While it has been widely known and felt that the communist regime in China put in tremendous effort to keep a lid on the outbreak of what was once known as the Wuhan Virus, evidence has come out to show those efforts. ProPublica teamed with the New York Times to filter through leaked documents and emails from the Mainland that detailed the various methods the Chi-Coms used to stem the flow of information about the emerging pandemic and to massage their appearance in dealing with the outbreak.
The Chinese control over its social media networks is well known and there is little surprise to learn how the authorities would work to contain the flow of information on an explosive subject. But what also ends up getting revealed is how this effort also managed to manipulate the messaging here in the U.S., as our media complex ended up complying with the dictates from the Chi-Coms on the progress of the viral outbreak. This result should test negative for journalism in the country.
As ProPublica explains, the clamp down by Chinese authorities ramped up in early February as a result of the death of Dr. Li Wenliang. He was one of the early voices to come out with concern about the new strain that was discovered, and he was met with resistance from the Chi-Com authorities who accused him – like they had with many other medical professionals — of criminally spreading false and alarming information. When Wenliang ended up perishing from the very Covid-19 virus he had raised concerns about, this sparked a public reaction.
Chinese citizens began voicing concerns over both the severity of the virus and of the government suppressing information about a dangerous outbreak. The Chi-Coms went to work to contain not the virus but the flow of information. First the news networks were warned on what topics were permitted concerning Wenliang’s death, and his name slowly receded from the headlines. Then they targeted the social media outlets, silencing references to the doctor and squelching his story entirely.
One email unearthed from the Chi-Coms reads: ‘’All Cyberspace Administration bureaus must pay heightened attention to online opinion and resolutely control anything that seriously damages party and government credibility and attacks the political system.’’
The next phase involved large teams of people who were hired to send out differing social posts that would both dilute the negative news and also begin spinning the image of the government as a capable and effective agent in the battle against the growing pandemic. Chinese authorities pushed out the image of a country that was handling the crisis and leading the globe in how to manage the outbreak. The program began to yield positive results; not just on the Mainland, but also in regards to our unserious and incurious media, which played along with the Chi-Coms.
The press here in the States have been sharply antagonistic towards the president on the matter of the pandemic at the expense of public service, more concerned were they with casting him as the problem than in educating the gentry. For this reason they went along with many of the directives to come out of the Chinese information bureaus, repeating their party line because it helped to frame the president as incompetent and neglectful while causing more cases to erupt and leading to more deaths.
It began with our journalists taking a less critical look at China and instead taking the word of the World Health Organization when it praised the communist nation for how it was addressing the pandemic in its borders. This echoes the prior errors from WHO, as in January when it initially applauded China’s skill in assessing the virus, and in declaring the virus a minor threat with little chance of spread. Next came the public relations wave of propaganda, and our press corps followed the communist party line dutifully.
If you read the opening paragraph of this column and had a brief pause at the mention of the Wuhan Virus there is a reason for that. By March the Chi-Coms pressed to have the common practice of naming a new contagion after the region where it had initially experienced an outbreak; for generations we have seen German Measles, Lyme Disease, and even Ebola emerge based on the first hotspot of activity. But now, due to the thrust of the Chi-Com information ministry, it was called intolerant to engage in this practice.
Here in the U.S. our journalists rose up with outrage at anyone who dared utter the term ‘’Wuhan virus,’’ or ‘’Chinese virus’’ — especially the president. Suddenly the same press corps that had been using those exact terms for weeks came out with intemperate accusations of racism towards anyone repeating their own narrative from a week earlier. Outlets began scrubbing and stealth editing past stories which employed those terms, such as Vox which quietly altered its January report that scorched Trump over travel bans. (While the ‘’Wuhan’’ references were erased, it still is found in the URL of the piece.)
Richard Engel could perhaps be the most embarrassing example of one carrying water for the Chi-Coms.
By the next month the press had already positioned itself as not the source of public health information but as the narrative authority of anti-Trump sentiment. The media was focused entirely on the negative and refusing to even acknowledge any news that could be spun in a positive light for the president. The same Democrats and journalists, and even Dr. Anthony Fauci, who downplayed the virus throughout February as a trifle, were now blaring how Trump had done nothing during that time.
Repeating the Chinese talking points only helped them in their disinformation cause. As April unwound the press saw its chance to pounce on the administration, casting the president as ineffectual and highlighting all of the dire numbers of cases and deaths. Helping them in that cause — trumpeting what a fabulous job China had done in response to the outbreak. No longer were suspicions about their attempts at covering up the outbreak heard, no more questions concerning how they permitted the virus to travel outside its borders were permitted. Instead China was now praiseworthy.
On April 7 the Chi-Coms released a farcical news report — After months of struggling to contain the scourge they suddenly came forward to boldly declare they had experienced no new deaths as a result of the coronavirus. Our unserious news complex was not the least bit curious about this announcement; they simply regurgitated the ‘’news’’, always making a point to frame this surprising development against Donald Trump and his perceived incompetence.
It was telling that there was no in depth coverage of just how China managed this feat. We were not given outlines as to what techniques or treatments were employed. No one in the press thought to ask if the Chi-Coms were so adept at handling this outbreak why they were not sharing their newfound methods with the rest of the world. It was simply taken in as an accurate report, and boy — this sure helps make Donald Trump look even more neglectful and abusive!
This media malpractice continues today. Note how uniform the press had been in its ridicule of President Trump over his claim to have a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of the year. Now that it has arrived we do not see any recognition concerning his name of this achievement. The press avoids any connection whatsoever to a pair of treatments hitting the market to Donald Trump.
This new report on draconian propaganda does little to impact the image of the communist leadership in China. We always knew of their dictatorial control on the populace and the obsessive desire they harbor for burnishing their national image and party glory. But what it does reveal is just how injurious and manipulative our own news outlets have been for the past year on this topic. Framing a narrative is one thing. Gaslighting for the Chinese, at the expense of our own public health, takes things to an all new low for our press.
Author: Brad Slager