UNESCO in the early 1980s, urging greater state authority
over independent media, to ensure reporters could be more closely
monitored.

NWICO's
supporters claimed that this would lead to more accurate news. Its
opponents argued that this goal of greater accuracy would come at
the high price of making reporters into government-controlled shills.

UNESCO's
dogged advocacy in favor of NWICO became a major reason for the
US's decision to withdraw its UNESCO membership in 1984. As one
State Department representative put it, behind NWICO lurked "an
endemic hostility toward the institutions of a free society."

In
2003, when President George W. Bush announced the US would rejoin
UNESCO, many commentators applauded and gushed about how the organization
had reformed itself.

Dr.
Paul saw through the bafflegab. Yes, UNESCO may have tried to clean
up its notoriously padded budget and trim its bloated staff. But
as Dr. Paul tried to warn Americans, it retains its ingrained hostility
towards the free flow of information, as its support for the cultural
diversity convention shows.

The
cultural diversity convention represents an obnoxious mutation of
the original NWICO idea.

Before,
UNESCO thought that the newsrooms of private media belonged to governments.
Today, it seems to believe that movie theatres should be considered
state property, and that governments have the right to set quotas
to limit how many foreign films can enter their domestic markets.

So
where does this leave Dr. Paul and his powers as a forecaster?

"When
E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen" was a famous (and much parodied)
advertising slogan in the 1980s.

Let's
hope that the next time Dr. Paul notices some unaccountable international
bureaucrats getting up to no good and he issues a warning, more
people will listen.

October
31, 2005

Neil
Hrab [email him]
is a writer living in Toronto, Canada. He holds an MA in political
science from the University of Toronto.

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