U.S. rivals China, Russia, and Iran are exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to spread coinciding false propaganda narratives against the United States, including that the disease is an American bioweapon, the State Department reportedly warns in a new report.
The three governments are also reportedly using coronavirus disinformation to sow panic in the U.S.
On Tuesday, Politico reported:
The three governments are pushing a host of matching messages: that the novel coronavirus is an American bioweapon, that the U.S. is scoring political points off the crisis, that the virus didn’t come from China, that U.S. troops spread it, that America’s sanctions are killing Iranians, that China’s response was great while the U.S.’ was negligent, that all three governments are managing the crisis well, and that the U.S. economy can’t bear the toll of the virus.
The report, which is not public, was produced by the department’s Global Engagement Center — a fledgling office focused on the global information wars — and reviewed by POLITICO. It makes the case that propaganda and disinformation narratives from those country’s governments have converged as coronavirus has spread. And it says that while the three governments have pushed out the same messages in the past, the global pandemic has seen the convergence of their messaging accelerate.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also condemned the Beijing-influenced World Health Organization (W.H.O.), a United Nations component primarily financed by the United States, for mismanaging its early response to the viral outbreak and helping China hide the severity of it.
China’s Wuhan region is the birthplace of the coronavirus, now plaguing the world.
Both state-run media outlets and the governments themselves have reportedly been promoting lies about the coronavirus.
During the early stages of the viral outbreak, the coronavirus messaging coming out of China, Russia, and Iran “was fairly narrow,” the State report indicated, according to Politico. However, the report revealed by February, the disinformation campaign by the three countries began to converge.
“The report argues this came and accelerated as those governments have struggled to keep public opinion in their own countries on their side,” Politico noted.
Health officials detected the first case of the virus on November 17 in Wuhan, China.
In comments to Politico, Russia, Iran, and China, all denied spreading coronavirus disinformation.
Chinese Communist Party officials, however, have launched a sinister propaganda campaign to shift blame for the coronavirus to the United States, suggesting in an editorial published in the state-run Global Times in March that U.S. army research laboratory created the disease. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian posted on Twitter, a social medium Chinese citizens are not allowed to use, a similar claim that the U.S. Army manufactured the virus.
After speculating that the coronavirus is an American bioweapon, the Iranian government’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a U.S.-designated terrorist group, claimed the disease was created by “Zionists” who want to start a war with Iran.
U.S. State Department officials tasked with combating Russian disinformation have reportedly indicated that thousands of Kremlin-linked social media accounts are participating in a coordinated effort to promote unfounded conspiracy theories that the United States is behind the viral outbreak and spread new alarm about the disease.
The Russian disinformation campaign, which is reportedly disrupting global efforts to combat the virus, appears to be aimed at damaging the U.S. image around the world by seizing on health concerns.