Vores fjenders fjende

The problem with old maxims and adages is that at some point people stop thinking about them, or acting on them, and merely go on repeating them.  Too often these phrases are thrown out not to support a thought, but to replace one.

I say all that because of Berlingske’s Saturday hit piece on Falun Gong: Kontroversiel anti-Kina-avis er havnet i danskeres postkasser: »En hvid gud har selvfølgelig ansvaret for hvide mennesker«.

The hook of the article is that The Epoch Times, a publication of Falun Gong, is now being distributed to Danish postboxes throughout the land, and the group behind that publication is Falun Gong.

I don’t know much about Falun Gong, beyond the fact that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) hates them and works actively around the world (often covertly) to discredit, disrupt, and destroy them.  By my way of thinking, that’s always put Falun Gong into the “probably not so bad” category, because—and here’s where the maxim comes in—the enemy of my enemy is my friend. 

The CCP is very plainly the enemy of almost everything I believe: they are the enemy of individual liberty, free expression, and freedom of association.  They are oppressors of minorities. I have no grudge against the Chinese people, but their government is squarely on my shit list.

So when someone refers to a group as being “anti-China” (which is a lazy formulation, since Falun Gong is not anti-China but anti-CCP) my reaction isn’t much different than it would be if they were called “anti-cancer” or “pro-puppy.”

Beyond their being kind of culty and despised by the CCP, however, I knew very little about Falun Gong.

Here’s an Economist “explainer” from September 1998:

WALK into Chinatown in any big Western city, and on the main street you are likely to find a row of seated meditators, their legs crossed and backs straight. Seemingly innocuous, they could easily pass for participants in a yoga class. In fact, the meditators are practising [sic] a prescribed set of exercises from Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline which China banned in 1999 and calls an “evil cult”. Along with Tibetans, Uighur Muslims, democracy activists and pro-independence Taiwanese, Falun Gong practitioners round off the “five poisons”—risks which the Chinese government has acknowledged as posing the biggest threat to its rule. What is Falun Gong?

Falun Gong, which means “law wheel practice” in Chinese, is a set of meditation exercises and texts that preach the virtues of truth, benevolence and forbearance. It was founded in north-east China in 1992 by Li Hongzhi, a former trumpet player. Falun Gong draws on China’s long tradition of qigong, a regimen of controlled breathing and gentle physical movements. But unlike other qigong-inspired disciplines that sprouted up in the 1990s, typically claiming nothing more than health benefits for practitioners, Falun Gong avows a path to salvation for the faithful. Adherents would try to gain enlightenment by reading the works of “Master Li”, who is said to be able to walk through walls and levitate. By the late 1990s millions of Chinese from all walks of life had taken up Falun Gong.

Interesting.

There’s a group of more than a billion people who practice ritualistic cannibalism once a week, sprinkle babies with magic water, and claim their founder rose from the dead.  They, too, avow a path to salvation for the faithful.  And adherents of this group try to gain enlightenment by reading four guys’ stories about the founder, along with a bunch of letters written by his friends and supporters.  When you put it like that, Roman Catholicism sounds a little nutty too, even if Jesus never played the trumpet (that we know of).

I don’t want to get all tangled up in the question of whether Falun Gong is a religion or a cult, a club or a gang, because none of that matters in terms of their value as an ally against the CCP. 

But I would like to know whether The Epoch Times is a newspaper or just Falun Gong’s version of The Watchtower?

According to Berlingske:

I avisens indledende bemærkning bidrager The Epoch Times til at forklare, hvorfor virussen »selektivt er rettet mod bestemte områder eller enkeltpersoner«.

At covid-19 skulle være specifikt »rettet mod bestemte områder eller enkeltpersoner« er en påstand, der ellers trives bedst i konspirationsteorier, og lige præcis konspirationsteorier er The Epoch Times også kendt for.

Avisen har blandt andet skrevet om den sĂĄkaldte Spygate, som handler om, at Barack Obama skulle have placeret hemmelige agenter i Trump-administrationen, og sĂĄ har The Epoch Times skrevet om konspirationsteorien QAnon.

Ifølge The New York Times er The Epoch Times den organisation, der har brugt flest penge på pro-Trump-annoncer på Facebook, bortset fra Trump-organisationen selv.

Facebook bandlyste i august sidste år The Epoch Times for at overtræde det sociale medies regler for kampagneførsel.

This is interesting information. 

That covid-19 should target particular areas or individuals does sound like good old-fashioned conspiracy mongering, and it’s hard to see how the evidence supports such a claim.

But given what we’re only now in August 2020 learning about the origins of Crossfire Hurricane, I’m not sure “they wrote about the Obama administration spying on the Trump administration” qualifies as evidence of loony-tunes conspiracy mongering.  Maybe they made specific claims that were beyond the pale.  Maybe they didn’t.  How can I know? The establishment media seem to believe that support for Donald Trump is in itself an indictment, so they very often leave it at that: well, you can’t trust The Daily Bugle, old sport: they support Donald Trump!

I wrote about the QAnon “conspiracy” the other day, because Berlingske itself wrote about it—which is precisely what they’re accusing The Epoch Times of doing here: writing about it. I don’t have a copy of the print edition of The Epoch Times, so without more information the fact that they wrote about QAnon tells me nothing.

Also, we’re told that according to the New York Times—a publication that has openly and explicitly pledged to drop objectivity in favor of opposing Donald Trump—the Epoch Times has spent more money on pro-Trump ads on Facebook than anyone but the Trump organization itself.  Left unsaid: the New York Times has made the opposition of Trump its entire business model.  If they can oppose him, why can’t another publication support him?

Finally we’re told that one year ago Facebook banned The Epoch Times from advertising for violating their terms of service for political campaigning.  That was so vague I had to look up the details.  According to BusinessInsider:

“Over the past year, we removed accounts associated with the Epoch Times for violating our ad policies, including trying to get around our review systems. We acted on additional accounts today and they are no longer able to advertise with us,” a spokeswoman for Facebook wrote in a statement emailed to Business Insider.

I suggest you read the complete article if you’re interested, because I don’t want to spend time parsing the details of the case, but I found the origins of the case against The Epoch Times on Facebook interesting:

Up until mid-July, these ads were run through accounts that clearly showed their affiliation to The Epoch Times via a Facebook page called “Coverage of the Trump presidency by The Epoch Times.”

But after journalists started looking at whether these ads violated Facebook’s policies, NBC discovered that the Epoch Times shifted funding to other accounts with names such as Honest Paper, Patriots of America, Pure American Journalism, and Best News in attempt to hide its connection to the pro-Trump ads it was publishing.

Ah, those intrepid NBC journalists, helping Facebook root out terms of service violations by groups supporting Donald Trump!

So in an article that calls The Epoch Times a “superspreader of misinformation” in its subhead, Berlingske is supporting that contention with the following handful of facts:

  • The Epoch Times claims China manufactured covid-19 (fact check: inconclusive, but something many western governments continue to investigate) and made it target particular places and people (fact check: sounds kooky).
  • The Epoch Times claimed the Obama administration was spying on the Trump campaign and/or administration, and may have had spies inserted into either or both (fact check: we’ll see what John Durham has to say, but the notion that intelligence and law enforcement agencies within the Obama administration were acting in bad faith against the Trump campaign and administration are no longer in doubt; what we don’t yet know is how deep the rot went and who called the shots).
  • The Epoch Times spent a whole shitload of money on Facebook promoting Donald Trump.  (Fact check: true, but so what? Almost 60% of all digital campaign ad spending in the 2019/20 cycle so far—around $800 million—has been spent on Facebook. And if we’re to believe the Democrats, it only takes $150,000 in Facebook ads to throw a presidential election, so this one’s already cooked.)
  • NBC reporters ratted out The Epoch Times for violating Facebook’s terms of service, so Facebook banned The Epoch Times from advertising on their site.  (Fact check: also true, but irrelevant to the claim of spreading misinformation since the violation was not for posting misinformation but for obscuring sponsorship of their posts.)

According to the Economist explainer, the CCP believes there are five “poisons” threatening its grip on China.  The first four are: (1) the people of a country they’ve annexed (Tibet), (2) people whom they’re currently loading on trains and shipping off to camps (Muslim Uighurs), (3) democracy activists, and (4) pro-independence Taiwanese. The fifth “poison” is Falun Gong, the group behind The Epoch Times.

The Tibetans, Uighurs, democracy activists, and Taiwanese have my support, so I’m inclined to support this enemy of my enemy.  But then we get to the fun stuff: Falun Gong’s belief, alluded to in the Berlingske headline, that—well, hear their Danish spokesman explain it himself:

»Da der er sorte guder, brune, gule og hvide guder, så er det selvfølgelig også de mennesker, som har den form for race og farve, der hører til dem. En hvid gud har selvfølgelig ansvaret for hvide mennesker. Der kommer problematikken også, at hvis man blander alt for meget, hvem har så dybest set ansvaret for de mennesker. Det kan godt blive noget rod.«

Ding ding ding!  That’s the sound of my crazy bell.

I can get my head around the analogy of divinities looking like their worshippers.  I cannot get my head around the idea of gods arguing over responsibility for people of mixed ancestry. In fact, when I try to imagine it I end up giggling at the absurdity of it. . . and it doesn’t help matters that Falun Gong believes that it’s extraterrestrials who want to drive us away from our gods that are encouraging all this mixed breeding.

BLACK GOD: His father was black and his mother was white. You want him, or should I take him?

WHITE GOD: His white mother was actually one quarter Asian, so I don’t know. . .

YELLOW GOD: His black father was also a quarter Asian.

BROWN GOD: That quarter Asian was itself one sixteenth Australian aboriginal.

BLACK GOD: Boy, this one’s a real mess. Rock paper scissors?

ALIEN (Off): Haha! Our plan to peel humanity away from their gods by cross-breeding is working most delightfully! Bwahahaha…

I watched an Australian news program on Falun Gong, and there’s all kinds of weird going on. We live in a state of constant informational warfare of all against all, however, so I have no idea whether I was just brainwashed by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, or whether they’d been co-opted by the CCP, or what. It’s all too much.

So let’s get back to that maxim.

There’s no question Falun Gong is the enemy of my enemy. They’re also allies of many of my allies.  And finally, they’re at least partially bonkers, and possibly full blown crazy.

But if we could ally ourselves with little Joey Stalin against Nazi Germany in a global war, why can’t we cut Falun Gong a little slack and accept them as an ally against the CCP in peacetime?

“But Greg, The Epoch Times is totally slanted!  They twist the news to make Donald Trump look good and they’re spewing misinformation about covid-19 to make China look bad!”

But reader, the New York Times admits they’re totally slanted.  They twist the news to make Donald Trump look bad and they’re spewing misinformation about covid-19 to make Donald Trump look bad.

“But The Epoch Times is controlled by a group you yourself acknowledged was at least a little crazy!”

Granted.

But they’re nowhere near as crazy as the group controlling the CCP.