Imagine if during the height of the Cold War, a media already combative against President Reagan was also heavily invested in the Soviet Union financially. Pretend the Soviet Union could leverage vast amounts of propaganda using our entertainment, news and print media as Reagan told them to tear down the Berlin Wall.
Due to either a complicit corporate media in America, China is presently engaged in a highly organized propaganda war against the United States, not dissimilar from that analogy. As COVID-19 spreads across the United States, mainstream outlets are publishing Chinese state apologia across the web, and China is leveraging their clear influence over these markets, using the Hong Kong protest blackouts as a blueprint. In recent weeks, three major national news outlets are guilty of this. The only question remains why.
On March 14, the New York Times published a column by Ian Johnson, whom they only identified as a writer based in Beijing. The piece was titled ‘China Bought the West Time. The West Squandered It’. He insinuates that many countries stood by and watched while China heroically battled a contagion alone they themselves originated. He overlooks that the PRC did this by dragging citizens from their apartments or welding their doors to keep them in altogether.
NBC News echoed the baseless accusations Chinese information minister Zhao Lijian has made on Twitter: that the coronavirus was created and dispersed in Wuhan by the United States Army. The headlines on the NBC News website offered no context and presented it as a straight news story. On March 14, NBC Think, a sort of Salon or Slate offshoot of NBC News, published a story headlined ‘Coronavirus in China kept me under quarantine. I felt safer there than back in the US’. The piece says ‘prioritization of personal freedom and utter lack of government leadership have left Americans confused and exposed’.
Aaron Blake from the Fix division of the Washington Post, second to none when it comes to media gaslighting over the Trump administration, ran a piece titled ‘Before the White House and Trump allies blamed China for coronavirus, Trump vouched for China — repeatedly’. Blake’s editorial line here suggests that China is not to blame for the origins of the virus: he opens his piece by writing that ‘President Trump, the White House and their allies are increasingly on a blame-China footing in the fight against the coronavirus. They’re stoking nationalism by emphasizing the country where the virus originated, calling it the “Wuhan virus” lodging conspiracy theories about it being deliberately weaponized and accusing the Chinese of a coverup.’
Would Blake’s words sound any different if they had been penned by the Chinese government themselves? There are inconvenient facts Blake and his newspaper, for whatever reason, have chosen to overlook. First, the virus did originate in Wuhan. Second, Blake ignores that it’s Chinese officials pointing the finger at the United States, claiming America weaponized the virus against China. Third, and most important, the Chinese did engage in a cover up to conceal the spread and lethality of the virus. Dr Li Wenliang, who himself died of COVID-19, alleged he was silenced as he attempted to warn the Western media of the virus and the PRC’s role in covering up the spread. He was detained by state medical officials and police where he was forced to sign a statement declaring his comments were unfounded rumor. Aaron Blake and his editors at the Washington Post took no notice of any of this.
Why are major media outlets in the United States running interference for the Chinese government? Several newspapers and cable news channels scrambled to decry any use of ‘Wuhan Virus’ as xenophobic and racist, after weeks of deploying the term themselves. This appeared to be a coordinated effort to deflect blame from China.
We hear a lot of whining from the press when they’re dubbed the ‘enemy of the people’. Frankly, the regular grandstanding of reporters like CNN’s Jim Acosta who use their airtime to self-promote isn’t behavior deserving of this label — annoying though it may be. But when news outlets parrot the Chinese government and shield them from any responsibility for the global pandemic, under the guise of political correctness or distaste for the current administration, the moniker seems a lot more fitting.