Voice
The fine line between propaganda and truth
By Anthony Moretti  ·  2021-04-19  ·   Source: NO.16 APRIL 22, 2021

President Joe Biden took office three months ago, talking about improving the diplomatic relationship between the United States and multiple nations, China among them. 

But so far, little has changed. In fact, the current relationship between Washington and Beijing might be worse than it was when Donald Trump was in the White House.

American and Chinese officials held a series of meetings in Anchorage, Alaska, in the middle of March. The various officials had barely settled into their seats before the Chinese delegation was on the receiving end of a rebuke from the American side about human rights, cyber attacks and economics, all of which Washington claimed were efforts by Beijing to undermine the world's "rules-based order." That rebuke, of course, met with a strong rebuff from the Chinese side.

Shortly after the diplomats returned to their home countries, the U.S. announced its latest human rights report. In it, China's actions in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region were defined as "genocide and crimes against humanity."

The report outlines various alleged examples of human rights violations by the Chinese authorities with one of Xinjiang being a hellscape for its residents. There is little in the report that can be considered new; the allegations against China seem to be a loosely stitched combination of sources, many of whom would appear to already be predisposed to disliking China.

At one point, the document states: "There were numerous reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. In many instances few or no details were available." Someone with an even rudimentary understanding of U.S. media norms knows

information presented without supporting evidence ought not pass muster. Claims, no matter how credible they might seem, need to be proven. However, the material contained in the U.S. State Department report was disseminated by one U.S. media agency after another with scant questioning of its veracity.

Sadly, this blind acceptance of U.S. authority by the profit-driven corporate media has had disastrous consequences in the past. As just one example, does anyone remember when the U.S. media quickly lent their support to former Secretary of State Colin Powell's assertions that Saddam Hussein was stashing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? That "truth" withstood the test of time, did it not? The war, the death, and the chaos that ensued­­—and none of it has provided Iraq any stability almost 20 years later­­­­—ought to have convinced American journalists to forever more demand verifiable evidence from official sources. Apparently not.

The timing of the U.S. State Department report's release about Xinjiang had the unintended effect of reminding the world of America's pitiful human rights record, which the American media did not acknowledge. The Black Lives Matter movement, calling attention to the horrific—and documented—history of police brutality against blacks, was again in the spotlight because the highly anticipated trial of a white Minneapolis, Minnesota, police officer charged with killing George Floyd, who was black, began in late March. In addition, the brutal murders of eight people, six of them women of Asian descent, were fresh in Americans' minds and prompted memories of the animus toward Chinese and others of Asian ancestry. Plus, a humanitarian disaster continues to play out along the U.S.-Mexico border with the most awful element of recent American policy about migrants seeking entry into the U.S. being the separation of children from their parents.

A human rights lecture from the United States feels rather empty at the moment.

It was not surprising, therefore, that China was not alone in recognizing the U.S. remains neck deep in its own human rights storm. Attempting to blunt such criticism, the U.S. secretary of state acknowledged America's failings in this area. He said America was prepared to tackle its problems in the open, yet another criticism of China that seemed unnecessary.

One interview after another and one story after another in recent days has come in from China about Xinjiang. Those storylines were quickly dismissed by one U.S. news organization and then the next one as propaganda.

Washington has crafted its own narrative, one universally accepted by American news organizations that believe they can tell the difference between propaganda and truth. There is a long history to suggest they cannot.

The author is an associate professor at the School of Informatics, Humanities and Social Sciences, at Robert Morris University, the United States. This article was first published on Cnfocus.com 

(Print Edition Title: Washington's Human Rights Report: A Self-Narrative for Self-Interest)   

Comments to yanwei@bjreview.com 

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