As soon as COVID-19 appeared in Wuhan, China, it was a high possibility that the virus originated in one of the two high-security labs studying bat viruses in that city — the National Bio-Safety Laboratory and the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology was of particular concern. U.S. State Department cables in 2018 warned of extreme sloppiness at the lab. Although the lab’s research on bat coronaviruses was partially funded by the U.S. National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (of which Anthony Fauci is the director), the warnings went unaddressed.
Early in 2020, a paper by Chinese researchers at the South China University of Technology in Guangzhou said the virus “probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan” after a researcher was infected by a bat urinating on or biting the researcher. Of course, as soon as the outside world noticed, the paper was deep-sixed by the Chinese government.
A lab leak in China is also nothing new. Back in 2004, a SARS outbreak in China originated from a lab. Generally, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. As I wrote in early April 2020, “this is the same government that forces abortions, interns millions of Uyghurs, and packs warehouses in residential areas full of explosive chemicals. China’s government-run economy pollutes so much that a huge chunk of its farmland is toxic. The Chinese Communist Party is equally indifferent to human life, corrupt, dangerous, and sloppy.”
Yet China’s government, wanting to deflect from its likely ineptitude, spun lies about the origins of coronavirus. The Chinese Communist Party went on to blame a seafood market, the pangolin, and then the U.S. military. U.S. media immediately jumped aboard the seafood market claim, even though the Lancet medical journal shot down this explanation early on.
China then persecuted and jailed scientists and doctors who spoke out about the virus. China also ensured the rest of the world felt its pain — Xi Jinping, China’s president, shut down domestic travel but allowed huge numbers of persons to fly out of China.
The Media Echoes Chinese Propaganda
Immediately, U.S. corporatist media began, without evidence, to echo CCP propaganda — saying the virus leaking from a lab was a “conspiracy theory.” The Washington Post headline on the topic said, “Experts debunk fringe theory linking China’s coronavirus to weapons research.”
In other words, the corporate media falsely conflated the realistic lab leak theory — that a potentially tampered-with virus escaped a lab due to poor safety controls — with the possibility that China was conducting bio-weapon research at the lab. (There is a concern that China is researching bioweapons, but it is much more likely that the coronavirus was irresponsible scientific research gone awry.)
Slate also falsely conflated the lab leak theory with the bioweapon theory, then went one step further. “The rumors of a lab escape or a bioweapon stem from historical amnesia, a caricatured villain, and good old-fashioned racism,” wrote Slate. Of course, Chinese Communist officials also played the race card with absolutely no pushback from the corporatist media.
Reuters directly repeated Chinese propaganda. NPR conflated the lab leak theory with QAnon. Vox called the lab leak a “dangerous conspiracy theory.” NowThis said it was a ‘GOP conspiracy theory’. The Associated Press described the lab leak as a “falsehood.” Business Insider ran a story about how crazy conservatives were to believe in the lab leak possibility. “The far-right has now found its own virus conspiracy theory,” said CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria.
Often, corporatist media headlines on the topic dripped with rage or superiority. “Science clearly shows” went a Forbes headline. “Sorry, conspiracy theorists” ran ABC’s headline. “Anthony Fauci just crushed Donald Trump’s theory on the origins of the coronavirus,” went a CNN headline from May 2020.
The Daily Beast wrote that Bill Maher went on a “hysterical rant,” only because Maher questioned the lack of real investigation or reporting on the pandemic’s origins. Maher “pushes Bonkers Steve Bannon Wuhan Lab COVID Conspiracy,” read the headline.
In a sign of what was to come with the Hunter Biden laptop affair, Twitter banned the website ZeroHedge because the site posted about the coronavirus lab leak theory and included a document that contained the name of a Chinese official studying bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan lab. Of course, Twitter was alerted to ZeroHedge’s misdeeds by a now-fired BuzzFeed reporter made infamous for posting online about his pederasty fantasies. Unsurprisingly, the corporate media cheered the ZeroHedge ban.
A Chinese whistleblower and virologist, Li-Meng Yan, fled to the United States over her concern about the virus being man-made and leaking from a lab. Naturally, only Tucker Carlson gave her the time of day. “Tucker Carlson guest airs debunked conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was created in a lab,” raged the corporate media response.
Li-Meng Yan’s mother was later arrested in China for her daughter speaking out, which prompted a less-than sympathetic response in Newsweek. Other outlets ignored Li-Meng Yan’s amazing story altogether.
A Threat to National Security
But in the face of more evidence, the lab leak theory has gone from conspiracy theory to a probable explanation. We now know that at least three lab researchers showed up in Wuhan’s hospital in November 2019 with severe respiratory problems. Scientists have written how there is evidence the virus came from a lab and was engineered — for reckless research purposes — to be easily transmitted between humans (called “gain-of-function” research). Worse, it appears the U.S. government played a role in this research.
Anthony Fauci, who again played a role in this funding gone bad, has gone from saying the lab explanation is a conspiracy theory to acknowledging the possibility that the virus escaped from a lab. Also revealing is the fact that China continues to prohibit outside researchers from investigating the origins of the virus, which “stinks of a cover-up.”
What explains the corporatist media’s repeating of Chinese propaganda, without any evidence? New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman blames Trump. In other words, because Trump told the truth about the issue the media felt like it had to take the other side, which somehow, in Haberman’s mind, makes it Trump’s fault.
This is deranged. The media saw Trump as such a threat to their power and the globalist left that they took the opposite end of anything Trump said. Plus, China ostensibly causing the coronavirus pandemic only confirmed Trump’s overall message on China.
Criticizing Without Propagandizing Is Possible But Doesn’t Happen
Yet more appears to be at play. Corporatist media outlets could have criticized the president on a host of pandemic-related issues without directly echoing Chinese propaganda. And corporatist media repeating Chinese propaganda or failing to report on stories damaging to China is nothing new: “China’s PLA Navy is controlling coronavirus and aircraft carrier’s deployment proves it,” ran one CNN headline.
In 2013, Bloomberg killed a story about the massive and ill-gotten wealth of CCP officials, then fired the reporter and tried to silence the reporter’s wife. Throughout 2020, the corporatist media took China’s unbelievably low infection numbers at face value and used those numbers to attack America’s response. These are but a few examples.
The most likely reason is simple, infuriating, and terrifying. Vox is owned by NBC, which owns MSNBC, which is owned by Comcast. Comcast and NBC have extensive business ties to China. Thompson Reuters has sales and offices in China. ABC is owned by Walt Disney which has extensive ties to China. NowThis is owned by Discovery, which has business in China.
The Washington Post is owned by Amazon, which via Amazon Web Services has ties to China. CNN is owned by AT&T, which has business ties to China. The analysis isn’t as simple as examining a simple percent of company revenues, either. Because China sales are often growing faster, or are projected to grow faster, these parts of the business carry disproportionally more weight.
Anti-U.S. Media Endanger National Security
This situation — the corporatist media knowingly repeating Chinese propaganda — represents no less than a national security threat. The headlines above only scratch the surface of countless Twitter accounts, television hours, and newspaper articles bending the narrative created by only a handful of hugely powerful corporate monopolies.
Wikipedia even has a “COVID misinformation” page with the lab leak theory featured prominently. Worse, the corporatist media’s ties to China affect all other reporting — a reporter best not make himself un-hirable at a corporate media organization by standing too far from the crowd.
The damage is extensive. America lost an opportunity for national unity. Instead of a patriotic commitment to precautions against the virus, including mask-wearing, then a quick and full reopening to not let China win, America split down party and cultural lines.
Some Republicans incorrectly labeled the virus as not serious, while many Democrats turned the virus into a tool to bully conservatives, repress their political opponents, and reward their allies. Equally bad, America initially had less knowledge about the virus because of the cloud of Chinese propaganda — including the media’s unwillingness to question the World Health Organization’s China ties — and there are long-term effects of the virus we still can’t determine.
Obviously, the corporatist media are liars. But the time for complaining about the corporate media, and shooting down every one of their lies (an endless task) is over. The time for action has come.
What’s required is a law — pushed by the next Republican president — that bans corporate conglomerates from owning news media organizations, or bans corporations from owning news media if that company has revenue tied to China or other authoritarian states. The status quo is completely unacceptable. It risks ripping the nation in two while hamstringing America’s ability to respond to future crises.