Peddling 'poison': Why Western media's China COVID coverage is like a cigarette ad
Straight Talk

Editor's note: Western media stories about China's COVID response often highlight ghoulish scenes but downplay the effectiveness of Beijing's policy. What kinds of sneaky tactics they use to achieve their goals? Andy Mok, a senior research fellow at the Center for China and Globalization, gave us some clues in this video. The views expressed in the video are his own and not necessarily those of CGTN. 

You might not realize it, but you're being poisoned daily by the Western media. It's those misleading stories about China and the COVID outbreak that are slowly infiltrating your mind and distorting your reality. 

It's funny but these media stories and cigarette ads have much in common. Both are designed to influence your behavior and persuade you to do something, like buying a certain brand of cigarettes that they know is bad for you. 

They both use sneaky tactics to achieve their goals. One tactic is presenting incomplete information. Cigarette ads might downplay the risks of smoking or exaggerate the benefits of their products. And Western media stories about China's COVID response often highlight ghoulish scenes but downplay the effectiveness of Beijing's policy. 

For example, this New York Times story is titled, "Tragic Battle: On the Front Lines of China's Covid Crisis - Medical staff are outnumbered and working sick as the nation's health care system buckles under the strain of a spiraling crisis." 

Instead of saying "outnumbered" and "working sick," a more objective way of describing the situation could be "some medical staff are overworked and some falling ill, during a period of high patient volume," which would convey the situation is challenging but not doomed. But the nefarious goal is to elicit fear, anger and disappointment towards China so neutrality and objectivity must be avoided. That's how they poison you without you ever realizing it.

Have you ever watched the TV show Mad Men? There's a character named Don Draper who is tasked with creating a campaign for Lucky Strike cigarettes. He comes up with a slogan "It's Toasted," which lets Lucky Strike stand apart by highlighting how its tobacco was toasted rather than sun-dried. The campaign is a success and helps Lucky Strike stay on top. 

But what's overlooked is that cigarettes, toasted or not, could kill you. And the Western media often shows the same indifference to the truth and the well-being of its consumers with its China coverage.

Have you heard of "poisoning the well?" It's a tactic that involves introducing negative information about someone to prejudice the audience against them. Doing so undermines the victim's argument before they even have a chance to present it.

Negative emotions play a big role here so the goal is to stir up negative sentiments in the audience. Here's an offensive example: On December 23, CNN's Selina Wang warned, "The burning can't go fast enough. The smoke behind me has been billowing constantly from all the bodies that are burning" as she gestures towards what she claims are stacks of dead bodies in body bags. The allusion to the Nazi burning of Jewish bodies at Auschwitz-Birkenau and Treblinka is appalling. 

Poisoning the well manipulates the emotions of the audience. It's often used in political campaigns and can be very damaging to the reputation of the person or group being targeted. Actually, when you combine "poisoning the well" with relentless repetition, it creates a Pavlovian hostility towards China, which contaminates the minds of many people worldwide. 

Remember Don Draper from Mad Men? He was a smooth operator, but immoral. He helped tobacco companies sell cigarettes without caring that they were deadly. 

And what about those journalists at CNN and New York Times, etc.? They're just like Don Draper, profiting from peddling poison and death. These are bad people and we shouldn't let them forget it. 

Video editor: Feng Ran 

Executive producers: Bi Jianlu, Zhang Peijin, Wang Xinyan

Chief editor: Li Shou'en

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