Biased Press Does China's Bidding on COVID-19

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On Wednesday, President Trump held another grim press conference to inform the public he was deploying wartime powers to fight the impending coronavirus threat. Several members of the White House press corps responded by squandering what little time available to them by lecturing the president about what they deem to be appropriate names for the virus.

“If we must have an absurd debate on whether it’s racist to refer to the ‘Chinese virus,’ fine, but is it too much to ask that purportedly objective reporters not take a side in that debate?” asked National Review editor Rich Lowry. “Judging from today’s press conference the answer is, ‘Yes, of course it’s too much to ask.’”

What’s particularly obnoxious about the press’s desire to force this debate is that it falls right in line with the Chinese government’s propaganda campaign. Earlier this week, China booted several members of the Western media out of the country for the sin of reporting on the extent of China’s outbreak and the Chinese government’s culpability in covering it up. This was in addition to the Chinese government’s decision in February to expel three Wall Street Journal reporters who were covering the coronavirus.

According to a foreign ministry spokesman, last month’s expulsions occurred because “the Chinese people do not welcome those media that speak racially discriminatory language and maliciously slander and attack China.” The Chinese government was claiming to be offended by a Journal opinion piece that referred to China as “the real sick man of Asia.”

A government that runs a thriving market in selling the organs of executed political prisoners is in no position to hide behind political correctness – but if we’ve learned anything in the last few decades, it’s never underestimate the American media’s willingness to run interference for China.

Last July, The New York Times ran an article headlined “A New Red Scare Is Reshaping Washington” that stopped just short of mocking those in Trump’s orbit who shared the president’s suspicions about China. “Once dismissed as xenophobes and fringe elements, the group’s members are finding their views increasingly embraced in President Trump’s Washington, where skepticism and mistrust of China have taken hold,” reported the Times.

How are these “xenophobes” and “fringe elements” looking now that the Times is reporting that China is hoarding the global supply of anti-viral masks, and that in order to do this, they are effectively nationalizing the facilities of American companies such as 3M?

For decades now, the media has played an outsize role in furthering an elite consensus that Communist China was harmless, so long as it supplied America with cheap goods. Columnists have long spread the myth that a country where the vast majority of the population is so impoverished they do things like save their excrement to use as fertilizer for fear of starving, is somehow besting the U.S. at challenges such as infrastructure and addressing global warming.

At one point, Tom Friedman wrote a column purporting to make the case for Chinese superiority because Americans complain about being groped by the TSA. Silly Americans and their complaints about wanting to travel without an agent of the state touching their genitals! (By the way, two TSA agents at JFK just tested positive for coronavirus.) By contrast, travel in China is now monitored and restricted by the country’s new “social credit” system.

Since it appears that the coronavirus – which likely arose and spread due to the unsanitary conditions codified into law by the government in Beijing – is about to plunge the Western world into a deep and damaging recession, it’s also worth recalling in 2012, The New York Times ran an op-ed encouraging young Americans dissatisfied with the recovery from 2008’s financial crisis to move to China.

The premise of the op-ed was laughable, but nothing can top a major newspaper publishing this sentence: “For my money, CCTV News English, a channel offered by China’s major state television broadcaster, is more fair and balanced than Fox News.” If respectable media outlets ever thought that Sean Hannity was somehow more dishonest than Communist propaganda … well, actually that explains a lot.

And, since 2011, the venerable Washington Post routinely comes delivered wrapped in a special advertising section called “China Watch.” It’s official, state-sanctioned Chinese propaganda that reports fake news.

The Post spent much of the last two years complaining that the Trump administration didn’t take Saudi Arabia’s murder of columnist Jamal Khashoggi seriously enough, even as it took blood money from a dictatorship with a thriving gulag. Democracy dies in Uighur detention camps.

There’s a long history of naming maladies after their place of origin, but outside of faculty lounges and a narrow spectrum of the commentariat, no one really cares about what name we give the current coronavirus. But whatever we call it, we do have a moral obligation to remind the world how the Chinese government’s lies to the World Health Organization and imprisoning of honorable doctors sounding the alarm endangered the lives of everyone on the planet, to say nothing of the oppression 1.4 billion Chinese lived under before this threat even arose.

Don’t take my word for it – listen to Chinese professor Xu Zhangrun, who is currently being investigated by Chinese authorities for his insistence on criticizing his government with essays like this one:

As I write these words I am forced to reflect on my own situation, one which also dramatically changed in 2018. Having raised my voice then I was punished for “speech crimes.” … Writing as I do herein, I can all too easily predict that I will be subjected to new punishments; indeed, this may well even be the last thing I write. But that is not up to me … Confronted by this Great Virus, as we all are, to me it seems as though a vast chasm has opened up in front of us and I feel compelled to speak out yet again. There is no refuge from this viral reality, and I cannot remain silent. To act in any other way would be to betray my nature … Yet people like me — feeble scholars — are useless; we can do nothing more than in our lamentation take up our pens and by writing, issue calls for decency and advance pleas for Justice … rage against this injustice; let your lives burn with a flame of decency; break through the stultifying darkness and welcome the dawn.

Maybe Zhangrun is just one feeble scholar, but if the American press forgot about their petty concerns for a moment and took up their pens to rage against the injustice, it might make a difference. And if we need a name, calling it the “Chinese Communist Party Virus” is a good place to start.  

Mark Hemingway is a writer in Alexandria, Va. You can follow him on twitter @heminator.

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