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NABJ cancels Huawei-sponsored misinformation panel

The panel was intended to address misinformation in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, especially as it relates to minority racial groups in the United States

May 12, 2020

1:46 PM

12 May 2020

1:46 PM

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) was planning to run a panel tomorrow called ‘The Rise of Misinformation’ sponsored by Huawei — a Chinese consumer electronics firm with suspiciously close ties to the Chinese Communist party. Sadly, just over 24 hours before the start time, the NABJ suddenly canceled the event. What happened?

A statement released by the NABJ said that the panel had ‘become a distraction from other priorities’, as it ‘had come under attack because controversial technology giant Huawei was planning to sponsor the webinar though it had no editorial control’. 

The panel was intended to address misinformation in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, especially as it relates to minority racial groups in the United States. 

According to the event description, ‘Since the 2016 general election, Americans have faced an endless barrage of misinformation designed to undermine democratic values and sow social division among various communities. Now in the face of a global pandemic, the misinformation tide continues to rise, hitting African Americans, as well as Asian, Hispanic, rural and lower-income Americans particularly hard.’

This description left Cockburn scratching his head. Isn’t Huawei under close watch from the Department of Justice for conducting domestic surveillance, stealing trade secrets, and providing misstatements to the FBI? And isn’t Huawei working alongside the Chinese government in Xinjiang to persecute the Uighur minority group? 

One report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found that Huawei is assisting the Chinese government with ‘public security video surveillance’ and aiding state-run media to ‘maintain social stability and create positive public opinion’.

Concerns over Huawei’s conduct even prompted British policymakers to question a plan that would grant Huawei a large degree of control over the UK’s 5G phone networks.


A closer look at the event description reveals that Van Jones — a paid CNN contributor and former Obama staffer — was slated to participate on the virtual panel…alongside Black Eyed Peas singer will.i.am, naturally.

In the past, Jones has been quick to lambast attacks on democracy and minority rights when they were supposedly perpetrated by those opposing the left. In late 2016, he gained notoriety after he labeled Donald Trump’s election a ‘whitelash’ against ‘a changing country’ and the prior election of Barack Obama.

‘You tell your kids don’t be a bully, you tell your kids don’t be a bigot…and then you have this outcome’, declared Van Jones. ‘You have people putting children to bed tonight and they are afraid of breakfast. They’re afraid of “How do I explain this to my children?”’

Cockburn wonders how Van Jones could explain his association with Huawei to his kids. Isn’t Huawei rather bigoted for aiding in the genocide of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities?

In the same post-election tirade, Van Jones asserted that ‘I have Muslim friends texting me tonight, saying “should I leave the country?”’

Cockburn suggests that Van Jones’s Muslim friends drop him a text, asking how he could possibly discuss minority rights with a company that is helping the Chinese Communist party brainwash hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims in high-security prison camps.

Jones was a leading voice in claiming that Trump accepted help from Russian hackers to win the 2016 election. Van Jones criticized Trump’s warm relations with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

‘This is baffling to anybody with a functioning brain stem,’ said Van Jones. ‘Yes, other presidents tried to say nice things about the Russians…but not in the face of an active attack on the country! Cyber war is real war…he can’t respond as a patriot to an attack?’

Cockburn is wondering if Van Jones’s brain stem is indeed functioning, or if it simply goes dark when considering his own hypocrisy. After all, the DoJ charged Huawei with racketeering, conspiring to steal trade secrets from American companies, and lying about the whole affair to the intelligence community. Huawei isn’t exactly a paragon of ethical conduct in cybercommerce.

There was a popular assertion in 2016 that Russia covertly supported Donald Trump in an effort to divide Americans, using misinformation on Facebook and other social media platforms to foster distrust and cause division. 

It makes sense that Huawei — a firm known for propaganda, human rights abuses, and shady dealings around the world — would try to pour fuel on the fire of American identity politics for their friends in Beijing.

Cockburn asked CNN why Van Jones had agreed to discuss human rights and misinformation under the sponsorship of a firm that actively helps the Chinese government persecute and brainwash minorities. At the time of writing, they hadn’t replied…but if they do, Cockburn will update the story to include their response. He’s eager to steer clear of misinformation, after all.


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