Balloon incident reveals stupidity of US mainstream media
Published: Mar 02, 2023 08:06 PM
A protester from Code Pink interrupts former US national security adviser H. R. McMaster as he testifies during the first hearing held by the US' House China Select Committee in Washington on February 28, 2023. Photo: VCG

A protester from Code Pink interrupts former US national security adviser H. R. McMaster as he testifies during the first hearing held by the US' House China Select Committee in Washington on February 28, 2023. Photo: VCG

Editor's Note: 

"We knew they'd spread more hatred and fear about China. So our only way to get in the way of that is to disrupt it with our message that 'China is not our enemy,'" said Jodie Evans (Evans), co-founder of Code Pink, a women-led grassroots organization working to end US wars and militarism, support peace and human rights initiatives, said after two protesters from her organization disrupted the first hearing of a House select committee investigating so-called threats that China poses to the US on Tuesday. In an interview with Global Times (GT) reporters Liu Zixuan and Yu Jincui, Evans elaborated the purpose of Code Pink to disrupt the hearing and why it advocates "China is not our enemy" in the US. 

GT: Code Pink disrupted the first hearing of House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the US and the Communist Party of China by shouting "China is not our enemy?" What's your plan?

Evans: Code Pink is an organization that's been around for 20 years. And we're a peace organization. A few years ago, we saw that the same pattern was happening toward China that had driven the war in Iraq — propaganda, lies, and hatred were being driven by fearmongers. When George W. Bush was frightening the American people into the war on Iraq, he used color-coded alerts: orange, red, and yellow. So we called Code Pink for peace. We have been watching US propaganda, which drives hatred and fear around China, for the last three years. 

At the start of the year, the new Republican-led Congress established a committee for the first time in US history, a committee dedicated to competing with another country. This has never happened before. And this was the first hearing of this new committee. And we knew they'd spread more hatred and fear about China. So our only way to get in the way of that is to disrupt it with our message that "China is not our enemy". 

GT: American lawmakers described China as an "existential threat" to the US in the hearing, and you have been committed to saying "China is not our enemy." What is the intention of American politicians to hype China as an "existential threat?"

Evans: First of all, we don't believe that China is an existential threat to the US. We don't know why people are spreading rumors, hate or lies. Code Pink calls for cooperation with China. The biggest enemy for all of us is climate change. And we need the US and China to be cooperating, and we need to be doing things globally to affect climate change.

In the US, we have a lot of poverty. We have things we could learn from China, which took millions of people out of poverty. We were disrupting this narrative. You're asking me to explain, but I have no idea. I assume that one of them is that China is increasing in power. And the people in power in the US do not want to give up their hegemonic, world-ruling position. Therefore, they make up lies and drive hatred toward China.

GT: Former national security adviser and a retired lieutenant general H. R. McMaster said that Code Pink's protests were influenced by Chinese propaganda in the hearing." How do you respond to that?

Evans: First of all, I'm insulted that he's suggesting that we don't know how to make up our own minds or that we as peace activists can't recognize the patterns that power uses to drive us to war every time.

What's sad is that the people in the US are layers and layers deep in propaganda. And they have no clue what's really happening in the world. Certainly, they have no clue even what China is or who the people are. I find very racist the way China was dealt with in the hearing and the way China is dealt with in the media. There is not much that is human, rational, or respectful in any of the ways that they talk about China. So as a peace activist, that's very disturbing. 

And the widespread propaganda has spread throughout the country, creating a fog of war around Ukraine. 

We see some Republicans opposing the war in Ukraine, but both parties seem to want to go to war with China, a country that has done nothing to the US but has been a good friend in building a lot of companies and a lot of solutions to some of the climate crisis. So this is just more propaganda for war. And that was very disturbing for us. It is why we created "China is not our enemy." 

In this time in history, the world needs to cooperate. The Chinese president offered a 12-point peace proposal [to solve Ukraine crisis], which was very heartfelt. What's really disturbing is that President Joe Biden said that it wasn't rational that dialogue and negotiation are the only viable solutions to the Ukraine crisis. We are very upset with Biden's response.

We find that the fear-mongering is not good for the people of the US. It's put a lot of stress on them, and it's put a lot of stress on young people. That is why we really care a lot about China, which is not our enemy. We hope that in the future, all people around the world will take a cooperative approach rather than fear-mongering and hatred. 

GT: What do you think of the expulsion and arrest of dissidents? Is it against the freedom of speech and human rights proclaimed by the US government? How hard is it for an organization like Code Pink to be a voice for peace in the US?

Evans: It is very hard to be a voice for peace in the US right now. Because, as I said, we're in a fog of war that just makes everyone a little crazy and hard to talk to. People in both parties are championing war, forgetting what war costs to ordinary people. It's really kind of crazy to watch. People believe that sending weapons to Ukraine is a good response for the Ukrainian people, not realizing that bombs kill people. But you can't talk rationally to those people. 

Being a peace activist right now is not easy. And you get called a lot of names. Now, my friends Olivia was arrested for disrupting the hearing today. All she did was get up with a sign that said "China is not our enemy," and her friend got up with a sign that said "stop Asian hate." This hate mongering has already had casualties. It has resulted in growing violence against Asian Americans. That means that this war against China already has casualties, and they are in the US. The level of hatred and abuse has increased by 3,000 percent.

Olivia knew when she was going to stand up that she had a high risk of being arrested. So much for freedom of speech and human rights in the US.

GT: What is the status of your friend Olivia now?  

Evans: She's out of jail, and hopefully she's getting a good night's sleep. It's very nerve racking to go into a hearing like that and have a lawyer hovering over you. It never feels good. I think you should know the level of courage that it took for her to do what she did. But she did it because she cares about the environment and people. She said that we need these hearings to be about peace and justice, not about hate and war. So that's why she will continue to speak out. This is the third hearing on China that she's disrupted.

GT: Has it become the political correctness to be tough on China in the US? What challenges will this pose to China-US relations? What harm does this bring to regional and even world peace?

Evans: That's an interesting question, because we need cooperation globally. There are so many ills on the planet that need us all to get along. I think we saw that with the China peace plan, which has the goal that we all need to get along. And we saw that again today, with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva offering to get together with presidents of many countries and pull us together for peace. I believe many countries in the world are calling for peace, but the US is not listening. NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will continue to slander China. But what we're seeing is that leadership in the world knows that war is not good now, and they're standing up and speaking out. And that's why we're going to need some sanity from the global leadership.

We've also seen that with this irresponsible war on Ukraine, with the US and NATO pushing past Russia's red line and then Russia responding. That, I believe, has served as a wake-up call for the entire world. What we see now is that many parts of the world are paying the price of this war in Ukraine. Can you imagine what the price the world would pay, if the US is against China? I don't want to imagine. I also want to say that when Bush called for shock and awe, when he said he was going to be bombing the Iraqis after Colin Powell went to the UN and lied to the UN with that little bottle that had nothing in it, saying that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. I can tell you when that happened, and I watched the terror in Iraq, trying to imagine what it was going to look like—shock and awe—and being bombed by the US. 

None of us could have imagined what happened and how horrific it was, how many lives were lost, and how many people died. We've already seen this: we've just passed the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine, with so many deaths and so much destruction. It is irresponsible for the leadership of the US and NATO to be behaving this way. What we need on the planet is peace. What we need is cooperation. What we need for Ukraine is diplomacy. So those of us will continue to stand out, speak out, and be arrested when necessary.

GT: As you mentioned, Code Pink has repeatedly called on China and the US to cooperate rather than compete. This is also China's long-standing attitude. However, the US has always done things that harm bilateral relations, such as the recent balloon farce, in which the US shot down a so-called Chinese spy balloon off the South Carolina coast. What do you think of the US response to Chinese weather balloon? Is it overreacting? 

Evans: The balloon incident was ridiculous and stupid. The response was bizarre and laughable, but unfortunately, it's not a laughing matter because it drove more hate and more confusion. I mean, what it reveals is a level of stupidity among journalists and average readers in the US. How ridiculous was all of that? And to think that someone could call a weather balloon a "spy balloon" when China has numerous ways to look at the US, just as the US has numerous ways to look at China. The US just flew a plane over Taiwan. 

Then, when the US has 400 bases surrounding China and is poking around all day every day, no one in the US complains. So I'd say it was laughable but terrifying, because it reveals how gullible the United States electorate is, or the citizenry is. It revealed the stupidity of journalism and the mainstream media. 

The rest of the world looked at it and saw it as laughable. The rest of the world is looking at what the United States is doing, the sanctions that are killing people, fueling the war in Ukraine, and pretending like it's not happening. These things aren't funny. There are serious matters that need to be paid attention to.

GT: In the future what you and your organization Code Pink plan to do to advocate "China is not our enemy?"

Evans: One of the things we're doing is having an American make a film for PBS, which is the public broadcasting network funded by Congress. And it's been censored in the US. It's about how China took 800 million people out of poverty. The reason it's being censored is that it was shown on PBS, and people responded by saying it made Beijing look too good.

We're showing the film around the country, especially in cities where you have homelessness and unhoused people living in the streets of the cities where it's freezing outside, so that instead of impoverishing the brains of Americans, we can actually nourish the brains of Americans with some smart ideas and actually show what direct democracy looks like.

We're also taking on the problem of the targeting of universities around TikTok. Another ridiculous thing is that TikTok has been banned among students and universities. Also, there have been some attacks on professors and other attacks that we want to raise up and expose what this Asian hatred looks like in the United States.

Again, we're working across Asian American communities to raise awareness of how serious this is and that Asian hatred is not innocuous, that it affects how people feel, that it is exacerbating the xenophobia in the United States, and that it crosses lives and affects the relationships and communities that are necessary to keep us together instead of tearing us apart. These are the three issues we'll be focusing on, but we've also been focusing on the fact that the US is violating the human rights of the islands surrounding China and destroying the pristine ecosystems of Guam, the Mariana Islands, Okinawa, and even Hawaii. We're working with indigenous leaders in these islands to call on the United States to stop violating their human rights and stop destroying their homes.

GT: The US government and the Canada government have banned the TikTok on government devices. What do you think of this?

Evans: It's more silliness. People in the US didn't read what Snowden revealed about how the US is spying on everyone. They are okay with Facebook and with Twitter, but they're not okay with TikTok. It's really a tool to drive more hate and distrust. So we will be revealing that and then talking about how these are just being used to make people hate China. That's not good.