May 6, 1988

May 6, 1988 | Backgrounder on International Organizations

At the (U.N. ) Movies: Making America the Villain


(Archived document, may contain errors)

648 n May 6,1988 AT THE (U.N MOVIES MAKING AMERICA THE VILLAIN Hot cold, day night; same struggle, same fight anti-war chant parody Nightfall in Hiroshima, Japan. Flowers float on the reflecting pool as the mourners softly weep: the annual Hiroshima memorial service for those who fell under the em p eror's intransigence and America's atoinic response. The scene is moving The narrator builds his measured crescendo as he decries humanity's "awesome genius for death Half a world away, eight jet engines spool up on a grounded U.S. bomber. The film's titl e menacingly explodes onto the screen Nuclear Countdown If the viewer has not picked up on the meaning yet, plenty of helpful visual cues follow.

The message is unmistakable: the world teeters on the brink of nuclear war, and the United States is the chief culprit A parade of mostly expired US. military hardware follows in formation: B-29, B-36, B-47, and B-52 bombers; F-104, F-106, and F-14 fighters Polaris missiles and Trident submarines. An aging British Vukm bomber makes an overflight.

Then the scene f ades to the premier peacemaker, the late Soviet Communist Party leader Leonid Brezhnev, railing against nuclear arms before an enthusiastic session of the Supreme Soviet U.S. Periscope. Viewers are told "there aren't any" peaceful applications of military technology. The film closes as a .U.S. nuclear submarine's periscope pops out of the water and the narrator intones, "In a world calling for a New International Economic Order, isn't this a mad perversion of priorities A mad perversion yes, mainly of real i ty. And the perversion is by the United Nations and its Department of Public Information. "Nuclear Countdown" is one of almost 150 films produced and/or distributed by the U.N. Heritage Foundation experts reviewed 46 of them. While some of these films tre a t such innocent topics as air traffic control, the majority are attacks against the U.S. that misrepresent historical fact. Some, like "Nuclear Countdown do it so blatantly as to be almost amusing, conjuring memories of the "scare films" shown in driver's education classes Candidate for GAO Audit. Yet, these films are not funny. U.S. taxpayers pay the biggest part of the annual 12.2 million bill for these celluloid floggings as part of the 25 percent U.S. annual contribution to the U.N. budget. What is wor se, huge audiences around the world and in the U.S particularly schoolchildren, watch the U.N. films and presumably are influenced by them.

Before voting any more money to pay for the production and distribution of these films Congress should direct the General Accounting Office to review all the U.N. films of 1986 and 19

87. The GAO should devise a matrix of content, bias, and accuracy with which to assess the films. The findings of this GAO report should determine to what extent the U.S continues to unde rwrite the films. Congress and the Reagan Administration, meanwhile should consider alerting state boards of education to the apparent bias and distortion in the U.N. films that are being shown in U.S. classrooms.

Past evaluations have found that a systematic anti-Western, anti-free market bias pervades U.N. media products. The U.N. Department of Public Information (DPI which has oversight responsibility for U.N. films, is at the core of the problem. As early as 19 8 4, a Heritage Foundation study found In the policy areas where] the U.N. has not been successful, DPI, through an unbalanced and often heavily biased inte retation of events attempts to blame the failure on the Western industrial democracies? Two years la t er, the General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, analyzed 90 media pieces produced by DPI and came to a similar conclusion? Even the U.N. library cannot escape manipulation. A 1986 Heritage study found that the U.N. Headquarte r s Library has become a front for Soviet disinformation and covert operations Making matters worse the Library's index, crucial for information retrieval, is biased heavily against the U.S Israel, and Western ideas U.N. films are no different WHY U.N. FILM S MATTER In just three months in 1983, U.N. Information Centers distributed and screened 3,351 films to a total audience of 72,651,974 in developing and developed countries. In the same 1 2 3 Roger A. Brooks The U.N. Department of Public Information: A Hou se of Mirrors Heritage Thomas E.L. Dewey The GAO Renders Its Verdict: The U.N. Information Service Is Anti-American,"

Mark Huber The United Nations Library Putting Soviet Dishformation Into Circulation Heritage Foundation Buckgrounder No. 332, February 23,1984.

Heritage Foundation Buckgrounder No. 515, June 9,1986.

Foundation Buckgrounder No. 487, February 18,1986 2 period, the Centers distributed and showed 705 films on the subject of disarmament to a total audience of 12,388,983; 200 films on apartheid to a total audience of 11,543,433; 123 films on Namibia to a total audience of 10,878,537; and films highlighting the importance of the socialist U.N. scheme called the New International Economic Order to a total audience of 14,449,058 A 1984 Heritage Fou ndation Backgrounder reports that, "Some of these films treat their subjects in a balanced and unbiased manner and deal with subjects worthy of attention.

Most of the films however, obscure or ignore significant issues and problems facing developing countr ies. Material on economic development, for example, does not address the real challenges to creating wealth and prosperity in the developing world and ignores the economically most successful of the developing countries; material on disarmament ignores So v iet aggression in Afghanistan and the enormous threat that conventional arms pose to regional peace.J Blatantly Anti-American A painstakingly thorough study of U.N. films and other media in 1986 by the GAO found that they regularly contained blatantly ant i -American propaganda. Concluded the GAO We found that a substantial number of the media items opposed U.S. interests because they took political positions unfavorable to U.S. interests and/or contained indications of bias against the United States."6 Of s pecial concern, however, are the movies directed at children. The simplistic and misleading messages beamed at these young minds can foster loathing toward the U.S. and the West BEING YOUNG"

By far the worst of these films is a series of vignettes entitled "Being Young made to commemorate International Youth Year, observed by the U.N. in 19

85. The film tracks the sometimes squalid and often depressing lives of children in Peru, Northern Ireland, Japan Rwanda, the Soviet Union, and the U.S. Poverty is the principal theme for the segments on the U.S Peru, and Rwanda; discipline is the theme for Japan; yet for the depiction of the Soviet Union, the film makers chose excellence in athletic achievement A teenager in Peru races tour buses down the Andes for tip s . Two young girls in Northern Ireland come to grips with that country's religious violence. Boys in Japan live in a Kodo commune, learning the disciplined life that comes with mastery of the big drums of that name 4 "Monitoring System for DPI Programme Im p lementation United Nations Department of Public Information Memorandum from Lwanyantika Masha, Chief, Planning Programming and Evaluation Unit, to Yasushi Akashi, Chart I. 5 Brooks, op. cit 6 General Accounting Office Analysis of Selected Media Products S hows Half Oppose Key U.S. Interests,"

Washington, D.C 1986 3 Soviet Idyll versus the Bronx. The "typicall' Soviet youth is world class pole vault champion, Sergie Bubka. Viewers are treated to shots of Bubka and his young wife smartly attired in Western cl othing, taking romantic strolls past tree-lined Soviet streets and holding hands beneath a statue of Lenin.

By sharp and distorted contrast, the "typical" American youth lives in one of the worst sections of the Bronx. He walks past endless trash heaps, g raffiti-strewn walls, and the hulks of burned-out cars. Explains the narrator This is a 'poor' neighborhood in New York City For a young person growing up here, life can either be a challenge to be met or an injustice to be suffered DOOMSDAY" MENTALITY A l arge number of the films deal with the question of disarmament. The films' treatment of the issue is oversimplified, and they uniformly and grotesquely exaggerate the U.N.3 role in fostering nuclear accords and effecting their success. Some of the films c a st the U.S. as the world's chief nuclear villain The Doomsday Clock (1987) is a children's cartoon that combines technically crude drawings with a truly ear-piercing sound track. Images reveal a wheat field giving way to coal which in turn becomes steel a n d then computers. The ingredients are poured into a large funnel and emerge as intercontinental ballistic missiles. The scene shifts to two figures sitting across the table from each other as a large clock ticks away in the background. As the clock winds d own, the figures are transformed into enormous snarling animals with unnaturally long fingernails and teeth. The clock strikes midnight, the missiles launch (fade to black Ignoring Reality. In the second scene, a skeleton flies into the room and drags the figures over to the clock. The figures embrace. Beneath the U.N. seal, they sign a treaty. Outside the room, crowds cheer. The clock winds backwards, and everybody lives happily ever after.

The images and sounds are calculated to terri

and mislead. The message is unmistakable: economic and industrial development leads to Armageddon, there are only two nuclear powers, and only the U.N. can help. This, of course, ignores reality. Not only can (and does) economic development lead to prosperity, but it is t h e U.N.3 anti-market strategy that has led to poverty, famine, and disease. The "nuclear club moreover, includes not just the U.S. and the USSR, but also Britain, France, India, and China. The U.N. not only has had little to do with the successful negotiat ion of nuclear accords, it has actually impeded their progress.

The message of 'The Doomsday Clock" reappears in "Boom This U.N. cartoon made by Czechoslovakian film maker Brestislav Pojar features a cave man living in peace and harmony until, one day, he discovers a stick. While fighting over a mouse with another cave man, he hits his rival over the head with the stick. Power of the stick in hand, he runs amok taking whatever he wants: coats, dogs, women. With his illusions of grandeur, he is transformed i nto an armored knight. His weapons become more sophisticated: guns cannons, heavily artillery, tanks. Foxholes are shelled. Whole cities are leveled. Missiles 4 are pointed at one another. The mouse, the initial instigator of the conflict, reappears and c r awls into the launch computer, inadvertently triggering Armageddon and dueling mushroom clouds Made in the USA Another disarmament film is 'In the Minds of Men" (1982 It assaults viewers' auditory senseswith roaring jets, artillery fire, and explosions as children merrily skip to school. A somber narrator intones We and our children live with the ever-present threat of global-thermal nuclear war. Nuclear weapons and the possibility that they will be used have made the end of the human race a real danger Th e voice of a little child asks Why do we have war?"

A series of erroneous generalizations follows, including the ultimate non sequitur War cannot bring peace A kaleidoscope of carnage ensues, from the trenches of World War I to Dresden and Hiroshima to Ind ochina. Pictures of rotting, fly-covered corpses flash onto the screen, with more blood andagore than the midnight feature at a Texas drive-in. Here again, the villain is America. The viewers see the normal progression of American male maturation into kil l ing machines, from junior league boxing to M-16 rifle training. Pictures of dead children numbly meld with flights of American bombers. As children frolic in the water, a pair of U.S. A-10 underbolt attack planes swoops down in formation. An American F-16 fighter flies up a river bed as the narrator proclaims Living in the shadow of nuclear war, whose horrors we can only imagine, we still have not learned In The Minds of Men" closely follows what appears to be the U.N. script: piles of dead children and we a pons that say "made in the USA THE GLOBAL EXPLOITATION STORY That the U.S. is portrayed as the world's chief war monger is not enough. According to U.N. films, the U.S. is also the planet's chief robber baron, enslaving millions through global economic ex ploitation.

Typical is."A New Bargain" by the National Film Board of Canada. It tugs at the hearts of its young viewers while blaming 'the U.S. and the West for the Third World's squalor Something is wrong viewers are told. 'The people of the Third World are still po o r The film explores the sad plight of Ghanian cocoa farmers but curiously is silent about the incompetent and corrupt government-run state marketing board, which in large part is responsible for Ghana's rural poverty. The board paid Ghanian farmers a palt ry 25 percent of the price it received for reselling their cocoa on the world market. Nor does the film say anything about Ghana's official policies that embraced Soviet state agricultural schemes?

Rather, viewers are told, "Europeans exploited the wealth of Asia, Africa and the Americas Food as a Deadly Weapon. Later, "A New Bargain" charges that "Other countries profit from their control of critical food supplies. The United States is the world's largest grain 7 Melanie S. Tammen The Failure of State Agr i culture in SubSaharan Africa Washington, D.C.: The Foundation for Africa's Future, 1988 5 'I exporter. Food is also a weapon.Jt is one of the principal tools in the kit of American diplomacy For this U.N. film, therefore, the massive U.S. food aid shipmen ts have not been a program that for decades has been feeding the world's hungry, but "a weapon."

Ignored, presumably deliberately, by this U.N. film is the fact that the U.S. has been the world's foremost supplier of food and other aid, from the post-World War 11 Marshall Plan to the recent and massive grain shi ments to Ethiopia. Last year the United States spend a record 19.2 billion on foreign aid 8 Such glaring errors of omission also color the U.N.3 economic film library. Illustrative is The Big Villa g e 1979 Set in a primitive island fishing village, it portrays the world through a little boy's eyes. The vision builds from pathos to resentment. First and foremost, the boy tells the viewer, his people are not to blame for their plight. As an ox plows a f ield, he says Because we are poor, we can only afford the old ways Manhattan Skyscrapers versus Hungry Children. Pictures of peasants and fly-covered children dissolve into shots of American moon rockets and Manhattan skyscrapers As nattily clad diners en j oy an al fresco cafe, the boy proclaims They eat well and look well the rich of this world. But they have built on sand,'for they have forgotten the green earth and the gentle wind. They have poisoned their rivers and seas in their search for wealth The w o rld is compared to a "big village a standard U.N. expression for its one-world outlook. As the scene switches to the U.N. General Assembly, the boy proclaims There are conclaves of the big village, too. A new age has dawned. Around the globe, the poor hav e been aroused." As the camera focuses on Third World delegates the boy warns Our people are a vast majority on this earth, but we do not rule it--yet. But things will change.

It is best they change peacefully."

Picking up on this theme, "Your Ocean and M ine" celebrates the U.N. Law of the Sea Treaty, a cumbersome and wideiy criticized attempt to establish a global authority to rule and administer the world's seabeds and their resources. Viewers are told that the law ''must go beyond the three-century old dictum of mare Zibrium: freedom of the seas The film opens as delegates labor over an accord while wintering, at U.N. expense, in Montego Bay Jamaica during December 19

82. Squirming and dazed fish are hauled aboard a factory trawler while the narrator in forms Almost 99 percent of the world's fisheries now fall under jurisdiction of costal states, providing a long-needed opportunity for rational exploitation The conclusion is clear: responsible fishing and sea mining cannot occur without an international s eabed authority Stacking the Deck Against the West The Economics Game 1978) uses mimes sitting around a card table; From the start, the deck is stacked against the West. Viewers are told The object of the economics game is to get rich" and that rich playe r s make their own rules An economic boom creates pollution, but the rich player "doesn't care. The object of the game is to get rich A poor plaier encounters misfortune. Naturally, she's blameless Oh 8 United States Agency for International Development, FY 1987 Congressional Presentation 6 oh, her crop is ruined by bugs. They don't have a cure for that. The ones with technology felt no need to do research on her pests."

Viewers are told, 'This is a crazy game. It's true, everyone seems to be getting richer. But the poor ones are really not better off and the rich ones have gained a lot, but at the expense of everyone's environment and by using up everyone's resources. It's been like this for years and now some players have had enough. They don't want to pla y anymore unless the rules are changed and it would be hard for the others to play by themselves."

The solution offered by this U.N. film The old rules haven't worked, we've all agreed on that. That's why the member states of the United Nations have called for new rules, a New International Economic Order HISTORICAL FALLACIES The Great Awakening 1985) was made in celebration of the enormous "progress1 achieved by formerly colonial African states. The film overflows with errors of omission misrepresentation , and misleading optimism. Ignored is Africa's economic deterioration in the past quarter century. Instead, the film shows Britain's Prince Charles shaking hands with Zimbabwe's new leaders as viewers are told, "the achievement of freedom and independence in scores of countries around the world reflects a story of courage, sacrifice and dedication Alaska in Red. As the evils of colonialism are explained, a world map marks colonies in red. Including Alaska.

Great progress, viewers are told, has been made in decolonizing the world, but the job is not done. South Africa still occupies South West Africa (sometimes known as Namibia says the film, and the British still rule Anguilla To be sure, Anguilla, the 60-square mile tropical island territory located five m i les north of St. Maarten in the Caribbean Sea, with a population of 7,000 remains a British protectorate. The narrator assures viewers that the U.N. is on top of the situation, citing the dispatch of a 24-member "fact finding" delegation to personally ins p ect the island. No doubt U.N. delegations will visit the island frequently because, as viewers are told, 'The U.N. keeps under constant review the status of countries like Anguilla until the people determine their final political status Silence on Genocid e Footnotes To A War 1980) tracks the exodus of Indochinese refugees without once explaining why they left. The culprit, according to the film, is neither Vietnamese military aggression nor the Khmer Rouge's genocide in Cambodia. Rather viewers are led to b elieve that America's sluggish immigration procedures are to blame for the pathetic refugees in Thai camps. Canada and West Germany are praised for their refugee resettlement efforts; no mention is made of the 813,000 Indochinese refugees 7 more than half of the 1.5 million who fle following the war and millions of other refugees who find safe haven in the U.S AN EXERCISE IN SELF-PROMOTION Ultimately, U.N. films are advertisements for itself and its agenda. Usually, this is done subtly, by having the camer a pan the General Assembly and mentioning items such as the New International Economic Order However, little is subtle and even less is true in the production The U.N. Is For You 1984 Once again, viewers see American military hardware as the chief conveyor s of death, this time a B-29 attack on Dresden, as the narrator says Greediness and a lack of consideration lead to fights and quarrels. In countries they lead to war There are no scenes of Nazi death camps or Hitler's blitzkrieg of helpless Poland. Only t h e U.S it seems, has used the weapons of war. To the U.N. film distributors, apparently, only the U.S. is a threat to peace The U.N.'s most important job viewers are told, "is to stop wars and keep the peace." Its other main job is ''to make things fairer o n our planet" because "If the U.N. succeeds in making things fairer, then it will be easier to keep the peace because there won't be as many things to quarrel about." The U.N. accomplishes its mission by passing General Assembly resolutions. Countries tha t ignore these resolutions, and almost all do whenever it suits them can get pretty unpopular AS AN INSTRUMENT OF GLOBAL PUBLIC OPINION U.N. films are available in the U.S. from 30 commercial distributors as well as from the United Nations Information Cent e rs. American public schools and political organizations make wide use of these resources. One of the commercial distributors, Barr Films, Inc of Irwindale, California, over the past ten years has sold U.N. films to some 800 school districts, including tho se of Chicago, San Francisco, Orange County, California, and Hobbes, Minnesota.

Last month, the National Alliance of Third World Journalists convened its fifth national conference in Atlanta, including an "international film festival" concerned with "Visions of Struggle U.N. films were featured at the conference.

U.N. films are a soapbox for those who prefer to blame their problems on the U.S. and those who believe in the forced redistribution of global resources and the supremacy of the state. These opini ons long have been the mainstay of U.N. politics 9 Bureau of Refugee Programs Monthly Report, US. Department of State, March 2,1988 8 Suspending U.S. Funding. The U.N of course, is entitled to fund and distribute films.

When the U.N. does so, however, it has a responsibility to ensure that the films are accurate and unbiased. When U.N. films portray the U.S they should do so fairly and responsibly.

Based on this sample of 46 U.N. films, there can be no doubt that U.N. films fail to do so.

Until this situation changes, the U.S. should seriously reconsider whether it is wise to finance these products. As such the Congress should suspend all U.S. funding for Y.N films and for the U.N. Department of Public Information until the General Account ing Office can analyze the films content and certify that U.S. taxpayer funds are not underwriting anti-U.S. propaganda.

Prepared for The Heritage Foundation by Mark Huber, a Washington consultant 9

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