'Greatest disinformation propagator' claims to treat disinformation
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security. /VCG
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security. /VCG
Editor's note: Yi Xin is a Beijing-based observer. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced the establishment of a "Disinformation Governance Board" to standardize the treatment of disinformation. But just three weeks after the announcement, this board was put on pause amid growing criticism. In a country where its former Secretary of State and ex-director of Central Intelligence Agency publicly said, "we lied, we cheated and we stole," it is hardly surprising that such an agency has not been met with much enthusiasm and fails to perform its intended function.
Among the critics, Republican Senator Rand Paul once openly bombarded this body in a Senate hearing, saying that "the U.S. government is the greatest propagator of disinformation in the history of the world."
Even during the 21-day lifespan of this board, the U.S. State Department issued a statement on its website, asserting that China routinely amplifies Kremlin propaganda, conspiracy theories and disinformation. Some U.S. politicians doubled down on false accusations against China in disregard of truth or facts.
In fact, out of the 246-year history of the U.S., there are only 16 years in which it was not involved in a war, and there seems to be no shortage of lying and cheating in those years.
Their "political shenanigans" are massive. They use word tricks: beautifying wars to a matter of national defense, killing civilians to "collateral damage," and torturing prisoners to "enhanced interrogation technique." They chant noble slogans of "freedom" and "democracy." There seem to be too many "oppressed people" across the world waiting to be freed, but they are too busy to take care of those who cannot breathe at home. They fabricated a hodgepodge of sensational "facts" based on sham "internal documents," so-called victims' statements and unverifiable information to deceive the international community.
Yet as Abraham Lincoln said, "you may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can't fool all of the people all the time." And let's take a closer look at how information becomes an infodemic in the U.S.
Disinformation production and dissemination has become a lucrative industry. Today, a number of professional dark public relations companies have emerged, giving birth to a whole industrial chain of disinformation production and dissemination. A study conducted by Computational Propaganda Research Project of Oxford University in 2021 revealed that companies engaged in this industry nearly doubled in 2020 compared with the previous year.
The New York Times reported that "disinformation for hire" has become a secretive industry and private firms are selling services once conducted principally by intelligence agencies. These companies often create sock puppet accounts, identify audience for micro-targeting, or use bot or other amplification strategies to serve their specific purposes.
A recent example in this regard is that Meta, previously known as Facebook, paid Targeted Victory, a major Republican consulting firm, to malign TikTok just because it is losing younger audience to TikTok.
As such, politicians and companies set up such an industrial chain. They post highly incendiary information online for "internet trolling" to push forward specific agendas. In a capitalist country where profits remain the primary interest, disinformation becomes a ready source of money.
Disinformation is always brandished as a handy instrument for maintaining global hegemony. Years ago, a test tube of "laundry detergent" was used as the excuse to invade Iraq; several staged videos and photos "justified" its war in Syria; in the disguise of "humanitarian intervention," U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization conducted a 78-day bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia without the UN's mandate.
As for emerging countries, China has always been a favorite target of the U.S. disinformation campaign. From the labels of "genocide" and "Wuhan virus," to the allegations of cyberattacks and "freedom of navigation" violation, mud-throwing has been a trick all too familiar.
The New York Times once reported a strike that happened in some parts of India as a strike that "has spared no corner of India" and exaggerated its negative impacts. This caused indignation among many Indian netizens who sneered, "cannot see a strike," and "guys stop goggling to write news, be on the ground to write news."
There have also been allegations of disinformation campaign against Western "democracies." On the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the U.S. blamed Russia for spreading fake news about the discovery of U.S. biological laboratories. And the world is still waiting for a convincing explanation. In a country that prides itself in its global hegemony, disinformation is easily concocted as ammunition to inflict sufferings on others.
Disinformation is used as a tool to manipulate domestic public opinions. Currently, economic difficulties and political polarization are fomenting trends of populism and anti-intellectualism across the U.S. society. Some right-wing elements take advantage of such trends to spread disinformation and fake news.
CNN once reported that Fox News published digitally altered and misleading images to depict peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters to dangerous riots, in a country which preaches "all men are created equal." About the Las Vegas shooting, the right-wing forum "4chan" described the murderer as an anti-Trump Democrat activist while left-wing social media accounts said the killer was a white supremacist and Trump supporter. How difficult it is for the general public to access plain facts in a country of political polarization!
Conspiracy theories are particularly detrimental during the pandemic. An FBI report reveals that over 3,000 of the total 7,759 hate crimes were against African and Asian Americans. Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumors, and prejudice. At the end of the day, it is the American people that bear the brunt of such infodemic.
In a polarized country where problems of hatred, discrimination and xenophobia are already a social headache, disinformation further tears the country apart and deteriorates government's credibility among its people.
Fair-minded people can tell right from wrong. Lies will be exposed and the truth will come out. Conspiracy is bound to fail. So why not save some energy and stop being judgmental?
(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at email@example.com. Follow @thouse_opinions on Twitter to discover the latest commentaries on CGTN Opinion Section.)