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US cell site vandalized as Chinese agents accused of sowing panic

US intelligence agencies claim Chinese agents are working to amplify messages that cause panic, while the first report of a cell tower being vandalized has emerged.

As arguably the most significant global crisis since World War 2 progresses, the public appetite for crazy theories and salacious gossip continues to grow, alongside a perfectly reasonable thirst for the latest news. This is certainly the biggest crisis of the internet and social media era, so every type of information is being spread with unprecedented speed and scope.

Anxiety tends to drive suggestibility, as awareness of danger is heightened alongside an increased need for reassurance. According to a New York Times report, US intelligence agencies are worried that those with an interest in sowing panic among the US population are actively seeking to spread pieces of information that may do so.

Six unnamed US officials told the NYT they reckon Chinese operatives are starting to act in this manner, which is reminiscent of the kind of mischief that has been associated with Russia for some time. Specifically they’re suspected of using bogus phone and social media accounts to get the ball rolling on already existing to make sure they gain traction.

A major cause of domestic friction in the US is the lockdown imposed on most of the country in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19. Civil liberties are a foundation of US culture in a more profound way than much of Europe, let alone the rest of the world, so its citizens tend to be more instinctively opposed to being told what to do by the state. As a result there are already protests against the lockdown in some parts of the country, which are presumably being fuelled by rhetoric from the President, urging some states to open up.

The US President doesn’t seem to have commented on these allegations, perhaps conscious of his own prolific use of social media to further his interests, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry dismissed them out of hand. However, Trump has been keen to point the finger of blame for the crisis at China and tensions between the two countries have undoubtedly been heightened by it.

What’s not clear is whether deliberate misinformation played a role in the vandalization of a Verizon cell site in New Jersey, as spotted by Light Reading. The vandals haven’t been caught, so we can’t be sure what specific grievances they have against the cell site, but it’s hard to believe the lunacy regarding COVID-19 and 5G that has gripped much of Europe didn’t play a part in their thinking.

The longer these unprecedented lockdowns continue, the greater the probability of significant civil disobedience. While hostile foreign powers may be seeking to stoke panic, attempts to censor such messaging are not only futile, they may well serve to augment existing paranoia. The anonymous US officials who briefed the NYT may have been hoping to unite the country in the face of a common enemy, but they are paradoxically also adding to the flow of unsubstantiated gossip they claim to be fighting against.


11 comments

  1. Avatar Pierre Pau 23/04/2020 @ 1:57 pm

    Scott, Chinese agents pushing conspiracy theories in the US and elsewhere is a perfectly plausible hypothesis, but unless one has tangible bits of information to support it, it`s counter-productive to even write about the whole thing.

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 23/04/2020 @ 3:26 pm

      Not it’s not.

  2. Avatar Andy Tiller 23/04/2020 @ 2:28 pm

    And how exactly do these unnamed US officials think Chinese agents can spread panic about 5G and Covid-19 only within the US without also spooking a billion Chinese citizens? Do they imagine that Chinese people are unaware of what the rest of the world is talking about?

    • Avatar Bob Donaldson 23/04/2020 @ 10:25 pm

      Considering that the Chinese people are stuck behind firewalls, and, the Chinese government works very hard to keep their people blind to the outside world, the Chinese people ARE blind to the rest of the world. AND, in spite of all of their work, the Chinese in Wuhan ARE still freaking out.

      Either you are ignorant of the facts about China, or, more likely, you’re a sock puppet, spreading propaganda for the Chicom government.

      • Avatar Andy Tiller 24/04/2020 @ 11:30 am

        In fact I’m neither – I have family in China and they are quite well informed about what’s happening around the world

  3. Avatar Tom McGrath 23/04/2020 @ 2:41 pm

    Ever wonder why the NYT always seems to utilize unnamed sources?

    • Avatar Monica Paolini 23/04/2020 @ 6:13 pm

      if you were the one providing truthful information that may get you fired, would you agree to be on record? In many cases publications need to keep their sources anonymous to protect them. Then we need to do our work and establish whether the information is reliable – which good media outlets do

    • Avatar Bob Donaldson 23/04/2020 @ 10:28 pm

      I’m supposed to believe unnamed sources that have damaging info about Trump, but not the sources which have damaging info about the Communist Chinese government? Rhetorical question, I know that it’s not all black-and-white, and I know that you’re just trying to cover for the Chinese government.

      • Avatar Andy Tiller 24/04/2020 @ 2:13 pm

        Propaganda and misinformation is being spread by lunatics and governments on all sides using social and mainstream media, which is why we should stick to the science. When unnamed sources state something without presenting any evidence we should be skeptical, whether these sources are from China or the USA. They might be or might not be right, but why should we believe them if they remain anonymous and don’t provide any evidence to back up their statements? Unfortunately many people will just believe what they want to believe. Perhaps even you, Bob?

  4. Avatar Joe anjou 24/04/2020 @ 1:13 am

    Bioinitiative report martin blank youtube

  5. Avatar TM Y 24/04/2020 @ 4:56 am

    Remember Trump advisor Peter Navarro’s source Ron Vara in his books Death by China etc? Now the media call him ‘Ron’ Navarro. The 5G conspiracy theory circulated worldwide recently was by David Icke. Fake new media with conscious have lost their credibility by creating hate, suspicious n misunderstanding among the world population.

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