Why the 'Universal Code' isn’t Universal

Posted 9/16/07

Disclaimer: The following article is the sole opinion of Arthur Helms. ZWN and it's affiliates do not influence, endorse nor are accountable for Mr. Helms opinions. Bookmark and Share

In a previous column, I discussed the somewhat successful United Nations military response to the plague. This week, I will focus on the U.N. voting body’s contribution to the effort, namely 'The Universal Code of Conduct.'

On the surface, it’s easy to ask the question; what’s not to like? And in fairness to the United Nations what they came up with is in many ways a fairly logical and straight-forward set of guidelines to deal with the general issues of the plague and resultant undead. The chief issues that many member nations have with the Code come down to the two major themes built into it. And like practically everything else in this world, those two issues break down into simple economics and perceived threats to a nation’s autonomy and sovereignty.

Right now, some of you may be asking, “Hey, Artie (my friends call me that. You may if you like as well in your inner monologs), what country could possibly have issues with banning making profit from the undead or the plague? What nation in its right mind would want people to traffic in reanimator parts or, worse yet, whole reanimators? Who could support the ghastly concept of using undead for sport or other nefarious purposes?” My answer to this as any of my regular readership will tell you is rather simple… economics. It’s true that no legitimate, civilized nation wants anything to do with the unpleasant facts of Necro-Mortosis, reanimation and the undead. It’s also a safe bet that any nation that would support such things wouldn’t be a member of the United Nations in the first place.

The problem comes from the rather broad wording contained in the Code concerning profiting from the undead. In part, the Code states, “The use of a reanimator for sport, entertainment, sale or financial gain is against the law.” We all can understand the need to outlaw sporting uses for the undead. After the discovery of the farm in New Mexico ran for the specific purpose of supplying reanimators for use in sport hunting, few in the United States would argue that point. The outright sale of reanimators and/or their parts is likewise disrespectful to the people the undead once were and their surviving families and, quite simply, incredibly dangerous to us all. Every piece of infected tissue has the ability to continue to spread the plague. The problem comes from the words “entertainment” and “financial gain”.

“Financial gain”, aka “profit” is the cornerstone of this and every other capitalist nation and “entertainment” is a huge industry. Americans are constantly in need of it, and they’re willing to pay for it. Now, it’s not just us. Most any civilized nation in the world has developed mass media entertainment. Billions and billions of dollars a year get bandied about in the entertainment industry, so much so that entertainment has become the United State’s chief export. Mixing the huge amounts of money at stake with one of the world’s most complicated and clogged judicial systems the world has ever known has made the Code a virtual loaded gun.

The Code states that “legitimate” news agencies can broadcast re-killings but it does nothing to define what would be considered a legitimate news agency. Many Americans get their news not from the traditional network news or even cable network news outlets. Those scales tipped long ago with the invention of the World Wide Web and the introduction of paper and electronic tabloids and have served to turn the once thick and heavy line between “legitimate news” and “entertainment” into a dotted one. Is CNN a legitimate news organization? How about the Weekly World News? What about the Fox News Network? Is Entertainment Tonight considered a legitimate outlet? What about Larry King Live? Even the site you are looking at right now, Zombie World News, has come under fire a time or two for their reporting. Other countries have similar programs and networks that have rather murky lines separating their entertainment from their news. The case could be made that even the aforementioned Weekly World News, Enquirer, Sun and other such and so-called tabloids are in fact legitimate news agencies. If a large group of people trust these publications (and if their circulation numbers can be believed, there are many that do), who is the U.N. to tell these admittedly suspect news consumers what makes a legitimate outlet? And for that matter, how will the U.N. be defining profit? Practically all news agencies, regardless of their reputation, trustworthiness and accuracy of reporting are for-profit entities. They rely on advertisers for their revenue to finance their news gathering operations as well as provide profit for their owners, operators and stockholders.

To see the problem in action, let’s say a woman becomes infected and reanimates here in the United States. The police come and a news van just happens to be in the area to catch the re-killing drama unfold. The footage is aired, of course, as the lead story. The woman was newly turned and thus more or less intact and identifiable. Since the news program is put on by a television station, a typically for-profit entity, the family of the reanimated woman sues under the tenets of the Universal Code of Conduct since the television station aired the footage as a for-profit entity. Now, logic and reason would tell most intelligent Americans this is not what was intended by the Universal Code. And of course, they would be right. However, frivolous and high-dollar lawsuits aren’t won on common knowledge and logic. They are won by determining which attorney can best twist the wording of a code, rule or law. If you take away the drama of the plague and reduce it to the terminology used, a judge would be hard-pressed to rule in favor of the television station in this example if he were going strictly by the Code of Conduct. Thus, the Code falters despite its good intentions.

Even more than the effect the Code would have on the operation of our news agencies, regardless of their relevancy and accuracy, the largest hurdle to cross is simple, basic national pride. America, like many other nations, hates being told what to do by others, especially when those others aren’t even Americans, and even worse when it comes from the United Nations. Global conspiracy theories, Illuminati rumors and just plain national pride keep most Americans, and by extension their elected representatives, from bowing down to most anything that comes from the U.N.
By now, most Americans have a basic awareness of Necro-Mortosis and reanimators, even without having suffered a serious outbreak. They know the signs of the plague; they know that reanimators are uncommunicative, slow-moving and cannibalistic. They know to contact authorities, and they know that destroying the brain is the only way to effectively re-kill the undead. Since we know this already, as a people we really don’t feel the need for the U.N. to tell us what to do or how to do it. But I think we and our government is missing the big picture here. The American judicial system is a rather unique animal in our global community, and I fully understand the Constitutionality of not accepting the Universal Code as the law in our land. However, the United Nations did do a service to the world by hashing out at the very least a rough, general framework to build from. If each nation agreed to the basic concepts of making it illegal to transport reanimators in whole or part or to use them in anything other than highly-regulated scientific research, the Code would be a good thing so long as it provided for enforcement of those tenets on an international scale. With such global cooperation in place on those issues, each nation could then craft their own Code of Conduct concerning the myriad and comparatively localized issues. The zombie is in the details, to co-opt a popular phrase. Had the U.N. Code of Conduct focused more on matters of the international and less on the minutia of body disposal and when it’s okay to publicly show or not show a re-killing it would have gained a far better reception.

Let’s take the Code for what it really is; a start. The U.N. got the ball rolling. Now, it’s up to each individual nation to do their part to refine their own laws and codes sooner rather than later. The undead move slowly, our courts and legislature slower still. The plague has proven it can move considerably faster than either of them. The time has come for the U.S. to stop relying on anti-terrorism laws and the Patriot Act in the face of the plague and develop its own laws specifically tailored to the undead threat. Federal laws on the books that specifically deal with reanimates will serve to reassure the American people that their government is working proactively to defend them against any possible future outbreaks. The more we discuss the plague and the walking dead, the less terrifying they will become to us. And the public, frank discussion and debate necessary to draft such legislation in this country would also serve to demystify the undead to the average American. In short, let’s use the Universal Code for what it really is; a wake-up call… a figurative call to arms.

Arthur Helms is a syndicated columnist who has dealt with a host of social and political issues. His previous syndicated column, “Logic, Please?” offered commentary on a host of world-view issues as seen through the cold yet bright light of plain logic, demonstrated fact and simple common sense.

While the academic and political elite often dismissed his commentary as “too simplistic” for our complicated times, his books of collected columns and hundreds of national speaking engagements each year attest to his connection to a readership yearning for simple answers to complex issues. Helms recently ended his syndicated column to sign on exclusively with Zombie World News, providing a fresh, logical,
plain-English view of the plague and to bring some common sense to what many perceive to be a senseless situation.

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