Full version published at The Epoch Times.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, better known by its acronym, UNESCO, is escalating its global war on ideas and information it considers to be “misinformation” and “conspiracy theories.”
According to the Paris-based U.N. education agency, which released a major report on the subject for educators this summer, conspiracy theories cause “significant harm” and form “the backbone of many populist movements.”
Among other concerns, conspiracy theories “foster and reinforce harmful thinking patterns and exclusive worldviews,” the report said.
They also “reduce trust in public institutions” and “scientific institutions,” which can drive people to violence or decrease their desire to “reduce their carbon footprint,” UN officials argued in the document.
While “all conspiratorial thinking threatens human rights values,” the document says without elaborating, some conspiracy theories are more dangerous than others.
In some cases, teachers are even encouraged to report their students to authorities.
Examples of “conspiracy theories” cited in the report include everything from widely held and respectable beliefs such as “climate change denial” and “manipulation of federal elections” in the United States, to more far-fetched notions such as the “earth is flat” or “Michelle Obama is actually a lizard.”
“There are plenty of crazy thoughts on the Internet, many of which are patently false,” explained Citizens for Free Speech Director Patrick Wood. “The only thoughts being ‘corrected’ are those contrary to the globalist narrative. This proves that the focus is on protecting their own narratives and nothing else.”
“UNESCO joins a censorship cartel that now includes the European Union, the U.S. government, the World Economic Forum, social media giants like Facebook and Twitter, and notably, Google,” Wood told The Epoch Times. “Anyone who does not parrot the globalist narrative is by default considered to be a ‘conspiracy theorist.’”
At the heart of the global program to combat these ideas and theories are teachers and schools, according to the U.N. agency. Also central is the battle online and in the media, UNESCO documents explain.
The latest strategy was unveiled at UNESCO’s “International Symposium on Addressing Conspiracy Theories through Education.” Held in late June in Brussels, the summit brought together academia, governments, civil society, and the private sector to promote “joint action” against conspiracy theories and those who believe or spread them.
The plan includes strategies to prevent people from believing in conspiracy theories in the first place as well as tools for dealing with those who already believe them.
Several experts on propaganda and free speech, however, warned that the U.N. effort represents a “dangerous” escalation in what they portrayed as a global war on free speech, free expression, questioning official narratives, and dissent more broadly.
“What they mean by ‘conspiracy theory’ is any claim or argument or evidence that differs from the propaganda pumped out by the government and media,” warned New York University Professor of Media Studies Mark Crispin Miller, who studies propaganda and government misinformation.
“I can’t think of anything more dangerous to free speech and free thought—and, therefore, democracy—than this effort by the U.N., which has no business telling us what’s true and what is not,” Miller told The Epoch Times. “That distinction is not theirs to make, but ours, as free people capable of thinking for ourselves, and unafraid of civil argument.”
The Global War on Conspiracy Theories
Official efforts to clamp down on “conspiracy theories” and “misinformation” are not new. In fact, Western governments—including the U.S. government—have for years been leading the charge.
In 2010, the U.S. State Department, with help from its “Counter Misinformation Team,” published “Conspiracy Theories and Misinformation” on America.gov claiming to debunk various “conspiracy theories.”
More recently, the Biden administration has also turned its focus to “conspiracy theories.” Last year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security repeatedly suggested that belief in widespread voter fraud or alternative views on COVID-19 and public health measures represented a major terrorism threat to the United States.
While the Biden administration’s proposed “Disinformation Governance Board” appears to have been shelved for now following a public outcry, the U.S. government has been working closely with technology giants to suppress speech surrounding election fraud, Hunter Biden’s laptop, alternative views on COVID-19, and more.
National Public Radio, a tax-funded operation, has published numerous pieces over the last month echoing UNESCO’s talking points about the alleged danger and prevalence of conspiracy theories in schools and beyond.
Outgoing senior health official Dr. Anthony Fauci has chimed in recently, too. “What we’re dealing with now is just a distortion of reality, conspiracy theories which don’t make any sense at all pushing back on sound public health measures, making it look like trying to save lives is encroaching on people’s freedom,” he said on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Aug. 22.
The World Economic Forum, which has become a lightning rod for criticism around the world over its “Great Reset” agenda, is also working to counter ideas it labels misinformation and conspiracy theories.
“Key to stopping the spread of conspiracy theories is educating people to be on the lookout for misleading information—and teaching them to be suspicious of certain sources,” senior WEF writer Charlotte Edmond wrote two years ago in a piece for the organization’s website.
The U.N. has been central to the global effort. Indeed, the new program is actually an extension of a 2020 initiative by UNESCO and the European Commission dubbed #ThinkBeforeSharing to combat conspiracy theories online.
That effort included urging citizens to post links to fact-checking services and even report journalists who may be engaged in conspiracy theorizing to “your local/national press council or press ombudsperson.”
In an October 2020 World Economic Forum podcast on “Seeking a cure for the infodemic,” U.N. global communications chief Melissa Fleming boasts of having enlisted over 100,000 volunteers to amplify the U.N.’s views and squelch competing narratives.
“So far, we’ve recruited 110,000 information volunteers, and we equip these information volunteers with the kind of knowledge about how misinformation spreads and ask them to serve as kind of ‘digital first-responders’ in those spaces where misinformation travels,” the U.N. communications chief said.
The revelation came after years of U.N. and governmental efforts to quash what it describes as extremism, misinformation, and more on the internet. In 2016, the U.N. Security Council launched a “framework” to fight “extremism” online on the heels of a program from the previous year to battle “ideologies” that could lead to violence.
But the fresh UNESCO efforts in education signal a dramatic escalation in the battle—especially in the targeting of school children.
Combating ‘Conspiracy Theories’ at School
Education and schools are at the center of the new UNESCO plan to combat conspiracy theories.
“The fight against conspiracy theories, and the antisemitic and racist ideologies they often convey, begins at school, yet teachers worldwide lack the adequate training,” said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay about the new effort. “That is why today, UNESCO is launching a practical guide for educators, so they can better teach students how to identify and debunk conspiracy theories.”
Read the full article at The Epoch Times.