Some Whistleblowers are More Equal Than Others
Maitreya Bhakal Published: 04/10/2020
A single death is a tragedy, while that of a million, just statistics, goes a popular saying. For the western media, that has long forgotten the millions of deaths caused by US wars, the tragic death of one man in China couldn’t have come at a better time.
While the whole of China expressed condolences over the unfortunate demise of Dr. Li Wenliang, the western media erupted in glee. Just as Schadenfreude over the epidemic was losing momentum, here comes a “whistleblower” who tried to “warn” the government about the outbreak, but was “silenced” – all catnip to the western media.
So western journalists – who generally care little about Chinese lives – got busy. The first step, as with most reporting on China, was to ignore the facts (truth, after all, is the first casualty of propaganda war).
Contrary to what the US would have people believe, he was not fired. After being disciplined, he went back to work as normal, eventually dying from COVID-19 a few weeks later. His revelations had little effect on the crisis response.
His death caused an outpouring of grief on social media, and for good reason. Some netizens have criticized the local government for failing to act more quickly. Dr. Li was a dedicated doctor who did his duty diligently. Even in hospital for treatment, he vowed to return to the front lines after he recovered. China lost a national treasure. And the government knew it; a subsequent official inquiry exonerated him, and the Party apologized to his family and revoked his admonishment.
But that’s not what the western media were interested in. After all, every tragedy is also an opportunity. They were interested in exploiting his death to criticize and demonize China.
In fact, the doctor who actually notified the CDC of a new disease as far back as December 26 – Dr. Zhang Jixian – has been largely ignored by mainstream western media outlets. No interviews. No hailing her as a hero. Complete radio silence.
Apparently, Chinese “whistleblowers” or Chinese deaths only matter when they can be used to insult China. Reactions of Chinese netizens – which the western media otherwise dismiss as “brainwashed” – are genuine only when they criticize authorities. Dr. Zhang was actually the first to raise the alarm – but it didn’t matter since they couldn’t use her to score cheap political points.
If the western media really cared about whistleblowers and people’s lives – they would also equally care about Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. Or about the 70-year-old who was murdered by Hong Kong’s “pro-democracy” rioters, or another 57-year-old man who was set on fire. Or when they beat up Globaltimes’ reporter Fu Guohao at Hong Kong airport, just like countless others during the riots – even blocking medical personnel from reaching him.
The ultimate purpose is to demonize China – lives and deaths are all secondary.
The word “whistleblower” generally applies to someone who tries to warn the public – which Dr. Li didn’t do. He posted in a private WeChat group that seven “confirmed” cases of SARS were reported from the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan. He also warned group members not to spread the information further – the exact opposite of whistleblower behavior.
Now that is a pretty serious charge. Considering the havoc that SARS spread throughout the nation 16 years ago, such a rumor could’ve caused unnecessary panic if made public. More importantly, infected people would’ve fled the city in the time it would’ve taken to get approvals to quarantine it – thus spreading the disease further.
Dr. Li was wrong – and late. The disease was not SARS. Moreover, little did he know that the local CDC was already investigating the issue at the time. If he had gone to the CDC with his data points, perhaps more effective action could’ve been taken.
Yet, screenshots got leaked, and the doctor was disciplined (i.e. just made to sign a letter stating he wouldn’t spread such rumors again) by the police for spreading false information. His actions were perfectly understandable from a personal perspective – asking friends and family to stay safe – but he did not go through the proper channels. Moreover, he also leaked confidential details like patients’ medical records, which actually is punishable by law.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing
It’s easy to blame the local Hubei authorities with hindsight. Yet, there was little evidence at the time that the disease would prove to be this serious. There’s even less evidence of a conspiracy or cover-up.
Yet, western journalists became experts in epidemiology overnight. The New York Times in particular, a racist US newspaper, simply lied through its teeth, claiming, for example, that China informed the WHO but “kept its own people in the dark”. In fact, the Wuhan health authority posted a public notice the same day the WHO was notified – December 31 – with the regional CDC being notified two days earlier. The nefarious newspaper further lied by stating that a few members of the same family being in one ward of City Hospital No. 5 implied human-to-human transmission, without any further evidence. Yet, even flu can spread from humans to humans. There was little concrete evidence at the time that this was an entirely new disease – just unclear indications. Further lies from the New York Times include the assertion that it is “unclear” how people are being selected to be sent to makeshift hospitals in Wuhan – when there are literally test kits available – as if people were being sent to hospitals randomly. It further claimed that sick people should not be sent to hospitals – an absurd suggestion – yet, paradoxically, it criticized health authorities for asking some patients to self-quarantine due to a shortage of hospital beds. And the Sinophobia largely worked.
The next step in demonizing China was to ignore far worse outbreaks in western “democracies”, and then compare China, a middle-income, developing country, with developed countries like the US. The evidence during the initial stages was unclear, and it’s easy to blame people with the benefit of hindsight. Unsurprisingly, this hindsight is hardly applied at the same level for western countries.
The Guardian, a racist British tabloid whose reporting reads like a satire on journalism, was more direct: “If China valued free speech, there would be no coronavirus”, it said, assuming perhaps that countries with “free speech” don’t have health crises. The US swine flu epidemic in 2009 killed 12,000 Americans, with several cases of under-counting being reported. Yet, few alleged a “cover-up” or a “rigid bureaucracy”. And let’s not even get started on health crises in developing countries with “free speech”, such as India.
It was all guilt projection of course. As usual, the US media and government accused China of doing what the US did. Thus, US whistleblowers who criticized the authorities were fired and threatened – including a Navy official – and experts were sidelined (including Dr. Fauci himself). Government officials frequently disagreed with their own experts. All these are exactly the same things they accused China of doing.
Today, the US stands at more than 214,000 deaths, the UK at 42,000 – and China at 4,600. So much for the advantages of “democracy”. Western freedoms and transparency, it seems, are remarkably poor at giving people the freedom to live.
The amount of criticism that China has received is out of proportion to its shortcomings. Yes – there was incompetence and censorship in the beginning. And the Chinese government has been largely forthcoming about these issues, with an aim to improve governance and save lives. Unlike in the US, incompetent officials have been fired or demoted.
The western media, on the other hand, cares little about Chinese lives, only looking for opportunities to demonize China. It’s a Pavlovian response – whenever a crisis occurs in China, they start salivating to insult the government.
If the media was really concerned about loss of lives, it would probe public health crises in the West and the millions of deaths due to US-led wars – with an equal commitment to the truth, and not just for virtue signaling.
This doublethink is central to almost all western reporting on China. All lives are equal, but some are more equal than others.