U.S. was gripped by lab conspiracies. Now it's backfired

By Qing Ming (People's Daily Online) 16:46, March 16, 2022

Photo taken on Nov. 19, 2021 shows the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., the United States. (Photo by Ting Shen/Xinhua)

--By their very own standard, American media outlets are the culprits caught red-handed, manufacturing lies, conspiracies, disinformation, and even worse, propaganda.

--The US is more of a spreader of such false information than a victim of it.

What has fascinated me the most in American media's coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic is their unremitting obsession with the "lab leak" conspiracy.

Through their lens of suspicion and even superstition, the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was no longer a matter of serious science but a fanciful plot, blending with frivolous hearsays, preposterous suppositions, and flagrant prejudices. Despite the fact that numerous scientific studies have proven otherwise, some US media outlets, together with their staunch audiences, are still dwelling upon the lab theories, so much so that they have even begun to cast doubt on America's own bio labs.

On March 9, Fox News host Tucker Carlson brought up the issues surrounding US bio labs on his show, in which he called for clarification on the "dangerous biological weapons in Ukraine." Following US Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in which she admitted the existence of American 'biological facilities' in Ukraine, Tucker Carlson doubled down on his televised queries again on March 14.

"Why would we (the US) fund something like that in Ukraine…?" the celebrity TV host asked, "If the 'research materials' in these labs were to escape somehow and you seem very concerned about that, what would be the effect on Ukraine and then on the rest of the world?"

Marco Rubio and Tulsi Gabbard, both former American presidential candidates, among other US politicians and military experts, have also seconded Carlson to demand answers to the allegations that the US might have "funded" bio labs and even "bioweapons facility" in Ukraine.

Their questioning over whether the US is funding bio labs in Ukraine has invited harsh criticism. NBC News slammed the notion as a conspiracy theory while accusing Tucker Carlson and other figures on the American far right of promoting disinformation and propaganda. Meanwhile, Senator Mitt Romney arraigned Tulsi Gabbard, who had tweeted that "There are 25 plus US-funded biolabs in Ukraine which if breached would release and spread deadly pathogens to US/world," for spreading "treasonous lies."

The irony here couldn't be more conspicuous. Remember that for the past two years (and counting), American media outlets have kept concocting one "lab leak" conspiracy theory after another with absolutely zero substantiated evidence. By their very own standard, they are the culprits caught red-handed, manufacturing lies, conspiracies, disinformation, and even worse, propaganda. The US is more of a spreader of such false information than a victim of it.

[Related Reading: Tracing the origins of US media's disinformation campaign against China on COVID-19]

But America's bio lab affairs are fundamentally different from the "lab leak" conspiracies with which it has intended to frame up China in vain. The US is the nation that has invested millions of dollars in overseas bio labs, and it is the only nation to have blocked new means for verifying compliance with the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) terms. Its opacity and equivocation pertaining to its global bio lab operations (never mind whether it is developing bioweapons elsewhere or not) require explanation and even call for a joint probe.

While the US has kept rinsing and reusing the same old conspiracy theories, it should have predicted that such inertia in its thinking would enable some US media, to engage in a self-examination of their own nation's record, which can be a benign thing for the sake of global biological safety. Call it a conspiracy spillover. Or call it an "autoimmune" backlash. At last, they have hit the mark by a mere fluke. 

(Web editor: Meng Bin, Liang Jun)


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