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Coronavirus – right-wing media reactions and conspiracy theories

A guide to right-wing media reactions and conspiracy theories surrounding coronavirus, MEDIA MATTERS BY KAYLA GOGARTY & COURTNEY HAGLE  RESEARCH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM NOOR AL-SIBAIALEX KAPLANNIKKI MCCANN RAMIREZ & MADELINE PELTZ 02/28/20

  • As the lethal outbreak of coronavirus continues to spread around the world and the U.S. government warns that it will almost certainly also spread within the United States, right-wing media outlets and online accounts are spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories which could have deadly consequences.

    The strain of novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 is a respiratory disease that was first detected in the city of Wuhan, China. It swiftly spread and has now been detected in 53 countries, including the United States. So far, the outbreak has led to nearly 3,000 deaths and more than 82,000 cases worldwide, according to The New York Times.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes the disease behind the current outbreak as part of “a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.” The CDC adds that “rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people.” Earlier patients in the COVID-19 outbreak appeared to have a link to seafood and animal products, but the virus has since been shown to spread person-to-person.

    On January 30, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern,” and on January 31, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency in the United States.

    As the impact of coronavirus continued to be reported, concerns began to arise that it was driving xenophobic attacks toward people of Asian descent. In New York City, a man assaulted a woman wearing a face mask while calling her a “diseased b****.” On a Los Angeles subway, one man declared that “every disease has ever came from China.” In another incident, a Costco worker in Washington state told an 8-year-old child to “get away” because she believed he may be “from China.” Across the country, there has been an uptick in physical and verbal attacks toward Asian Americans.

    In addition to xenophobic sentiments, conspiracy theories and agenda-driven narratives began to arise on the internet and throughout right-wing media, adding more panic and confusion to an already chaotic situation. These conspiracy theories include claims that the Chinese government created coronavirus at a lab in Wuhan; that the United States is using the virus to attack and undermine China from within; and that coronavirus was previously created and patented by former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates.

    The virus has also triggered anti-Semitic sentiments, medical and scientific disinformation, and fearmongering from the religious right about the end of the world. In the United States, President Donald Trump and his allies in right-wing media have also absurdly argued that Democrats and the media are politicizing coronavirus for their own gain to make him look bad and cause panic in the stock market, which has plunged in reaction to the potential pandemic.

  • Conspiracy theory: COVID-19 was created in a Chinese lab

  • One of the most prominent conspiracy theories circulating within right-wing media is centered on the thinly sourced fringe theory that coronavirus was leaked after the Chinese government manufactured it in a lab in Wuhan. Many supporters of the conspiracy theory cite a January 24 study published by The Lancet, which showed that some of the first few patients who contracted this disease were not exposed to a seafood market in Wuhan. This finding contradicted the initial theory about the spread of COVID-19. But the study also did not offer any alternative explanation, and later, The Lancet published a letter from public health scientists condemning “conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.”

    Even though the conspiracy theory lacks evidence and has been dismissed, right-wing conspiracy theorists continue to amplify it.

    Some of the most egregious examples include:

    • On January 23, the U.K.-based and conservative-leaning Daily Mail published a piece that stated, “Scientists warned in 2017 that a SARS-like virus could escape a lab set up that year in Wuhan, China, to study some of the most dangerous pathogens in the world.”
    • On January 24, The Washington Times’ Bill Gertz wrote an article claiming, “The deadly animal virus epidemic spreading globally may have originated in a Wuhan laboratory linked to China’s covert biological weapons program, according to an Israeli biological warfare expert.”
    • Steve Bannon, former Breitbart News executive chairman and ex-White House adviser, hosted Gertz multiple times to discuss his article promoting the Wuhan lab conspiracy theory. Bannon also has ties to a Chinese billionaire-in-exile who has pushed false conspiracy theories about coronavirus.
    • On January 26, Gertz published another Washington Times article, in which he repeated the claim he had attributed to the “Israeli biological warfare expert” in his January 24 piece. Gertz also claimed that although China has denied “having any offensive biological weapons, … a State Department report last year revealed suspicions of covert biological warfare work.” Gertz’ article earned over 165,000 interactions (shares, reactions, and comments) on public and private Facebook posts. Notably, it was shared on pro-Trump Facebook pages and groups, including ForAmerica and Bannon’s official Facebook page.
    • On January 29, ZeroHedge, a far-right, pro-Trump blog, doxxed a Chinese scientist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, claiming that they were the creator of COVID-19. On January 31, Twitter permanently banned ZeroHedge for the false claim, telling Buzzfeed it violated “our platform manipulation policy.”
    • During a January 30 Senate Armed Services Committee meeting, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) suggested that COVID-19 may have been created in a Chinese “superlaboratory.”
    • The same day, Cotton also tweeted that China was incorrect in its conclusion that the virus originated in the seafood market, citing The Lancet study.
    • Cotton claimed China’s alleged cover-up of the origins of coronavirus is “worse than Chernobyl,” a nuclear reactor meltdown that affected the lives of more than 3.5 million people.
        • Brigitte Gabriel, founder of anti-Muslim extremist group ACT for America, shared Cotton’s comments from the committee meeting in at least two posts, earning the video over 730,000 views.
        • On February 1, conspiracy theorist and Holocaust denier talk radio host Hal Turner posted a fearmongering blog on his website claiming COVID-19 is “a MILITARY BIO-WEAPON developed by China’s army.” In addition to posting out-of-context photos of a virus database, Turner’s website also suggested that HIV was somehow added to a “Bat-SARS-Like” coronavirus in a laboratory to create the current strain of COVID-19.
        • The Epoch Times published another article on February 7 titled “Is the Coronavirus a bioweapon?”
        • Conservative anti-LGBTQ pundit Erick Erickson featured the coronavirus-is-a-bioweapon claim on his podcast The Erick Erickson Show on February 10, linking the theory back to Sen. Cotton.
        • That night, Fox News prime-time host Tucker Carlson speculated about the bioweapon theory, asking his guest whether COVID-19 is “not a naturally occurring virus” or was “somehow created by the Chinese government.” His theory was debunked by his guest Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, a medical director of a chain of urgent care clinics.
        • On February 12, pro-Trump One America News Network published a broadcast titled “Coronavirus bioweapon conspiracy theory goes mainstream.”
        • On February 22, the New York Post published an article titled “Don’t buy China’s story: The coronavirus may have leaked from a lab.” The article was written by anti-abortion activist Steven Mosher and earned more than 490,000 interactions on Facebook. Cotton shared the article on his Facebook page on February 24.
        • On February 23, Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire published an article titled “Report suggests that details point to coronavirus coming from Chinese lab.”
        • On February 25, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs claimed that “we don’t know yet whether or not this was an engineered virus” and said that there is “a research lab some 300 yards from the epicenter of this outbreak.”
      • Conspiracy theory: Bill Gates previously created and patented coronavirus

      • false rumor circulating online claims that the coronavirus outbreak is a plot by former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and that the release of the virus was planned.  …….
      • Claim: Democrats are politicizing coronavirus for their own gain and that’s hurting the stock market

         As COVID-19 spread globally and the stock market started to negatively react to the news, Donald Trump and his allies in right-wing media argued that Democrats and the media are deliberately hyping coronavirus and panicking the markets for political gain.
      • Notable examples include:……….
        • Medical and scientific disinformation

        • As researchers work to develop a vaccine and scientists express legitimate concerns about the likelihood of climate change leading to an increase in future epidemics, medical and scientific misinformation has spread, particularly online.

          Some of the most egregious examples of medical and scientific misinformation include:……

        • Climate Change is the scapegoat for what’s really going on: Weather Wars, weather modification, terraforming, and manipulation of the entire planet on a biological and chemical level. ………

        • Racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-trans smears…….

           result of people consuming animals “alive.”

          • The Australian, a national newspaper part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., published an anti-trans article on February 9 that compared coronavirus to a “global epidemic” of transgender teens. The outlet has a history of anti-trans reporting and spreading misinformation about trans youth.

          Some extreme reactions from right-wing conservative Christians……https://www.mediamatters.org/coronavirus-covid-19/guide-right-wing-media-coronavirus-reactions-and-conspiracy-theories

 

March 2, 2020 - Posted by | health, secrets,lies and civil liberties

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