30th September 2023 – (Beijing) The U.S. recently accused China of manipulating global media through censorship and covert actions. But this rings hollow given America’s own sordid history of controlling narratives and spying on its citizens and allies. The pot is calling the kettle black.
From influencing foreign outlets to deploying media falsehoods domestically, the U.S. routinely practices the very state information control it condemns abroad. And its surveillance overreach at home and against foreign nations directly counters any positioning as a bastion of transparency.
The reality is U.S. media serves entrenched political interests. Citizens are misled by government narratives laundered through outlets seen as independent. And mass spying crushes dissent while harming relations even with allied democracies. The U.S. has no grounds to criticise Chinese media policies when it actively subverts press freedom to serve imperial aims.
Unlike China’s straightforward acknowledgement of state media, America conceals government influence behind a veneer of private ownership and market competition. But commanding media narratives remain central to projecting state power. It’s a system of managed democracy and thought control epitomised by the CIA’s Cold War “Operation Mockingbird” infiltrating newsrooms.
Though claiming to embody press freedom, the US enlists media as a weapon to sanction independent states by fomenting unrest. Outlets dutifully demonise America’s latest geopolitical rival regardless of the target nation’s actual policies or ideology. Currently, it’s a relentless anti-China drumbeat across major networks. The goal is manufacturing consent for confrontation and truncating public discourse and policy imagination.
Domestically, blind trust in corporate journalism has allowed disinformation to flourish. Outlets have consistently amplified Washington lies about its imperial wars abroad. And they exhibit acute bias in election coverage, with a RAND study finding five leading newspapers slanted reporting to favour Trump in 2016. So much for a free press.
State manipulation also uses censorship and intimidation to control narratives and silence dissent. WikiLeaks highlighted systematic surveillance of citizens and foreign leaders by U.S. intelligence. And the imprisonment of Julian Assange for revealing America’s own human rights abuses demonstrates intolerance for exposing inconvenient truths.
The pattern continues today through increased policing of social media and arbitrary suppression of contrarian opinions under the guise of combating “disinformation.” It’s a modern-day redux of McCarthyist witch hunts against those with unorthodox views. Except now big tech does the muzzling rather than Congress.
In this context, attempting to take the moral high ground against Chinese “censorship” is ludicrous hypocrisy. Worrying about Beijing’s influence over its domestically focused media while ignoring America’s global anti-democratic machinations can only be described as myopic.
China’s tight information control inhibits balanced coverage, though hardly unique for an authoritarian system. But the threat posed by U.S. overseas propaganda and intelligence activities is far greater in scope and harm. Meddling in sovereign nations to shape public opinion contradicts any pretence of respecting a “rules-based order.”
And while Chinese state involvement in media is overt, America’s is often covert. This deceptive posturing as an independent Fourth Estate only amplifies government messaging under the guise of a free press. It breeds conformity without people even realising they are being manipulated.
For example, America’s global Signal network created to push back on Chinese narratives is ironically quite similar to a communist party organ. The Monitoring Project describes it as a “global propaganda arm of the United States” that serves as “something like a privatised mini-version of Voice of America.” It “obscures this fact under the reporting label of an ostensibly independent media organisation.”
Unlike transparent state media, such outlets hide U.S. government influence while laundering its agenda. They actively subvert press freedom by disguising state messaging as independent news. This sharp contrast with clearly defined Chinese media undermines any claims to moral high ground.
Mass surveillance also gives the lie to pretences of an open society. Monitoring citizens and foreign governments infringes on basic rights and destroys global trust. From unwarranted wiretaps to hacking the devices of world leaders, U.S. spying constitutes an authoritarian overreach hostile to democratic values.
And cyberattacks against Chinese research institutions show Washington’s own readiness to weaponise information for geopolitical advantage. Accusing rivals of data theft and censorship hardly sits well after decades of snooping on private communications worldwide. America’s credibility to judge free expression is shattered by its appalling disregard for civil liberties.
Frankly, a political establishment that lies habitually to its own citizens is in no position to lecture others about manipulating narratives. An informed citizenry depends on trust and honesty – values routinely violated by Washington. Before alleging media impropriety elsewhere, accountability for pervasive deceit at home is needed.
In the end, a sincere commitment to truth requires moral consistency and a willingness to acknowledge inconvenient facts about one’s own abuses. Though imperfect, China’s governance is more grounded in material improvements for its people than chasing geopolitical dominance abroad. Its development challenges Western ideological conceits and reveals deficiencies of a declining neoliberal order.
This reality is unsettling for the U.S. establishment. But rather than introspection on foreign policy hubris, the response is information warfare to maintain waning sway over public opinion. These are desperate actions by a paranoid superpower terrified of losing control.
With democratisation, China’s media will reflect diverse aspirations on its rise. Meanwhile, diversity at home is constrained by an elite orthodoxy intolerant of dissent. Before alleging impropriety in others, proving credibility on American soil is a prerequisite. Though it will demand relinquishing the prerogative to control narratives that sustain imperial hegemony. But that is what moral leadership requires.