Several weeks ago I put together a list of online resources for tracking the spread of the coronavirus.
Verification of news and social media content regarding this virus is now more important than ever, especially since state actors have joined the disinformation fray.
The rise of the anti-Chinese sentiment, which manifests itself primarily in the use of the phrase “Chinese virus” in the media (as if this or any virus could have full geo-political awareness!) has led to acts of hostility and sometimes violence towards Chinese people in different parts of the globe.
The initial propaganda efforts undertaken by the Chinese state information apparatus in response to the covid-19 outbreak were aimed at containing, controlling and manipulating the media coverage of the topic. Obviously, those efforts failed miserably.
In a rare admission of guilt, the communist authorities recognised that fact, as well as their shortcomings in combating the spread of the virus at the early stages.
Soon thereafter, the Russian state media began to inject their own “fake news” narrative into the global information stream.
And as it usually is the case (see the conspiracy narrative regarding the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in 2014), the Russian disinformation strategy is based on creating and promoting several narratives, often mutually exclusive…
1. Coronavirus is an American biological weapon
As early as the 25th of January, perhaps even earlier, Russian speaking media were attributing the covid-19 virus to deliberate, clandestine biological warfare secretly waged by the US, with full support of the American pharmaceutical industry who were hoping to “cash in” on the aftermath.
“(…) this disease is the result of secret experiments with a new type of biological weapon by the secret services of the USA and the Pentagon that spun out of control.”
2. Coronavirus was created in the UK
According to this narrative, peddled in the Russian television (here is the link to the archived version, in case the broadcaster decided to remove the original), covid-19 was created in the The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down.
This lab is located in Salisbury… and wait, what else happened in Salisbury?
That’s right, the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in 2018.
This Russian state-sponsored narrative not only links the poisoning incident and the coronavirus outbreak, but also suggests that the UK authorities already patented the vaccine but won’t share it with the rest of the world.
3. Globalist powers use coronavirus to damage the Chinese economy
The message of this narrative is simple: China is winning the global markets and is destined to become the largest economy in the world.
So the globalist powers alliance (?!), with the US at the helm, decided to deploy the virus to ruin the Chinese economy, reduce its population and inflict reputational damage on the country.
The only true part of this narrative was the fact that the Chinese markets indeed suffered as result of the virus, as both imports and exports have been affected by the epidemic cricis.
4. Coronavirus is "NATO's new virus"
I found this piece of disinformation in a Belorussian news outlet Sputnik.by:
The news claims that “this new coronavirus coincided with the Davos Forum in Switzerland”.
The narrative is very similar to the first one from this list and centres around states developing new viruses for the purpose of biological warfare.
Err… It’s just that somebody obviously forgot to read the basic medical information and the fact that coronaviruses have been known for some time and certainly are not new.
5. Coronavirus and the Nostradamus prophecy
This is by far the most amusing, surreal, state-endorsed narrative I found.
Published by ukraina.ru, this news warns about an old Nostradamus prophecy which includes the following elements:
“a great plague” – obviously the coronavirus
“ a sea city”– interpreted as Hong Kong
“a noble lady” – Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong
This narrative also fits in with the previous conspiracy-centred theories, but the Nostradamus element is certainly the non-standard part.
Not surprisingly, the ukraina.ru website, despite its name, is not a Ukrainian but a Russian website and belongs to AS197068, a hosting service in Moscow.