Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
in Paris on Oct. 12, 2017.
(Jacques Demarthon/AFP via Getty Images)
is training and recruiting teachers
as a key part of its global effort
to combat what it considers
information and ideas...
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,
Examples of "conspiracy theories" cited in the report include everything from widely held and respectable beliefs such as,
At the heart of the global program to combat these ideas and theories are teachers and schools, according to the U.N. agency.
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,
The Global War on conspiracy theories
Official efforts to clamp down on "conspiracy theories" and "misinformation" are not new.
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,
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.
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.
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,
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.
The revelation came after years of U.N. and governmental efforts to quash what it describes as,
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.
Beyond working through education, the U.N. agency also hopes to expand its efforts to combat the spread of what it refers to as conspiracy theories in the realms of press and social media.
The UN strategy for fighting conspiracy theories in education lists a number of major objectives for educators.
These include teaching teachers how to,
One of the ways offered for educators to determine the veracity of information is to check fact-checking services,
Many of the services are funded by individuals, such as billionaire founder of Microsoft Bill Gates, who UNESCO says are frequently the target of conspiracy theories.
The document also contains multiple strategies for combating conspiracy theories.
To fight "harmful information" among students, for example, UNESCO urges teachers to engage in what the agency describes as "prebunking."
When students believe in ideas because of parental influence, teachers are instructed to seek help from school officials and consider a,
If a student were to express concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine, teachers are instructed to,
It was not immediately clear whether the relevant section of the UNESCO document was written before public health authorities in the United States and around the world began acknowledging that,
In some cases where conspiracy theories involve alleged hate or discrimination, teachers are urged to consider reporting students to,
What Is a Conspiracy Theory?
The document, titled "Addressing conspiracy theories - What teachers need to know," defines a conspiracy theory as:
The UNESCO report moves on to offer,
One term that is not defined in the document, however, is the word "conspiracy" itself.
State and federal law-enforcement authorities charge large numbers of people with the crime of "conspiracy" each year.
In its short guide for telling the difference between "real" conspiracies and mere "theories," the U.N. report divides the thinking into two broad categories.
This conclusion is reached as a result of,
In the real world, experts say the line between conspiracy theory and conspiracy fact is far less obvious.
According to a 2020 YouGov-Cambridge Globalism poll cited in the UNESCO document, strong majorities believe in overarching "conspiracy theories" in many nations.
Almost eight in 10 Nigerians, for example, said they believed in,
One of the reports at the center of the new UNESCO effort, "The Conspiracy Theory Handbook" by Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook, also acknowledges that conspiracies exist and are not uncommon.
The U.N. documents also outline various reasons why people believe in conspiracy theories.
These include feelings of powerlessness, coping mechanisms for handling uncertainty, or seeking to claim minority status. Evidence is not listed as a reason why people might believe in a conspiracy theory.
One of the "case studies" listed in the UNESCO document refers to Mikki Willis's documentary "Plandemic."
Among other points, the film and the experts who are interviewed argue that COVID-19 may have been created in a laboratory for sinister purposes.
Reached by The Epoch Times, Willis slammed the U.N. and its effort to "indoctrinate" people.
Critics Sound the Alarm
Multiple experts in the field of propaganda warned that the UNESCO initiative was a major threat to free expression.
Organization for Propaganda Studies Co-Director Piers Robinson said these kinds of developments are "extremely dangerous."
Explaining that these dangers have long been understood, Robinson quoted the great 19th-century British philosopher John Stuart Mill.
Robinson, who also serves as co-editor of Propaganda in Focus and sits on the executive committee of 'pandemic's Data & Analytics (PANDATA.org), also cautioned that powerful actors with large budgets would likely be involved in deciding what is true and not.
Robinson also blasted the use of the term "conspiracy theory" as "deeply problematic," saying it was a term often used to shut down discussion on serious issues and questions about powerful actors.
Another expert on propaganda, environmental political theory Professor Tim Hayward at the University of Edinburgh, also warned that efforts to demonize and silence "conspiracy theories" was really an effort to pathologize dissent and inconvenient lines of questioning.
Hayward views the focus on education to combat "conspiracy theories" as particularly concerning.
While Hayward cautioned that he was not necessarily accusing UNESCO of doing this, he warned that the organization and its programs needed to be watched as this was a troubling trend.
It would be better to teach children "the fundamentals of critical reasoning" so they can detect falsehoods on their own.
Truth or Misinformation?
The fresh push to quash "misinformation" and "conspiracy theories" online comes as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal agencies increasingly admit that much of what was labeled false during the 'pandemic' turned out to be correct.
For instance, today, the CDC admits that the COVID-19 vaccines do not prevent infection or transmission - an idea that was censored by multiple social media companies relying on government as "misinformation" as recently as a few months ago.
Also widely acknowledged by federal officials today is that the CCP virus may have, in fact, been created through "gain-of-function" research taking place at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in communist China.
Alleged conspiracy "theories" being ultimately proven correct is hardly a new phenomenon.
Despite the escalating UN concern about conspiracy theories and the claims that they are proliferating at an unprecedented rate, new research by the University of Miami suggests that is simply not true...
Critics, though, have repeatedly raised concerns about UNESCO's leadership, and even those behind the new effort, including a number of individuals from autocratic nations and with ties to dictatorial regimes.
The agency itself has been regularly condemned for extremism by U.S. authorities, including by the Ronald Reagan administration when it withdrew from UNESCO.
The Trump administration ended U.S. membership in the controversial U.N. organization in 2018, citing,
However, as reported by The Epoch Times, the Biden administration is seeking ways to circumvent federal statutes barring U.S. re-engagement in the global organization.
None of the press officers, media liaisons, or spokespeople for UNESCO responded to requests for comment on the plan.