The Epoch Times, which I used to read while waiting for buses—it was free in vending machines—always struck me as sort of charmingly amateurish, and heroically eager to let the world know about ills being perpetrated by the Chinese government on its people.
Alleged organ harvesting on still-living “donors” was the subject of numerous stories. I don’t know how well the stories were reported, but they were chilling, even if only fraction of what was being alleged was borne out. The newspaper was clearly supported by the Falun Gong religious movement that is not popular with the Chinese Communist Party.
Epoch Times seems to have been making an effort to beef up its content and attract new readers. Epoch’s hiring Roger L. Simon from PJ Media was the first I heard of Epoch’s move to broaden appeal. But now the New York Times has taken note of The Epoch Times.
The headline over an October 24 story on the newspaper was headlined, “How Epoch Times Created a Giant Influence Machine.” The subhead summed up the story’s approach:
Since 2016, the Falun Gong-backed newspaper has used aggressive Facebook tactics and right-wing misinformation to create an anti-China, pro-Trump media empire.
The New York Times describes Falun Gong “as obscure Chinese spiritual movement” that has “become a leading purveyor of right-wing misinformation.” I used to work for the Washington Times, which was started by South Korea’s Unification Church, and so I am fully aware of how the mainstream media seeks to delegitimize publications that are not in their fold by making is seem socially unacceptable to work for such publications.
According to its betters at the Times, this is just how sinister Epoch Times has become:
It also has growing influence in Mr. Trump’s inner circle. The president and his family have shared articles from the paper on social media, and Trump administration officials have sat for interviews with its reporters. In August, a reporter from The Epoch Times asked a question at a White House press briefing.
It is a remarkable success story for Falun Gong, which has long struggled to establish its bona fides against Beijing’s efforts to demonize it as an “evil cult,” partly because its strident accounts of persecution in China can sometimes be difficult to substantiate or veer into exaggeration. In 2006, an Epoch Times reporter disrupted a White House visit by the Chinese president by shouting, “Evil people will die early.”
Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist and a former chairman of Breitbart, said in an interview in July that The Epoch Times’s fast growth had impressed him.
The New York alleges that Epoch Times has “downplayed” its connection to Falun Gong. I can’t imagine why anybody would downplay connections with a spiritual group on the outs with the Chinese Communist Party, can you? Even the New York Times admits Falun Gong has suffered at the hands of the Chinese Communists:
Falun Gong, which Mr. Li introduced in China in 1992, revolves around a series of five meditation exercises and a process of moral self-improvement that is meant to lead to spiritual enlightenment. Today, the group is known for the demonstrations it holds around the world to “clarify the truth” about the Chinese Communist Party, which it accuses of torturing Falun Gong practitioners and harvesting the organs of those executed. (Tens of thousands across China were sent to labor camps in the early years of the crackdown, and the group’s presence there is now much diminished.)
More recently, Falun Gong has come under scrutiny for what some former practitioners have characterized as an extreme belief system that forbids interracial marriage, condemns homosexuality and discourages the use of modern medicine, all allegations the group denies.
In addition to everything, the Epoch Times isn’t as sophisticated at the New York Times:
The Vietnamese team was asked to help Epoch Media Group — the umbrella organization for Falun Gong’s biggest U.S. media properties — set up its own Facebook empire, according to that email. That year, dozens of new Facebook pages appeared, all linked to The Epoch Times and its affiliates. Some were explicitly partisan, others positioned themselves as sources of real and unbiased news, and a few, like a humor page called “Funniest Family Moments,” were disconnected from news entirely.
I can tell you another publication that is now explicitly partisan and disconnected from the news entirely. It is the New York Times.
While acknowledging the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of Falun Gong, the paper of record does seem to have a rather casual approach to religious persecution in China.
The New York Times article never once considers whether alleged Chinese organ harvesting from live donors might be one of the biggest stories of our time (especially given the growing influence of China), or acknowledges that brave people are risking their lives to bring news of this to light.
It is the New York Times, not Epoch Times, comes across as a disgrace in this story.