The Chinese Communist Party does not want to be held responsible as the source or for the spread of COVID-19, also rightfully known as the Wuhan virus. This is entirely unsurprising for an authoritarian regime that has long deployed propaganda and manipulation. What is surprising, and alarming for Americans, is that the U.S. publication The Atlantic would adopt China’s anti-American disinformation efforts.
Since the outbreak began in Wuhan in early January, Chinese officials have concealed information about the spread of the virus, silenced and punished Chinese doctors who tried to warn others, ordered the destruction of lab evidence, and claimed the virus originated in the United States.
Instead of investigating or writing about China’s propaganda machine working in real time as we watch the virus rapidly spread across the globe, journalists at The Atlantic are more interested in writing their own pro-China, anti-American virus hot takes. Here are the receipts.
Disputing the name “Wuhan virus” is China’s first big hurdle in distancing themselves from the virus. They would much prefer “coronavirus” or the scientific name “COVID-19,” despite the fact that scientists and doctors have a long-held practice of naming a new disease after a population or the site of its first major outbreak. So of course one of the easiest positions for The Atlantic to publish was: Wuhan = bad, COVID-19 = good, and for good measure, blame the name discrepancy on “conservatives” deploying “racist tropes.”
In a second article headlined “Why Trump Intentionally Misnames the Coronavirus,” the magazine charged that all disease naming was “xenophobic.” After the author, Atlantic writer Ben Zimmer, spends 1,000 words explaining the history of this practice, he admits the reason officials call it Wuhan virus “may be to combat Chinese Communist Party propaganda,” but claims Trump is only calling a “foreign virus” because he thinks anything foreign is bad.
President Trump labeling the novel coronavirus a "foreign virus" isn't a new strategy: When it comes to the popular naming of infectious diseases, xenophobia has long played a prominent role. @bgzimmer writes. https://t.co/gq26St9Q0v
— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) March 13, 2020
Atlantic Staff Writer David Frum also got creative with the renaming efforts.
Or Trump plague?
— David Frum (@davidfrum) March 9, 2020
China does not just want to hide their mishandling of the outbreak, but they want to blame the origin of the virus on the United States and paint themselves as heroes saving the rest of the world from the pandemic they started. China’s Communist Party-controlled newspaper, People’s Daily, attributed shipments of masks and other medical equipment to countries like Iran and Italy as their love and care for all people. The Washington Post reported that those shipments were not donations, but exports purchased by those countries.
Not to be deterred by facts, however, Atlantic Staff Writer Anne Applebaum upheld the lie that China was “sending aid” to Italy out of the goodness of their hearts.
In an article titled “The Coronavirus Called America’s Bluff,” Applebaum makes the case for why the Trump administration is just as bad as the Chinese Communist Party. Applebaum initially describes China’s failings in handling the virus, but then compares Trump to officials in Wuhan for being “concerned about the numbers—the optics of how a pandemic looks.”
She acknowledges China’s threats against it’s own doctors, but shifts blame away from the Chinese Communist Party because they did not instruct “anyone in the United States not to carry out testing.” She writes “many of those recounting China’s missteps have become just a little bit too smug.”
The Atlantic’s praise for a communist regime whose vile tactics have cost countless innocent lives is not just un-American, but disgusting. But what’s even more frightening is their willingness to aid in that regime’s propaganda and misdirection efforts.
Although it’s hard to imagine now, this is bigger than Wuhan virus and the growing pandemic. Authoritarian regimes like China are always seeking challenge the United States and the West. China is never going to stop using coercion to seek change that serves their interests. This was true before the Wuhan virus, and it will be after.
The Atlantic’s willingness to share an American enemy’s talking points aids the enemy, not Americans. The magazine whose founding motto states it is “of no party or clique” is now the enemy of the people.