Minorities are being forced into slave labor in China’s Xinjiang region, Buzzfeed has declared, backing up its claims with contextless Google Earth images. But these stories are sponsored by US government agencies.
Buzzfeed News’ latest deep-dive into alleged Chinese slave labor in Xinjiang points to “more than 100 new facilities” in the province – as seen on Google Earth – as proof that Beijing is “not only lock[ing] people up, but also forc[ing] them to work in dedicated factory buildings right on site.”
Published on Monday, the piece pins all manner of atrocities – kidnapping, forced labor, intense surveillance, cultural annihilation – on the Chinese government, while presenting precious little concrete evidence to support its claims outside the growing footprint of the alleged forced-labor camps. Women who have supposedly escaped or been discharged from these camps instead connect the dots, furnishing appalling details like scissors chained to workstations so prisoners couldn’t take them home and use them to hurt themselves or others.
Buzzfeed’s Cold War propaganda is sponsored by the Open Technology Fund, an information warfare operation funded by the US gov’t (via @USAGMgov & @RadioFreeAsia), which funnels resources to activists seeking regime change in countries targeted by Washington – especially China. pic.twitter.com/2q0vh0RsIG
Where did supposedly cash-strapped Buzzfeed get the funding to pore over “hundreds of satellite images” and interview dozens of choice defectors, who all share variations of the same story? Why, generous Uncle Sam, of course. As Grayzone journalist Max Blumenthal pointed out, the four-part series is sponsored by the Open Technology Fund, a spinoff of the US’ Radio Free Asia anti-communist propaganda network. Officially a non-profit, the taxpayer-funded, Washington-controlled OTF helps enable regime-change actors in adversary countries by supplying encryption and communication technology to dissidents who are often already receiving financial and other assistance from USAID or the National Endowment for Democracy.
Indeed, the OTF had devised a whole tech infrastructure to assist last year’s Hong Kong rioters in their media-friendly battle against the Evil Chinese™, including a $500,000 “emergency fund” for those coming under “digital attack” by the Chinese government, and a “cybersecurity incident response team.” Unfortunately for the would-be revolutionaries, a shakeup at the top of the OTF’s parent, the US Agency for Global Media, froze aid to the “pro-democracy movement,” leaving Washington’s darlings to fend for themselves with ‘only’ whatever cash they could finagle from the State Department (and the private sector, of course).
The US Agency for Global Media, formerly the Broadcasting Board of Governors, infamously received government permission to train its propaganda cannons on Americans back in 2013. And, as the latest salvo from Buzzfeed News attests, they’ve more than risen to the occasion. The general idea seems to be highlighting the growing footprint of factories in Xinjiang as ‘proof’ of a skyrocketing number of prisoners being held against their will in modern-day concentration camps, forced to work themselves to near-death for subsistence wages while memorizing communist propaganda. Such narratives are understandably horrifying to Western audiences.
But the slant of the outlets delivering those narratives is seldom called into question, even though the involvement of US intelligence agencies in producing this content should raise a forest of red flags about its authenticity. The AGM/BBG and its spawn – like Radio Free Asia and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – are not known for their close relationship with the truth, and where reality conflicts with America’s self-image, propping up that self-image always wins the day. Certainly, for a country that has laid waste to multiple majority-Muslim nations in the Middle East for decades to clutch its pearls about China’s treatment of its own Muslim minority is disingenuous at best.
Buzzfeed’s news arm is no stranger to sheep-dipping dodgy intelligence in quasi-reputable journalism. They were the first outlet to publish the notorious Steele dossier that claimed President Donald Trump had paid Russian prostitutes to urinate on a bed used by his predecessor Barack Obama, for example – a tale that has since been thoroughly discredited as the lurid imaginings of a drunk fabulist but which remains at the heart of Russiagate cult dogma.
With the incoming Biden administration being alternately slammed and praised for its favorable disposition toward China, it’s no surprise anti-Beijing propaganda is being pumped up to head off any potential olive-branches between the two countries. After all, one can’t repress one’s own citizens very well without a foreign enemy to blame for their suffering. Sure, the US already has the twin specters of Muslim terrorists and Russian hackers, but Chinese communists add that extra something – especially after the Trump administration expended so much effort to blame the Covid-19 pandemic on Beijing.
That said, the US propaganda apparatus is unlikely to run into any difficulties with the Biden administration when it comes to demonizing foreign “enemies.” Biden’s pick for head of USAGM is Richard Stengel, who has spoken out against the First Amendment and its guarantees of free speech by framing such freedoms as a “design flaw” requiring “new guardrails.” Stengel strongly believes in governments deploying propaganda against their own citizens, and as a former Time magazine editor and MSNBC contributor, he has contributed in no small way to such propagandizing.
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