"an ultraconservative news outlet and a conspiracy warehouse"
August 22, 2019 8:50 AM   Subscribe

Trump, QAnon and an impending judgment day: Behind the Facebook-fueled rise of The Epoch Times (NBC News)

What exactly is The Epoch Times? (NiemanLab) And why should you care? Here are a few reasons, from the NBC report:
• it’s the biggest spender (aside from Trump’s own campaign) on pro-Trump Facebook ads – more than $1.5 million in the last six months

• it has one of the biggest social media followings of any news outlet – in April, its videos combined for around 3 billion views on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter

• it is closely tied to Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual community with the stated goal of taking down China’s government, and whose founder "has railed against what he called the wickedness of homosexuality, feminism and popular music while holding that he is a god-like figure who can levitate and walk through walls"

• it sees Trump as a key ally and has become a favorite of the Trump family – Trump’s Facebook page has posted Epoch Times content and Donald Trump Jr. has tweeted several of their stories too

• its network of news sites and YouTube channels has made it a powerful conduit for the internet’s fringier conspiracy theories, including anti-vaccination propaganda and QAnon – the overarching theory that there is an evil cabal of “deep state” operators and child predators out to take down the president – to reach the mainstream

• it "sees communism everywhere: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, movie star Jackie Chan and former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan were all considered to have sold themselves out to the Chinese government", according to Ben Hurley, a former Falun Gong practitioner who helped create Australia’s English version of The Epoch Times before leaving in 2013

“It is so rabidly pro-Trump,” Hurley said, referring to The Epoch Times. Devout practitioners of Falun Gong “believe that Trump was sent by heaven to destroy the Communist Party.”
posted by bitteschoen (27 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
cray cray.

My university PR office directed an inquiry to me about my research from the Epoch Times, a few years back, which I refused in all due haste. I made sure they had a standing instruction never ever to do that again.
posted by spitbull at 9:06 AM on August 22, 2019 [16 favorites]

“Everybody loves Falun Gong, the adorable, plucky meditation movement ruthlessly persecuted by the Chinese government!”

(5 minutes later) “We regret to inform you...”
posted by acb at 9:13 AM on August 22, 2019 [76 favorites]

Epoch Times has had free newspaper boxes all over Washington, D.C. as long as I've lived here. It's only recently that I've noticed the "counter-programming" of free China Daily boxes. I wonder how that has legitimized them as a news outlet even if people don't take their papers? Particularly if they are situated next the the New York Times and the Washington Post boxes.

I determined long ago that I wouldn't be using Epoch Times as a source/outlet for my work stuff, as it was always obviously anti-China and pro- conspiracy theories. I understand their support of Trump from a political perspective - I think they see an opening there that maybe hasn't been available with the last few presidents, so it makes sense that they are trying to curry favor and spend money promoting him.

Falun Dafa, as much as I find them abhorrent, has been masterful in using soft power (e.g. Epoch Times, Shen Yun) to promote their messages.
posted by gemmy at 9:22 AM on August 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

For a while it seemed like the Epoch Times was on the leading edge of stories about Chinese government corruption and cruelty, stuff that was hard to find in English elsewhere. (People's Daily didn't carry the stories, that's for sure.) I appreciated them for that for a few years there.

You can understand how they'd get into conspiracy theories, given the possible organ harvesting and the complete denial of it from the Chinese government. They're either making crazy stuff up or they're subject to one of the biggest gaslighting campaigns in history.
posted by clawsoon at 9:38 AM on August 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

So it's a warmed-over version of The Plain Truth?
posted by scruss at 9:44 AM on August 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

This reminds me of the way that some Mennonites sided with the Nazis (previously) because of what the Soviets did to them.
posted by clawsoon at 9:44 AM on August 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

It's unfortunate and frankly damaging to those being oppressed by the Chinese government that these clowns are sucking the air out of the room. I suspect that some of their reporting actually is pretty on point—it's not like finding examples of oppressive behavior and corruption by the Chinese government is that difficult or unlikely. But they undermine themselves with the conspiracy theories and general fringiness... and that's before you get into the Falun Gong connection and their weird homophobia and anti-contraception stuff.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:59 AM on August 22, 2019 [9 favorites]

NBC and MSNBC has a big push on the Epoch Times / Falun Gong / Trump connections. Maddow spent a few minutes on it two nights ago. They also report the "exclusive" that Falun Gong funds the Epoch Times (which is laughable; that's been common knowledge for years). The Epoch Times is hitting back at NBC as well.

I really don't understand Asian mystical groups that dovetail into social policy and journalism. The Epoch Times seems to be revisiting the same road paved by the Moonies and the Washington Times. It's ridiculous to compare a Korean quasi-Christian cult with a Chinese non-Christian spiritual movement, but their profile in the US seems so similar.
posted by Nelson at 10:09 AM on August 22, 2019 [6 favorites]

, but when they make shit up about foreign governments, that's very very good
posted by idiopath at 10:14 AM on August 22, 2019

Media-blanketing, anti-China, right wing. They've got to be Russian-driven, no? I suppose a test would be how many Putin is corrupt articles appear.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:27 AM on August 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Media-blanketing, anti-China, right wing. They've got to be Russian-driven, no?

Doesn't seem like there's any evidence to suggest this. All the articles seem to favor the explanation that, disagreeable and weird as FG may be, it arose organically in China, and that Epoch Times is funded by FG.

There are lots of people with a bone to pick with the CCP besides the Russians.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:32 AM on August 22, 2019 [9 favorites]

Current Epoch Time: 1566496929
posted by axiom at 11:02 AM on August 22, 2019 [22 favorites]

To quote the other thread, Facebook delenda est.
posted by hyperbolic at 11:04 AM on August 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

Ah yes Shen Yung, a true WTF.
posted by spitbull at 11:51 AM on August 22, 2019

Do they advertise as much as Grammarly?
posted by clawsoon at 1:42 PM on August 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

There will be a point in the future, assuming we have one, when this period will be considered part of the dark ages.
posted by krisjohn at 3:36 PM on August 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

When their ads started showing up on my GouTube videos, I was surprised as fuck to see them spouting pro-Trump BS.

From Falun Gong to Milkshake Gong in the blink of an eye.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 5:53 PM on August 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Huh, turns out the enemy of my enemy is not my friend after all.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:03 PM on August 22, 2019 [5 favorites]

Current Epoch Time: 1566496929

Oh SHIT! I was supposed to be across town an hour ago!
posted by sexyrobot at 6:35 PM on August 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

Oh man, they’ve started polluting my YouTube ads.

*looks both ways*
*leans in conspiratorially *

Apparently, Joseph Mifsud was paid by the Chinese to tell George Papadopoulos that the Russians had dirt on Hillary.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 8:41 PM on August 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Well luckily since George P. immediately reported the foreign agents to the FBI as any campaign worker should, there was no real threat. I mean, you can't con an honest man!
posted by benzenedream at 11:10 PM on August 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

For a while it seemed like the Epoch Times was on the leading edge of stories about Chinese government corruption

Seconding this - they had some good writing that other papers refused to touch out of fear of the Chinese response. Over all, I'd say it was better than the Plain Truth, not as good as the Christian Science Monitor. They paid journalists, some of whom did not seem to be Falung Gong practioners. I got off the bus with the start of the pro-Trump stuff of course.

these clowns are sucking the air out of the room

Whose room is that? Is it the one where western countries fall over themselves to excuse the atrocities perpetuated by the Chinese government? There is no need for the qualifier regarding organ harvesting, it is a billion dollar business in China.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 7:59 AM on August 23, 2019

Facebook's ban will affect only The Epoch Times' ability to buy ads; the sock-puppet pages created to host the new policy-violating ads were still live at the time of publication. source

In which Facebook tries to have its cake advertising dollars and eat it appear to adhere to minimum standards of decency and transparency too.

It's almost like Facebook has an incentive to let this sort of behavior go on, and only does the bare minimum required to clamp down on it when the press makes a stink. Weird, huh?
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:50 AM on August 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

Hans, are we the colony now?
posted by kokaku at 11:41 AM on August 23, 2019

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