• 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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