The coronavirus propaganda war

If any facts have actually been established they are that the CV originated in Wuhan, China and that the Chinese authorities suppressed all information about its existence and its pandemic potential until eventually it had spread across the world. Another fact I will add is that the Chinese government is a totalitarian state in which all media is controlled. One should also bear in mind China’s social credit system if you are thinking about the way things are done in the People’s Republic. This is from The Age: The war within the war over coronavirus.

Five weeks into the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, the World Health Organisation’s director general paid a visit to Beijing to understand the situation in China.

At the conclusion of Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ January 29 meeting with Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People, the Chinese government issued a statement.

“Hailing the high speed and massive scale of China’s moves […] rarely seen in the world, Tedros said it showed China’s efficiency and the advantages of China’s system,” the statement said. “The experience of China is worth learning for other countries…”

The endorsement of “China’s system” was incongruous: the Chinese Communist Party initially sought to hide the outbreak in Wuhan and punish the doctors who tried to raise the alarm.

By the time China’s government admitted the outbreak was happening, it had gone global. Now governments worldwide are on a “war” footing to contain the pandemic that has infected half a million people worldwide, killed more than 23,000 and threatens to destroy economies from the inside.

That is exactly how I understand what happened. The rest of the article is about how China and the US have engaged in a battle to determine who is at fault. As noted in the article:

Beijing has dialled up the volume and variety of messaging on coronavirus through diplomatic channels, state media and social media for weeks, to deflect blame for the outbreak and to try to position itself in the world’s eyes as the competent, generous problem-solver.

A quite interesting article from end to end with this as the conclusion:

Should China succeed in the global propaganda war around coronavirus, as it appears to be attempting, the CCP will have achieved a revision of history in real-time on the screens of social media users everywhere.

But this would be ironic, because as Bandurski says: “we cannot, or should not, forget the fact that the Chinese Communist Party’s obsession with perception over truth was actually how the saga of this global pandemic began.”

An obsession with the perception of truth is the farthest thing in the world from an obsession with actually knowing the truth. News media that present the Chinese side and slag Donald Trump’s efforts in America are no friends of our democratic and open way of life.

The difference between propaganda and education

Harold Lasswell explaining the difference between propaganda and education in 1935:

The spread of controversial attitudes is propaganda; the spread of acceptable attitudes is skills education. It is proper to speak of Communism as propaganda in Chicago and as education in Moscow.*

Today, of course, we could define propaganda and education in exactly the same way but the examples would be reversed.

*Harold D. Lasswell. 1935. “The Person, Subject and Object of Propaganda.” Annals of the American Academy of Political Science, vol 179: 189. Quoted in Wolfgang Schivelbusch. 2006. Three New Deals. New York: Picador, 74.