EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of several articles regarding the subversion of the United States Democracy by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In the coming weeks, Hark Herald Press will reveal the fruit of months of research. We anticipate well over a dozen articles on a decades-long effort by the CCP to destabilize the government and society of the United States over what appears to be a grievance going back almost 200 years. The disinformation put out by the CCP is so vast that we believe our reporting barely covers the extent of their efforts.
By Heidi Siegmund Cuda
Nothing is true, and everything is possible.
That phrase from author Peter Pomerantsev’s book on Russia’s boom years depicts the chronic state of perception mind-bending the West finds itself battling. A mind virus malaise of disinformation campaigns is ongoing and strategic.
“It’s a long game that the Russians do well, and the Chinese do it better than anybody,” said former FBI agent Peter Strzok.
An examination of The Epoch Times echoed both Pomerantsev’s and Strzok’s prescient insights. And while the Russians may possess high-tech chutzpah, the Chinese have infinitely more cash.
“The number one strength and the number one weakness of Americans are the same: Americans are very very good-natured, we don’t see the bad things in other people. But I came from a part of a world where nothing is too far,” a Chinese-American political influencer-turned-propaganda watchdog told Hark Herald Press. He wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. The influencer began studying The Epoch Times a decade ago and believes it to be a controlled opposition.
He said The Epoch Times propaganda machine follows Bolshevik-style disinformation campaigns, which rely on two critical elements: controlled opposition, where a protest movement is actually being controlled by government agents. The second element, he says, are the “useful idiots,” who do the bidding of the movement.
He said the pro-Trumpian, conspiracy ridden, rumor-mongering newspaper touts itself as the premier force against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Its alleged affiliation with Falun Gong, a spiritual movement which claims to be virulently anti-Communist, would seem to be a perfect match. He said they use content farms and prison labor to get clicks and increase their reach. The Epoch Times has denied using content farms or illegal means to boost its viewership.
“Many people view The Epoch Times as a Chinese cult that went astray publishing some weird newspapers, to some far right extremists. That’s the facade,” the political influencer said. “Really, behind it is a very patient, carefully planned geo-political campaign. It’s important to look at The Epoch Times not as a single entity but part of a bigger chess game.
“The Epoch Times is not the spear itself, it’s the spearhead punched into the United States, punched into Western democracy. And to understand that we need to see the whole spear, and the hands holding the spear.”
The newspaper started two decades ago, in the home of a Falun Gong member, and its initial focus appeared to be to expose the Chinese government’s persecution of Falun Gong devotees. Largely run by volunteers, the newspaper expanded its reach, and by 2018, The Epoch Times started showing up uninvited on doorsteps and porches. Propaganda posing as news flooded YouTube with bizarre pro-Trumpian screeds, and long since vacant sidewalk box vending machines were repurposed to offer the newspaper. A longtime employee of conservative billionaire Robert Mercer’s hedge fund Renaissance Technologies gave Epoch Media Group nearly a million dollars between 2012 and 2016.
In 2019, The Epoch Times was banned from Facebook for evading transparency requirements, after spending $9 million dollars to push Trump and QAnonesque fringe theories. According to Facebook, that amount is about 100 times what the Russian troll farm spent to sway the 2016 election. The social media giant accused The Epoch Times parent group of using dozens of artificially generated faces to spread pro-Trump and anti-CCP messages from operation sites in both America and Vietnam, which the media group denies.
Although much of The Epoch Times content is mundane, among some core themes the newspaper promotes are blaming the CCP for creating COVID as a bioweapon; bullhorning a sky-is-falling view of socialism; creating hysteria over election fraud in the 2020 election, prior to the election; and casting shade on the Black Lives Matter movement. After being blocked from advertising on Facebook, The Epoch Times shifted to YouTube, employing a preppy-looking spokesman to recite pro-Trumpian and conspiracy-fueled tropes. In February, The Epoch Times announced YouTube had demonetized its channel.
“So we know Trump was defeated, but these people are devious,” said the propaganda watchdog. “They built a vast network and inside this network, there are many disinformation agents… They can work with QAnons, far right extreme terrorists in this country… I don’t see America is preparing for this nightmarish scenario.”
Human rights lawyer and activist, Dr. Biao Teng, used to be a frequent guest in The Epoch Times media, including its TV counterpart, New Tang Dynasty. In 2007, he represented members of Falun Gong who had been persecuted in China and became a folk hero among the followers.
“I suddenly realized they have gone too far,” Teng told Hark Herald Press. “When they saw the presidential election was close, they had too many rumors, conspiracy theories. They supported Donald Trump, and they had gone too far. So I decided not to take their interviews anymore.
“From the beginning, I knew their media which includes TV, radio, and newspapers was not professional. They were mixing facts and opinions from the beginning. They never had a professional team of journalists.”
Dr. Teng has been documenting the rise of the far-right extremism in the Chinese diaspora and says it mirrors Trump’s and evangelical Christians’ vision of an anti-immigrant, anti-liberal, anti-gay, homogenous society.
“Many of them think that Americans and freedom and constitutional democracy is always the best and much better than any other democratic countries and they are reluctant to acknowledge things like structural racism and the dark side of American history,” he said. “Together, with racism and social Darwinism, they think American civilization is primarily white Anglo Saxon evangelical Christians –Trump’s vision. They worry about the decreasing percentage of white population because they think that will endanger American civilization.
“Even the Chinese intellectuals embrace white supremacism and are anti-migrant. That’s why when Donald Trump announced his political attitude, and the policies are so anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT, anti-migrants, the concept of a minimal state, so Chinese intellectuals agree with the idea of small government, and in their opinion the Republican party is the party of small government. So that is the background of why they support Donald Trump and the Republican party so much.”
He says The Epoch Times feeds all these tropes.
“Part of the problem is they have alternative facts, they are misinformed, and even if what I say is true, they still don’t care,” he said. “They don’t care about facts. They are in an information cocoon. ”
We reached out to The Epoch Times with a series of questions for this article, but as of press time, we have not received a response. The Epoch Times previously issued statements to the media rejecting any official affiliation with Falun Gong and claiming it is independent and nonpartisan.
Despite lacing its content with anti-CCP rhetoric, the political influencer notes The Epoch Times is effusive in its praise of Xi Jinping, the president of China.
“The communists have very different factions,” he said. “Picture the ‘Godfather’, when all the mob meets up and creates a united front, but inside of them there is a lot of infighting. So the Falun Gong is constantly looking for the Corleone they can work with.
“It’s all about power. They have no left or right. Whatever they say about left and right is just rhetoric, they will do whatever they can to obtain and maintain power. That is the only goal.”
He says The Epoch Times is using a technique called meta narrative framing, as perfected by the FSB. The top themes: Democrats are communists, and the Western media is fake–mere stooges of the communists.
“Interestingly, the Russian FSB meta narrative frame has a tremendously interesting overlap with what The Epoch Times columnists have been promoting since 2009,” he said. “So let’s look at the tenet of U.S. intelligence expert, Malcolm Nance, who says, ‘coincidence needs arrangement.’”
“They position themselves as the number one anti-CCP media,” the political infleuncer said. “That is very peculiar. That tells me all I need to know.”
Our source says one theory he’s working on dates back to 2013, when Putin and Xi Jinping strengthened the Sino-Russian strategic alliance.
“China paid Russia a price for Russian oil several times the price it was worth,” he said. “So many people said Xi must be very stupid. What else did China buy from Russia? One thing I know very very well, the CCP would never stop short of anything to pay for the techniques to keep them in power. If I could hire a bunch of Russian consultants to teach me how to operate content farms, disinformation warfare, that would be well worth it.”
He said America and all Western nations need to see the meta narrative framing for what it really is: war.
“I believe they are digging in and the battle is far from over,” he said. “They are far from defeated. They are digging in, waiting for the next opportunity to strike. If it’s not in 2020, it’ll be in 2022, and 2024, if not in 2024, it’ll be in 2026, 2028. We should expect The Epoch Times to intensify its outreach to right-wing militia groups.”
He says his motivation for talking to me was born out of love of country, and because he believes in the value and permanence of truth.
“I left China to come to the United States, and I found a home,” he said. “If this country is brought down, I have no place to go.”
Author Heidi Siegmund Cuda is an Emmy award-winning investigative reporter, filmmaker, and pro-democracy truth activist.
OPPRESSED PEOPLE ARE EVERYBODY’S PROBLEM: Below are additional quotes of interest on why the Uygers plight is a global crisis; how YouTube may be gamed by disinformation proponents; and the right wing evolution of Chinese intellectualism. All quotes are from Chinese-American sources.–hsc
“Uygers are put into concentration camps, and we should not think of them in isolation. We should think that these Uygers are put through these labor camps, and the Chinese government extracted a lot of wealth by abusing these people and guess where that money is going to flow into? It’ll flow into the FSB, the QAnon, the chaos in the United States, to do what? To bring the United States down.
“So these oppressed people are all connected to the disinformation warfare one way or another. None of this is isolated.”
A SMART TRICK:
“There are questions about YouTube. What we are hearing in the activist underground is they can actually use American money to pay for disinformation campaigns. So let’s say I become a YouTuber for ET, then someone in China working with the prison system, which is 100 percent controlled by the communists, and their job is to open up the YouTube link and play it and finish it. So they can either go to excruciating prison labor or go to a room and play videos all day and fulfill their work quota that way. What do you think they’re going to do? So they can get thousands of people to play these disinformation videos. In turn, the YouTube algorithm will be tricked to think these videos are very popular so they started prioritizing and pushing them. So engagement goes way up. So these YouTubers are paid in American money to spread disinformation. If this is actually happening, it’s a very smart trick.”
“If these people are not a group of terrorists, I don’t know who are?”
“In Chinese circles, many intellectuals once identified or continue to identify themselves as liberals have long since moved away from liberalism to market omnipotence with a far-fetched version of small government fetish, in which a pure, all-powerful ‘free market’ is the ruling God, and any form of social welfare is viewed as cardinal sins.”-Dr. Biao Teng
CHINA’S MARKET LENINISM:
“China’s entrance into the WTO economic and subsequent participation in globalization brought both the economic takeoff, and ugly symptoms of ‘market totalitarian system’ or ‘market Leninism’: the runaway disparity between the rich and the poor, the destruction of the ecological environment, the rampant corruption, the violation of human rights, and the degradation of social morality.”-Dr. Biao Teng
ON ANTI-WELFARE NEOLIBERALISM:
“The voices of the social democratic, constitutional left, and liberal left have been misunderstood and suppressed, and have failed to develop a clear discourse and gain the collective recognition and social influence they deserve. Against the backdrop of the right-wing transformation of the party-state system, the most active forces in Chinese thought and opinion from 1992 to the present are, in fact, anti-welfare neoliberalism, anti-equality and anti-progressivism conservatism, and anti-constitutional statism and nationalism.”-Dr. Biao Teng