China’s coronavirus lies prey on US divisions — here’s how to fight their propaganda

China’s coronavirus lies prey on US divisions — here’s how to fight their propaganda

My op-ed for Fox News about China’s coronavirus propaganda and his concern with how American media outlets are parroting that propaganda as fact. The Chinese Communist Party has tried to make itself the victim – and the hero – while deceiving the world about the origin and extent of COVID-19. Keep spreading the truth.

China’s lies about coronavirus are just the latest round of anti-American propaganda. We should stop falling for it.

“…It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!”

This excerpt of a tweet, from a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, captures the communist regime’s newest public relations strategy in the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis that began inside its borders: shift blame to the West and portray China as the victim.

Just last week, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it would be pulling the credentials of American journalists from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, no doubt due to fears they would report the situation in China in a manner unfavorable to the regime.

Recently, Chinese state media began declaring that U.S. officials were spreading a “political virus” by daring to criticize the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for its gross mismanagement of the coronavirus outbreak, failing to restrict its spread and lying to the world about it. In January the CCP even succeeded in getting the World Health Organization to parrot their lies, with false claims that the virus could not be spread by human-to-human contact.

The coronavirus is just another chapter in the misinformation campaigns run against America, where our society’s freedoms — and divisions — are manipulated to the benefit of our enemies.  Our media seemingly takes the bait each time and unwittingly repeats the propaganda in the form of “good-faith” criticisms against Americans and America’s government. However, the critiques reach such a preposterous degree that they ultimately mirror the state media of our adversaries.

Take the CCP’s most recent crowning achievement, which consisted of convincing American media that calling COVID-19 the “Wuhan virus” is racist. In other words, the CCP has managed to convince Americans to obsess over the name of the virus, rather than Beijing’s inexcusable mishandling of it.

Never mind that the naming of the virus follows the standard geographical tagging of most major viruses that have emerged in the last two decades, like MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), Ebola, or Zika. This convention hasn’t stopped media pundits and opportunistic politicians from sowing inordinate discord and piously lecturing those who dare to rebuff the CCP’s latest talking point.

What’s worse, such handwringing distracts from the real discussion about the responsibility of the CCP.  A recent study out of the University of Southampton found that if China had responded three weeks earlier to the virus, instead of working actively to cover it up, the number of COVID-19 infected could have been reduced by 95 percent and the global proliferation of the disease seriously thwarted.

Our society thankfully allows for the free exchange of information. But such freedom demands responsibility, which our outrage culture has gradually undermined. Instead of partaking in the responsible sharing of information, many immediately hit “share” or “retweet.” And in lieu of engaging with the substantive arguments of the opposition, many simply reduce the argument to some variation of an “-ism.”

This behavior makes our society exceedingly vulnerable to propaganda campaigns whose explicit mission is to create division. Put more simply, our enemies succeed when they get us to hate each other.

Russia knew this when they bought thousands of Facebook ads during the 2016 campaign designed to exacerbate election tensions and increase political polarization. Russia also knew it when they teamed up with environmental groups to generate anti-fracking material designed to disrupt U.S. energy initiatives and further sustain American dependency on Russian energy. In both scenarios, they exploited our political fractures and worked diligently to worsen them.

More recently, recall the level of hysteria that followed the death of Iranian terrorist Qasem Soleimani. The American media quickly sprang into action, portraying the man responsible for the death of nearly 600 U.S. soldiers as a mere “political” figure and bemoaning his death as an “assassination” of a “foreign official.” One New York Times writer even posted images of the terrorist reciting poetry.

The death of such an evil man should have been a moment of somber national unity, but with the temptation of political opportunism, it sadly was not. Instead, the president’s political opposition adopted the talking points of Iranian state media.

These misinformation campaigns will continue to reap rewards for our enemies in China, Russia and Iran unless we start acting more like Americans and less like partisans seeking to play a perpetual (and truthfully, tiresome) game of “gotcha!” Our adversaries’ tactics aren’t the haphazard machinations of some random trolls – these are well-planned operations with explicit and malevolent purposes. And through our political hatred, we are making their jobs exceedingly easy.

Coronavirus doesn’t discriminate between political parties. If there ever were a time to resist misinformation campaigns, now would be it. We all have an interest in confronting our current public health and economic challenges with clear heads and unified resolve. Better late than never.

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