Lino Banfi appointed ambassador for UNESCO. This is the news that has been splashed all over the place these past few days. Everyone had some joke to make and, objectively, this wasn’t surprising; factor in the desire to denigrate political opponents and it’s easy to see how big headlines often turn out to have no foundation in fact. This is what we call Fake news. Even foreign newspapers talked about it, such as The Economist, which did not miss the chance to attack the Italian government by saying that the reason he was chosen was because in the 80s he acted in sexist films … This shows you how news can be used to attack political opponents. But let’s look at this more closely. Let me show you, based on actual facts, what really happened, and how the meaning of things can be distorted. Let’s start with the basics.
What is UNESCO?
What has Lino Banfi done in recent years?
Lino Banfi has been, for the last 10 years, an Ambassador of UNICEF. I understand he has obtained excellent results and has participated in humanitarian initiatives all over the world.
In 1998, Lino Banfi was designated a Knight of Merit of the Italian Republic.
Over the past 10 years, he has assumed the role of grandfather of Italy, through playing the character of Grandfather Libero. I’ve never seen an episode of that series myself, but I think it’s pretty generally well-known.
Lino Banfi has NOT been appointed Ambassador to UNESCO. But he was called upon, in a humbler capacity, to participate in a body called the Assembly of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO. The famous director, Pupi Avati, is also a member of this body, but no-one ever saw fit to make a fuss about that. Apparently, a film director is fine but a comedian isn’t. As if that were not enough, that same Italian director stated, a few hours ago, that this commission has not met for more than 3 years. So, it’s not even operational.
The task of this commission is to guide the direction of UNESCO initiatives. The decision to appoint Lino Banfi as a member of this commission (and, I repeat, not as a UNESCO Ambassador!) derives from the need to have someone suitable to communicate the commission’s activities (but, as already mentioned, the commission has been inoperative for three years). The government considered that someone like Lino Banfi, much loved by four generations of Italians, would be a good communicator and promoter who might even spur this commission back into action.
Now, everyone is entitled to their opinion about this reasoning and this choice. To me, it’s not such a far-fetched decision. But even if it were … isn’t it a completely different thing to an appointment as UNESCO ambassador? I hope this demonstrates how an exaggerated headline, inaccurate and over-simplified, can make news across the world without anyone bothering to double-check it, just because it is useful as political ammunition.