The Epoch Times, Trump’s Favorite Cult Propaganda Machine Supporting the White House, and How U.S. Anti-COVID Efforts Have Been Derailed – Part 2/3

08.06.2021 - Pressenza New York

The Epoch Times, Trump’s Favorite Cult Propaganda Machine Supporting the White House, and How U.S. Anti-COVID Efforts Have Been Derailed – Part 2/3
Liverpool residents have today recieved a special edition of the right-wing paper The Epoch Times through their doors, Getintothis’ Lewis Ridley reports. (Image by The Epoch Times)

The Global Carpet-Bombing Propaganda Machine

The massive Epoch Times in-your-face carpet-bombing propaganda blitz, which no doubt constitutes harassment and intimidation, began 20 years ago in Chinatown and has since spread across the world.

In Chinese culture we would call what they’re doing “Hurt us, happy for enemies.” Such actions have been dividing and hurting the Chinese-American community for many years. The tactic of intimidating anyone who disagrees with them is aimed at controlling Chinatown’s anti-communist/anti-China leadership role by launching their own all out assault against the People’s Republic of China. (Everyone in the Chinese community knows this.) This has angered everyone. Therefore, they have been mostly discredited and condemned by the Chinese-American community, as well as anti-communist and conservative religious people from the community.

By Lee Siu Hin – ActionLA Network

While their first goal is still to overthrow the Communist Party of China (not the Chinese Communist Party, or CCP as it is commonly called by anti-China forces). But Falun Gong and The Epoch Times are no longer active in the Chinatown community movement; instead, for the past 15 years, they have been steadily moving away from the community and focusing on operating in mainstream American society.

They never give-up. With an unlimited supply of money, they just keep changing their tactics, becoming more creative as they test different strategies, gradually growing faster then any other traditional anti-communist Chinese-American faction.

Today, The Epoch Times publishes in 22 languages, including Persian, Hebrew, and Vietnamese. In the past year, articles from The Epoch Times garnered 123.7 million likes and shares on social media, according to the social media analytical tool Buzzsumo. It has tens of millions of social media followers and has become a true rival of successful conservative outlets, according to the latest New York Times investigation.

Think this way: they’re a combination of The Washington Times, Fox TV, QAnon bots, Facebook, and YouTube with tons of MAGA fanatic fans on call.

The Epoch Times successfully implements their long-time anti-China online strategy, utilizing major social networking sites as tools for repeatedly amplifying ridiculous far right QAnon conspiracy and false voter fraud claims.

At first, The Epoch Times and New Tang Dynasty TV (NTD TV) had only Chinese editions. They intended to control and unify the world Chinese community under its banner for launching a wacky anti-China campaign to overthrow the government of the People’s Republic of China.

However, their efforts didn’t work well in Chinatown and they were never able to return to China. But U.S. far-right political forces saw that they had built a very large and effective high-tech cultish multifaceted propaganda machine – a good covert political asset. Starting in 2016 these media front groups – The Epoch Times, NTD TV, and Sound of Hope Radio, as well as BL (The Beauty of Life) – began to dedicate significant resources to entering the pro-Trump media campaign.

One of their successful strategies is how they use the Internet; moving from using their old time Bulletin Board System (BBS) discussion boards to spread rumors about China and to viciously attack any critics, they now use AI to create fake Facebook accounts pushing far-right theories and pro-Trump messages in the U.S.; they also use these sites to post large quantities of material attacking Trump’s critics and rivals.

For the last several years, according to The New York Times investigation, The Epoch Times has been developing a secret weapon behind the scenes: a Facebook growth strategy that would ultimately help take its message to millions. According to emails reviewed by The New York Times, the Facebook plan was developed by Trung Vu, the former head of The Epoch Times’ Vietnamese edition, known as Dai Ky Nguyen, or DKN.

In Vietnam, Mr. Trung’s strategy involved filling a network of Facebook pages with viral videos and pro-Trump propaganda, some of it lifted word for word from other sites, and using automated software, or bots, to generate fake likes and shares.

While Facebook had banned many The Epoch Times and NTD fake accounts in recent years, a Media Matters investigation found that The Epoch Times with Facebook’s help was able to provide an enormous platform for “Stop The Steal” rally organizers and others trying to overturn the 2020 election.

Facebook enabled The Epoch Times to push the big lie on its platform ahead of the January 6th Capitol riots. According to Media Matters, they identified at least 1,000 posts with discussion related to election “fraud” from The Epoch Times’ Facebook pages between Election Day and January 6. Facebook did almost nothing about it.

According to Snopes.com, The Epoch Times spent at least $510,698 to help them in multiple ways to create their online front sites on Facebook and other social networking platforms, so that nothing would look unusual; meanwhile beneath the surface it’s a pro-Trump QAnon propaganda cult machine.

This outlet, which goes by the name The BL (The Beauty of Life) and whose apps can be downloaded at Apple and Google stores, first appeared around 2016. It is a large international operation. Its prodigious social media presence on Facebook is linked to at least 82 Facebook groups and pages with a total of over 28 million followers. It includes their main English-language page, BL.com, which has spent a total of $276,929 on Facebook ads. The BL TV and The BL Story each spent over $100,000 on Facebook ads. The BL Video, The BL News, and The BL Shedding Light spent another $12,000 or so.

The Beauty of Life is registered in Middletown, New York, to an address also registered to Falun Gong’s Sound of Hope Radio Network and associated with the YouTube series Beyond Science. Snopes.com found that the outlet as a whole is literally the English-language edition of The Epoch Times Vietnam and that The Beauty of Life uses more than 300 fake Facebook profiles based in Vietnam and other countries, posting names, stock photos and celebrity photos on their profiles to emulate Americans; they administer more than 150 pro-Trump Facebook groups amplifying their content.

The Epoch Times and The New Tang Dynasty TV (NTD) have very good relations with YouTube; they have many front video channels in different languages (Chinese, English). Their official NTD YouTube channel has 1.34 million subscribers, and their YouTube personals have attracted hundreds of thousands of subscribers.

One such example: NTD had created one of its most popular YouTube channels, Edge of Wonder. They report all QAnon’s maddest claims, also weaving in spiritual messages from Falun Gong. They believe Obama is part of the conspiracy that killed JFK and that Queen Elizabeth II is implicated in its crimes. They also believe 5G phone towers will spread COVID-19, resulting in several 5G towers across the world being burned down by far-right mobs last summer.

It releases new videos produced by NTD twice a week, and currently has more than 33 million views. In addition to claiming that alien abductions are real and that the drug epidemic is caused by the “deep state,” the channel has also promoted other conspiracy theories and far-right thinking.

In Facts Matter with Roman Balmakov, another Epoch Times’ YouTube channel, a goofy-looking guy devoted to the notion that the election is not over is featured; in less than a few months, the channel had amassed more than a half-million subscribers by mid-March, 2021..

Joshua Philipp, a melancholic 30-something with a thatch of thick black hair, is another Epoch Times YouTube star. He hosts a YouTube show called Crossroads, mostly about China, which has had hundreds of thousands of views.

All of these cult propaganda networks send the same message: Love Trump, hate CCP China; believe QAnon, smash Democrats.

Ahmed al-Rawi, who runs The Disinformation Project at Simon Fraser University in Canada, found that the most frequent terms used on The Epoch Times’ Canadian Facebook page are “China” and “Chinese.”

“They seem to be very active and determined to spread propaganda,” he said. “Their most popular social media posts are not very political, like a video on dogs, or a heartwarming sight of bikers supporting someone, or dolphins, and so on. It’s an interesting way of attracting users before sending them more political messages.” Their messages reach 36 countries using 22 languages, acting as a global purveyor of far-right conspiracy theories.

The Epoch Times video ads – in which unidentified spokespeople thumb through a newspaper to praise Trump, peddle conspiracy theories about the “Deep State,” and criticize “fake news” media – strike a familiar tone in the online conservative news ecosystem.

In April 2019 at the height of its ad spending, videos from the Epoch Media Group, which includes The Epoch Times and NTD, together had around 3 billion views on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, ranking 11th among all video creators across platforms and outranking every traditional news publisher, according to data from the social media analytics company Tubular.

However, these represent only a fraction of The Epoch Times/NTD’s network of dubious activities in the U.S. while they are also responsible for the spread of far right fallacies in Europe and elsewhere in the Americas.

According to the Nieman Lab investigation, they are now expanding the disinformation services with Tierra Pura, a separate, Argentina-based website publishing in both Spanish and Portuguese that spreads conspiracy theories and false information about COVID-19, QAnon, and U.S. election fraud. Tierrapura.org doesn’t reveal its link to The Epoch Times, saying only that it’s run by “a group of concerned citizens,” but a new investigation by the nonprofit EU Disinfo Lab reveals the site’s connection.

Tierra Pura is an example of how disinformation generated in one country can easily reach other countries through a common language: Tierra Pura originates from Argentina, but its content is disseminated in other Latin American countries sharing the same language and even on other continents, reaching audiences located in Spain. This situation makes it harder to hold accountable the people who spread harmful content as they can live thousands of miles away from the countries where their messages have an actual impact, according to the Nieman Lab investigation.

This shows that the Epoch Times media empire will make sure they can cover every corner of the world with a Plan B ready in case one of their markets is forced to shutdown.

With Facebook and Twitter having banned their sites, according to the latest New York Times investigation, they’ve decided to create their own social networking sites.

  • Youmaker, a little-known video site, prominently featured a video alleging that a far-left extremist movement was plotting to destroy America.
  • Sagebook, a Twitter-like social network filled with posts from right-leaning users, has a sidebar of trending topics contained the hashtags “Stop the Steal,” “Censorship” and “Facebook.”
  • Right on Times, an obscure right-wing news aggregator, recently promoted favorable articles about Republican officials who refused to recognize Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the 2020 election.

The Epoch Times began to make use of the alternative social media platforms, like Sagebook and Youmaker, in late 2020. Youmaker draws about 1.5 million unique visitors per month, according to data from the website analytics company SimilarWeb. Sagebook attracted 38,000 monthly visitors and Right on Times is viewed by 15,000, according to SimilarWeb data.

On Sagebook, a stream of stories favorable to Mr. Trump and denouncing President Biden dominated the social network at the beginning of the year. “#StopTheSteal. This election isn’t over,” read one post on Sagebook.

It included a picture of a car with a sign stuck to its roof that read: “CCP spread Covid-19. Say no to communism,” according to The New York Times.

After the inauguration of President Biden on Jan. 20, 2021, these websites switched their focus to publishing anti-China fake news articles and criticizing Mr. Biden and his administration.

With Trump and The Epoch Times banned from major social networking sites, it isn’t surprising to see that they’re aiming to create a far-right online alternative for YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Back to Part 1
Go to Part 3


Lee Siu Hin, a Chinese-American immigrant activist from Los Angeles CA, is the founder and national coordinator of China-U.S. Solidarity Network (CUSN), National Immigrant Solidarity Network (NISN), a long-time community, labor, antiwar and immigrant rights activists for grassroots struggle. He’s also a long-time Pacifica Radio KPFK Los Angeles unpaid reporter and producer, war correspondent went to middle-east, Europe, and Africa.

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