General view of Wuhan Institute of Virology. /Wuhan Institute of Virology
Max Blumenthal, an award-winning journalist and founder of the Grayzone, told Global Times that the conspiracy theory of COVID-19 escaping from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology, is the Trump administration's Iraqi WMD (weapon of mass destruction) and the unpacking of misinformation is blocking the American public from learning the truth about the epidemic and China's efforts to contain it.
The Grayzone published a story days ago busting the Chinese lab coronavirus conspiracy theory and revealed that the Trump administration, right-wing media outlets as well as NGOs and think tanks are together pushing the anti-China agenda. The website is a U.S.-based independent news outlet, and aside from the COVID-19 coverage, it also released many reports related to Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in recent months.
The Wuhan lab conspiracy first appeared in the Washington Post on April 14 in the opinion section. Though the columnist himself admits there is no evidence to prove that COVID-19 escaped from the Wuhan lab, the piece gets shared widely by Democrats and Republicans.
Then Fox News on the following day quoted U.S. sources as saying officially that they believe the virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. And the TV network invited Tom Cotton, one of the most extreme pro-war senators, who said "China is responsible for every death," "China has to be punished," and "China has to be sanctioned."
The Grayzone reported that the State Department was behind this, leaking cables from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing to reporters and distorting them, claiming that there were safety issues at the lab.
"You can see very clearly that the State Department leaks information to the media. The media spins the story and presents it to the public. Then, politicians issue calls for new policies of militarism and extreme hostility to China," Blumenthal told Global Times.
However, regarding the real source of COVID-19, a team of American, British, and Australian researchers concluded in a March 17 article published in the scientific journal Nature, that "we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible…. Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.”
A group of 27 public health scientists from eight countries signed an open letter in February in support of the scientists, public health professionals and medical professionals of China combating COVID-19 that strongly condemned conspiracy theories. They claimed that scientists from multiple countries have concluded that "this coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging pathogens.”
"We are unfortunately in a kind of information war where the truth doesn't matter. The American people are not going to be exposed to the truth," Blumenthal said.
He believes that by planting fake news about China and COVID-19 through anonymous U.S. officials and dodgy document dumps, the White House is shifting blame, hoping that an escalated conflict abroad will paper over its failures at home.
However, a deeper reason behind the practice is more revealing.
The founder of The Grayzone explained to Global Times that the reason why there has been increasingly negative coverage of China recently and more Americans all of a sudden have started to show interest in China's human rights, especially the conflict in Xinjiang, is that the U.S. government is campaigning to turn up the new Cold War and to advance Donald Trump's national security doctrine introduced in 2018, which declared that the U.S. was moving from the war on terror into great power competition with China and Russia.
He told Global Times that compared to last year, Americans view China in incredibly negative terms. And Americans now are being "dragged into greater hostility with other nations."
"I think 70 percent of Americans see China as the greatest threat to the U.S. Last year, it was lower than 50 percent. Propaganda works," Blumenthal said.
"I understand what's happening in my country and how dangerous this propaganda is and how dangerous a new Cold War will be to the U.S. "The only way out of the epidemic is through cooperation, because, unfortunately, we live in a globalized world where we're all interdependent. And, I don't think the U.S. actually has the ability to completely cut itself from a powerful country like China. It's just impossible."
The Grayzone was founded in 2015 and discusses sensitive topics regarding U.S. foreign policy, which Blumenthal believes is leading the U.S. to war. As criticizing China has become politically correct in the U.S., Blumenthal and other writers of the website are facing increasing insults and heavy criticism.
"But one thing that people cannot do to us is accuse us of factual inaccuracies or debate us. We've extended the opportunity for some of our critics to debate us and they usually say no."