A new phase of the epidemic begins with propaganda

Summary: We know we are in the last phase of the epidemic because the propaganda barrage begins as powerful forces work to exploit it for their political ends. Much depends on whether we choose to be gullible or skeptical.

“War is the health of the state.”
— Said by Randolph Bourne in his essay “The State” (1918).

USA vs China - Dreamstime-137840077
ID 137840077 © Olga Diachkova | Dreamstime.

In December, Harvard professor Niall Ferguson wrote a prescient NYT op-ed explaining that a Cold War has already begun with China. The US government has used COVID-19 to make that more likely. The LAT worries that “Coronavirus pandemic pushes U.S. and China closer to cold war.” Others are less optimistic: an op-ed at Defense News warns that SecDef Esper’s “Dark vision for US-China conflict makes war more likely.

Wars often begin with a barrage of propaganda. A Harris Poll reports success for the US government in this first phase (our government has not dealt well with COVID-19, but remains skilled at propaganda, its core competency): “The Coronavirus crisis is turning Americans in both parties against China.” See the poll results.

A story from a US government propaganda agency, Radio Free Asia, has been endlessly and uncritically repeated. It gives no sources, other than hand-waving and wild guessing, to claim that China has underreported the number of COVID-19 cases. What makes Americans such wonderful peons is that no matter how often the government lies to us, we always believe them (see the Big List of Lies).

The press plays a vital and supportive role in this campaign, as always. The Right has led the bombardment. Here are samples from the past week of them at work.

Blaming China and WHO Isn’t Scapegoating” by Rich Lowry at National Review. This is typical of an amateur with delusions of grandeur looking at the actions of experts with the benefit of hindsight. As the many timelines show (e.g., here), China and the WHO escalated their warnings as evidence accumulated, and did so fast compared to past epidemics. For example, see the CDC’s timeline of the US response to the 2009 H1N1 swine flu epidemic (remembering that the US spends ~8x per capita on health care). Unlike cocksure amateurs, responsible officials know that premature warnings have effects. Lowry and his peers would mock and condemn them, and demand punishment for the resulting costs (after all, they want Dr. Fauci fired for telling the truth).

Powerful Americans Were Catastrophically Wrong about China” by Jim Geraghty at National Review – Lots of lies about statements by China and Dr. Fauci. Geraghty interprets statements about what is known now as statements about conditions in the future and things discovered in the future. He confuses experts with mages in fantasy. I discuss this lie by conservatives about Fauci’s January 21 statement here.

An earlier article by Geraghty assembled a timeline focusing on China’s mistakes in the first few weeks of the epidemic. These timelines are commonplace after disasters, showing that the disasters were obvious in hindsight. But in the whirl of events, such things are commonplace. Geraghty also does not mention that the US government ignored WHO’s warnings in January and February, and began full mobilization in mid-March – an eight weeks delay. Between the lust for war and the need to defend Trump, blaming China is the easy path for the Right.

How to make China’s Communist Party pay for the COVID-19 pandemic” is an op-ed by Senator Tom Cotton (AR-R) on Fox News. The GOP will go to any lengths to turn attention from Team Trump’s errors. The Editors at the NY Post echoed his rant. I deconstruct these claims here.

Many of the Right’s articles about this are absurd. Such as “Republicans Demand Explanation after Reporter with Ties to China Questions POTUS at White House Briefing.” How dare they!

Our military lusts for war

War Is a Racket.
— Title of a book by Smedley D. Butler (Major General, USMC, deceased), one of America’s most decorated soldiers (1935).

Military journals overflow with articles excited about the prospect for war with China. My recent favorite is “Unleash the Privateers!” by Mark Cancian (COL, USMC, rtd.) and Brandon Schwartz (law student) in Proceedings – “The United States should issue letters of marque to fight Chinese aggression at sea.”If Chinese aggression was that obvious, international trade sanctions would hit China like a nuke. There would be no need to wreck the global economy by unleashing privateers, a scourage with nations spent centuries eliminating.

The US and China clashing - Dreamstime_113188035
ID 113188035 © Florin Seitan | Dreamstime.

Why war, hot or cold, is useful for our rulers

“War is one of the great agencies by which human progress is effected.”
— Opening of “The Benefits of War” by Stephen Luce (Rear Admiral, US Navy)North American Review, 1 December 1891. He founded the Naval War College and was its first president.

We were conned into war with Vietnam by the Tonkin Gulf incident (as LBJ said, “For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there.”). We were conned into war with Iraq (there were no WMDs). We were conned into war with Afghanistan (details here). Now our leaders repeat the play.

A Cold War now with China would serve many purposes. It would shift attention from the US government’s myriad failures to deal with COVID-19 (described here). More importantly, this is the goal of the defense community’s decade-long program to replace the Soviet Union with China as the master foe justifying our trillion-dollar per year military spending. They skillfully exploit the current epidemic of fear and misinformation about COVID-19 to further this goal.

But we, the American public, have two great powers. First, we have the ability to learn from experience and see through the current propaganda barrage. Second, we have the political machinery bequeathed us by the Founders. While idle, it requires only our energy to set it motion – and retake the reins of America.

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. Things that we had postponed for too long, that were long-term, are now immediate and must be dealt with. This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before.”
— Important words said by Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, to a conference of corporate chief executives (WSJ).

See how China sees America

  1. China introduces us to the future of warfare (asymmetric).
  2. The American Empire, as seen by a Major General of the PLA.
  3. A Chinese general judges America’s leadership of the world economy.
  4. A Chinese general sees a ruthless America striving to contain his nation’s growth.

For More Information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon. Also, see a powerful and disturbing story about “Birth of a Man of Steel …for the Soviet Union.

Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about China, and especially these…

Unrestricted Warfare
Available at Amazon.

The way of 21st C conflict

Unrestricted Warfare (1999).

By Qiao Liang (乔良) & Wang Xiangsui (王湘穗).

This is one of the key texts describing 4th generation warfare. Both were Colonels in the air force of the People’s Liberation Army. Quia Liang is now a Major General; see his articles above.

In this book, they describe the 1997 attack by western hedge funds on the currencies of Southeast Asia as an example of this new generation of warfare.

For more about this book see China introduces us to the future of warfare (asymmetric). Also see the Wikipedia entry about it.

14 thoughts on “A new phase of the epidemic begins with propaganda”

  1. Merton Headley

    Oh! What a web we weave…when we practice to deceive!!The hell of it is it all started before Washington became president!!!!

    1. Merton,

      “The hell of it is it all started before Washington became president!!!!”

      Life on earth has never been Heaven, so you will be disappointed if that’s your standard. But the modern era of propaganda in the US began with WWI but shifted into high gear during WWII. It was a wartime measure that, as these things often do, became permanent. After 1960 it become normalized.

      Arbitrarily, I date Ike’s lie about the U-2 downing as the transition point. It was not to fool the Soviets (who had the U-2 and its pilot) but to fool the American people. It was a transition point because Ike felt bad about it afterwards, and publicly said that it was a mistake. Since then our rulers lie routinely without regret. When caught, we inflict no penalty. Trump is the logical result. He sees no reason to tell the truth, and his followers don’t care that he so often lies.

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  4. The military-industrial complex loves a good cold war, because it justifies all those expensive contracts and hardware. And it’s best for them that it stays cold, so they can keep making bold predictions about enemy capability (to justify even bigger and more expensive contracts), without all the bad PR of actual deaths or nuclear holocaust.

    They’ve been desperately searching for a new one ever since the USSR dissolved. In the 90’s, we played up China. It even bled over into popular crankery, with everyone from televangelists to new age psychics saying that China was the Beast of “Revelation” or the “King of the Mongols” that Nostradamus predicted.

    It seemed like their wish for a new enemy was granted on Sep 11, 2001, but unfortunately for them, counterinsurgency is decidedly cheap and low-tech; you can’t really justify a new aircraft carrier or fighter program when your foes are militants with AK’s hiding in Afghan caves. They did manage to find a magic formula for keeping a war going forever, though; since there’s no draft, rationing, or any effects anyone on the home front can feel from America’s longest-running conflict, the public doesn’t really care. But still, the problem is that it doesn’t make Raytheon, Lockheed, or BAE the big bucks the way a near-peer cold war does.

    They’ve toyed with Iran, but no matter how much they scaremonger over nukes, it’s apparent to anyone that Iran isn’t even close to being a near-peer power with us.

    Some are still trying to bring Russia back as enemy #1, especially after its Ukraine land grabs and the Russiagate disaster…but again, California has a bigger GDP than the entire Russian Federation and our military budget is 10 times theirs. They have lots of nukes, but that’s about it.

    Now we seem to be coming back full circle and anointing China the new Cold War nemesis once again.

      1. I feel like the last fifty-odd years of American political history has been one long game of boundary-pushing. Our leaders lie a little more, get a little bolder each time…they see that we don’t react, and we still act like gullible rubes, and so the boundary keeps getting pushed further and further.

      2. Bob,

        I have known a few of the 1% and many of their senior executives. They are united in their belief that they are better fit to rule than the rest of us. This drift to autocracy (in some form) will not reverse unless we prove them wrong.

  5. You should find the following discussion of interest:

    Mark Blyth & David McCourt – Experts and the National Interest: The Curious Case of China and the US

    “Between 2016 and 2018, relations between the United States and China went from focusing on engagement to competition to something bordering on threat management. If you think that’s because of President Trump…you’re wrong. On this episode Mark talks China, foreign policy, and the role of experts with David McCourt, Associate Professor of Sociology at University of California, Davis. McCourt has studied the formation, evolution, and influence of the relatively small group of China ‘experts’ who guide China policy in the US and Europe. He and Mark talk about how this group operates, why their views change when they do, and what their inner workings can teach us about the future of US-China relations.”

    1. LT,

      Thank you for posting that. It looks interesting!

      “If you think that’s because of President Trump…you’re wrong.”

      That is a valuable observation. The reason it is so often said is more valuable. It’s a result of our tribal politics, which has become mindless blaming of everything on the “others.” No matter how absurd, the readers of each tribe’s media eagerly lap up their assigned truth like pigs do swill.

      It’s one of the things that makes Americans so easy to govern, a gift to our rulers. It’s one of the reasons our rulers believe them more fit than us to rule. They will continue to gain strength until we prove them wrong.

  6. For the West there are three constant factors in the back ground.

    The increasing inequality gap, in income, life chances, education the list goes one, does this dive widening political distance, pushing us to the edge of the bell curve, I would say so.
    Interest rates are near or at zero, so not much room monetary policy wise (globally), taxes are harder now every industry and individual is a global citizen, but they are rising while income is mainly flat.
    This is global and nationalism rising. I think we are moving steadily, through the types of cold to hot stages in war, trade wars – technology wars (IP, research into weapons, including Ai, robots, viruses(all of us no China dig there) – geo-political influence efforts – Capital Wars so far we have not been dumb enough to enter the hot war stage.

    Both side are guilty, China commissioned two more islands in the Philippines waters while covid19 was at it worst, don’t worry the West is probing, too.

    External enemies take away the need to deal with issues 1 and 2 and give us just 3 to worry about, seems to be working. This is why I would say the Anti-China propaganda is rising, and the anti-foreigner in China.

  7. Kummer: Voice of Asia “gives no sources, other than hand-waving and wild guessing, to claim that China has underreported the number of COVID-19 cases. ”

    NYTimes Headline: ‘China Raises Coronavirus Death Toll by 50% in Wuhan” 17 April, 2020

    Sometimes Larry Kummer can be such a self-righteous windbag! You don’t have to be a Pentagon MIC shill to object to obvious misinformation and deception from the Chi-Coms.

    1. Sara,

      Bad news for your delusions.

      ““The Chinese authorities have informed WHO that as cases have declined in China and the strain on the healthcare system has eased, a multisectoral team was established in late March 2020 to perform a comprehensive review of COVID-19 data in Wuhan, Hubei Province. Information from a variety of sources was reviewed, leading to duplicate cases being removed and missed cases added. Following this review, the total number of cases in Wuhan increased by 325 and the total number of deaths increased by 1290.”


      These are commonplace revisions in an epidemic, with more coming from the serological studies – which will reveal many more cases missed by clinical evidence and tests.

      The epidemic is still raging in NYC, and they have already begun the revisions.

      “NYC reports 12,199 deaths from coronavirus and more than 120,000 cases citywide”


      More NYC revisions will come after the epidemic has faded. That is how epidemics work.

      The really fun aspect of Sara’s comment is that increasing the number of cases in China makes their success at suppression even more impressive. But of course Sara doesn’t see that. Propaganda works!

      1. The article I cited wasn’t a clear about the revision to NYC numbers. Here is a better one.

        NYT: “N.Y.C. Death Toll Soars Past 10,000 in Revised Virus Count” – “The city has added more than 3,700 additional people who were presumed to have died of the coronavirus but had never tested positive.”

        Note the complex and often conflicting reporting systems. When this happens in the US, it is business as usual. When it happens in China, crazed conservatives growl about those untrustworthy yellow people.

        “The city and the state have at times differed in their counts of the dead in New York City. As of Monday, the state said that 7,349 had died of the virus in the city. City officials have complained that they are at the whim of the state, which has been slow to share the data it receives from hospitals and nursing homes. The state Health Department explained on its website that the discrepancy is caused by the city and state using “different data systems.””


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