U.S. obsession over WIV theory reveals post-truth culture
Updated 11:30, 28-May-2021
First Voice

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Following persistent speculation published in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) concerning the "lab leak" theory of COVID-19, U.S. President Joe Biden issued an executive order requiring intelligence agencies to stage a comprehensive review into how the novel coronavirus emerged, with the consideration of both a natural origin and the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

Washington's approach to COVID-19 is based on geopolitics and a preference for narrative, not a sincere inquest for facts or scientific truth. Subsequently it has long been the case that they cannot accept any outcome that does not place culpability or distrust upon China.

The Biden administration itself is not a keen proponent of the lab leak theory, which was adopted by the Trump presidency as a means of deflection from its disastrous handling of COVID-19 on its soil. But the White House has been forced to cater to it due to the additional constraints of domestic politics.

The compound of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. /VCG

The compound of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. /VCG

A Trumpian Lie

The Trump era in the United States is not defined exclusively by the influence of one man, but more about the political context which established him and continues, despite his growing personal irrelevance, to persist.

It is an era that has seen the U.S. political environment become increasingly polarized, distrustful and shaped by a divisive conflict of identity. Such grand-scale disillusionment has articulated a culture described as "post-truth politics" which consists of conspiracy theories, rejection of facts in preference to narrative and identity, and anti-science politics.

The WSJ article is a typical example.

All of these phenomena become the medium of domestic political battles in the United States across a plethora of issues, with each side pouring extreme distrust over the other and seeking to morally disgrace them.

It is in this fractured political environment that the WIV laboratory conspiracy theory emerged amongst supporters of Trump who sought to deflect the blame for deaths and job losses from the pandemic in the heat of an election year. The administration accordingly used it on two levels, first to reject culpability and then in an opportunistic way to force reset the U.S. policy on China and pursue an extremist approach.

Since the Trump administration has left office, the theory has evolved into a stick to hit the Biden administration with the dual goal of boxing the new presidency into maintaining tough policies on China, and discrediting them, thus establishing a "Trump was right all along" narrative to vindicate his legacy.

WHO experts stand outside the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, Hubei Province, central China, January 31, 2021. /CGTN

WHO experts stand outside the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, Hubei Province, central China, January 31, 2021. /CGTN

Circus goes on

There is no serious evidence for a lab theory. Clues show the virus was spotted in various places in the second half of 2019. That's before Wuhan reported its first case. The WSJ's connecting Chinese miners' death in 2012 to the COVID-19 virus that had not emerged until 2019 is ridiculous.

Biden's call for investigation within 90 days is pure political manipulation. The probe is more an attempt to navigate this troublesome domestic context and continue weaponizing the pandemic as a wedge issue in America's relations with China under the auspices of so-called transparency.

If Washington truly cares about transparency, it should follow China's lead to invite the WHO experts to the U.S., open Fort Detrick and bio-labs overseas, and disclose detailed data on the unexplained outbreaks of respiratory diseases in Virginia and Wisconsin in 2019.

The WHO's trip to Wuhan concluded that the lab leak is "extremely unlikely." The finding was reached following field trips and in-depth study of extensive data. Biden's probe will not establish anything new.

The U.S. is clear about it. But the speculation will continue irrespectively. Washington isn't interested in serious answers and never was.

The WIV theory will continue to be a troublesome political football in the U.S. and a hyper-partisan tit-for-tat. This is endemic in a country that has been engulfed in a climax of conspiracy, misinformation, and post-truth politics – a country unable to objectively come to terms with its own failures. If anything, this only serves to illustrate the instability, irrationality and erratic nature of contemporary American democracy.

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