Weaponized COVID-19

The Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council and the Associated Press have released an extensive analysis of COVID-19 disinformation called “Weaponized: How rumors about COVID-19’s origins led to a narrative arms race“. They found that four major state actors were involved in spreading false information about the origins of the disease: Russia, China, Iran and the United States.

The report is worth reading in its entirety, and everyone is strongly recommended to do so. For those who want a taste, however, here are some of the key findings:

The first incident of the virus being described as a man-made bioweapon happened in China, shortly after it was discovered. The first known state-sponsored incident happened in Russia, in mid-January. Both of these sources accused the United States of secretly manufacturing the bioweapon, and neither of them gained much traction outside of very small communities. The first description of the virus as a bioweapon which garnered significant attention developed in the United Kingdom three days after the Russian effort, when the UK Daily Mail published a speculative editorial suggesting the origin might be from a Wuhan biological research lab.

This was the point when the accusations shifted from the domain of the devoted conspiracy theorist into the mainstream. Shortly afterward, two prominent state agents began pressing the falsehoods: Iranian leadership, which insisted that the virus was a targeted attack on their nation; and President Donald Trump, who tried to shift blame for his inept response to China.

This triggered a direct response from Chinese officials in which they directly accused the United States of creating the virus and disseminating it throughout their nation via operatives. They reached out to Russia, which aided China by using their established media disinformation and direction campaign to spread China’s message.

The scope of that message is not generally recognized inside the United States, but the belief seems now to be firmly established throughout the world that the US is responsible for COVID-19.

There are lessons to be learned and warnings to heed.

First, the assumption that American propaganda will be successful throughout the world is demonstrably false. This alone is a valid reason to focus on honest messaging and not lies; truth can typically be proven while falsehood can only be presented. Getting into a rhetorical war fueled purely by propaganda when your weapons are known to be ineffective, is a destructive and foolish act, and factors into the steady loss of American influence over the past half decade.

Second, pushing China and Russia into operating jointly is likely to have negative results for the United States in the future. These are aggressive powers with considerable resources, and we are best served to have them competing with each other.

Third, by attempting to use the outbreak as a political tool rather than facing it as a severe danger, bonds were broken which might have otherwise facilitated preventative or curative action. That decision, echoed in Brazil and Mexico and Russia, resulted in hundreds of thousands more deaths than were likely to have occurred and extended the window for potential mutations of the disease.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.