The US cannot duplicate 'Goebbels effect' trick on China over COVID-19 origins
Published: Aug 25, 2021 10:03 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times

As the country with the largest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths, the US is waving the banner of the virus' origins tracing. It is meanwhile fabricating reports based on misinformation and rumors in an attempt to impose baseless charges on China and fool the public.

It has now been 90 days since the Biden administration ordered the US intelligence community to investigate the COVID-19 origins in May. US President Joe Biden was briefed on the findings on Tuesday, but the public may have to wait a few more days to view an unclassified version of the report, according to CNN. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday that "it is impossible" that the US would draft the report based on facts and truth.

"Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth" - this is a famous law of propaganda by Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. It is a traditional trick frequently used by Western countries. 

Now on the COVID-19 origins tracing, the "Goebbels effect" - the tendency to believe false information to be correct after repeated exposure - is now magnified again by Washington's politicians today. By passing the buck and smearing China, they are playing the role of "modern Goebbels." They first claimed that COVID-19 leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), and then they have kept on repeating this lie. The US government has also manipulated the public opinion machine to repeat the lie, trying to shape the information people can receive.

Rumormongering is a specialty of the US. Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who used to be the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), said that "I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole." 

The US media's lies about origins tracing have been exposed many times. For example, the Wall Street Journal falsely claimed in May that three researchers from the WIV got sick with "symptoms consistent with both COVID-19 and common seasonal illness" in November 2019. However, Chinese health authorities said earlier in March that the three cases were not WIV staffers, but patients being treated at a local hospital that the WIV worked with. They had symptoms in January 2020, rather than "November 2019" as the WSJ claimed.

"The more the US smears China, the more it reflects Washington's guilty conscience. This only makes it obvious to the world that Washington wants to use origins tracing as a political tool against China," Zhang Tengjun, an assistant research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times.

For the US, attacking Beijing on the COVID-19 origins tracing is a lame bargaining chip during its competition with China. Washington has wooed a few allies to add pressure on the WHO's second-stage traceability investigation. Meanwhile public opinion from China, the Philippines and other countries are asking the WHO to probe the US' Fort Detrick biolab. The US and its several allies cannot set off a storm against China. More countries are well aware of Washington's tricks and will not stand on the US' side and cater to it. 

Washington's COVID-19 origins witch-hunt reminds people of its "washing powder" lie that triggered the Iraq War of 2003. The US fabricated "evidence," ignored international authority, presumed guilt, distorted facts and roped in allies to forcibly impose a purported crime on Iraq.

Here is an intriguing fact: Michael R. Gordon, a national security correspondent who wrote the above-mentioned WSJ report, is the same reporter who wrote an article for the New York Times in 2002 - one year before the US launched war against Iraq - to claim that Iraq was attempting to acquire nuclear weapons.

The US cannot duplicate the same trick on China today. History will not repeat itself. In the modern era when the public has sufficient accesses to news and information, it is very difficult for the US to use politics to fight science.

The upcoming "unclassified report," a patchwork of so-called evidence based on predetermined conclusions, will not yield much effect in the international community. "Relying on the intelligence community for the origins study is in itself not scientific and the conclusions will obviously be biased. The US' investigation serves nothing but its own interests," Zhang said.

These "modern Goebbels" in the US have no bottom line when it comes to creating lies. But ultimately, repetition is not power and lies cannot kill the truth.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn