Falun Gong Media Spreads Fake News About Democrats and Chinese Communists US news
U.S. news outlets allied with Falun Gong, a religious movement caught in a decades-long conflict with the Chinese state, are increasingly successful in spreading conspiracy narratives about Democrats, electoral fraud, and communists on the right side of Trump in America.
Experts say that in a future post-pandemic landscape, cable news broadcaster NTD, and multimedia company Epoch Times in particular, could step up efforts by Republicans to join Joe Biden and the Democrats with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and harden public opinion against US public opinion China.
According to Angelo Carusone, president and CEO of media watchdog Media Matters for America, this media, and the Epoch Times in particular, has always been critical of China and somewhat right-wing, but was not generally seen as problematic during the 2016 election, spreading falsehoods via social media platforms like Facebook.
But on a phone conversation, Carusone said that from 2017 the Epoch Times switched heavily to material that fueled conspiracy narratives and began to circulate freely to ensure their message was prominent on platforms like YouTube.
“After social media sites moved against the fake news agencies, a loophole has arisen,” said Carusone. “What The Epoch Times did so well was stepping right into that void.” And, he says, they’ve secured their niche by giving money to big technology platforms.
After the Epoch Times spent around $ 11 million on Facebook advertising in 2019, the platform banned them from advertising on the grounds that they violated the transparency rules in political advertising. But the outlet just moved its business elsewhere: according to data from Pathmatics, analyzed by Media Matters
For the year to date, the Epoch Times has spent an estimated $ 930,000 on digital advertising for video and desktop display ads. Over 95% of their spending was on YouTube.
Through 2020 and into the early years of the Biden administration, the Epoch Times and NTD alike promoted conspiracy theories related to the QAnon movement, Hunter Biden’s allegedly compromising international affiliations, and even sold merchandise outlining half-forgotten conspiracy theories such as “Uranium One” “, According to which Hillary Clinton, as US Secretary of State, staged the sale of uranium deposits to Russian interests in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation.
While US right-wing media outlets like One America News and Newsmax have benefited from serving the right-wing’s seemingly limitless appetite for material that portrays American politics as a tangle of elite conspiracies, Carusone says it is a mistake, the fold Gong-oriented media than normal media companies.
The main goal of the Epoch Times – which is now published in 36 countries under the supervision of a network of non-profit organizations – is not to make a profit, but rather a long and broad “influence operation”. In turn, the aim of this influence is to “stir up anti-CCP sentiments.”
Taking advantage of the deep partisan polarization in US politics and leveraging a long tradition of anti-communism on the American right, Carusone said, the media has tried to connect Biden and the Democratic Party with radical left movements like the Antifa and then to publish “anything that they associate with the influence of the CCP” is so inauthentic.
He envisions the possibility that Republicans will work with this media – which has also spread significant amounts of disinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic – to ask, “What will Joe Biden do to cause China’s coronavirus?”
While there is no evidence of direct collaboration, they have already shown a willingness to repeat anti-Chinese messages with the likes of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and Chinese billionaire exiled Guo Wengui, also known as Miles Kwok, of Bannon’s activities has financed consulting contracts and donations.
Steve Bannon and Guo Wengui (aka Miles Kwok) appear at a press conference in New York in 2018. Photo: Carlo Allegri / Reuters
Back in January 2020, Bannon and Kwok attempted to spread a narrative claiming the pandemic was caused by a Chinese bio-weapon, both on Bannon’s radio program and on their joint media company, G News. The Epoch Times followed suit in April with a documentary reiterating the bioweapons claims and taking further opportunities to make unfounded claims that China’s government deliberately started the pandemic.
Such an opportunistic overhaul of existing conspiracy narratives is characteristic of these outlets, according to Carusone. “They are not drivers, they are not weaving new conspiracy theories, they are reinforcing what is already out there,” he said.
These efforts seem increasingly well endowed. Although the financial arrangements of the Epoch Times’ many nonprofits vary, the original Epoch Times Association Inc., based in New York City, saw a sharp increase in revenue and donations every year between 2016 and 2019, according to Guardian-controlled IRS 990 statements. While the association had revenues of 3.9 million in 2016.
Neither of the two outlets has ever specifically confirmed their ties to Falun Gong, a religious organization that emerged from the so-called “Qijong” movement that teaches its followers breathing, movement and meditation exercises. But former employees allegedly say that they are led by supporters of the movement and that Falun Gong founder and leader Li Hongzhi and others in the hierarchy of the movement are heavily influencing anti-China media messages.
In addition to the English-language channels, Chinese-language channels and a dance group spread the group’s messages.
Although Falun Gong originated in China in the 1990s, its founder now lives in the United States.
The Epoch Times, which began as a print newspaper in 2000, is a staunch opponent of the CCP, which has persecuted Falun Gong and other related Qijong movement groups since the late 1990s.
The newspaper was founded in Georgia by a Sino-American Falun Gong practitioner, John Tang, and a group of like-minded business people. Over the next half decade, it expanded internationally.
Carusone says the intensification of conspiracy messages in NTD and Epoch Times publications, along with their adoption of Trumpism, could make them more influential as the far right reforms in the coming months and heads for the 2022 midterm elections.
“There’s an incredible demand for a version of the world that focuses on a big bad guy.” he said. “The Epoch Times offers this very simple narrative.”