Weapons of mass distraction
Bob Fu’s story shows the danger of disinformation
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A lie told once remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth. Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels gets attribution for that statement, which gave rise to the disinformation campaigns defining Nazi Germany and Communist Russia and China.
Spreading falsehoods to eliminate opponents is a strategy that’s alive and well around the globe. Ask Bob Fu. Over the past month, the underground church leader, who escaped China in the mid-1990s, has become the target of a disinformation campaign launched by a Chinese billionaire named Guo Wengui.
“Let’s eliminate traitors in the world,” Guo said in a video, puffing on a cigar, wearing sunglasses and a ball cap. Guo—who’s lived in the United States since 2015—fingered Fu and other Chinese dissidents. His targets served jail time under China’s Communist Party (CCP) before the United States granted them asylum. Guo, professing anti-CCP sentiments himself, said of the dissidents, “They all deserve to die.”
Why would a self-proclaimed anti-Communist put other anti-Communists on a hit list? That, my friends, is the essence of a disinformation campaign. A just cause rests on the power of its creed. The propagandists sow confusion and plant doubt over self-evident causes by casting suspicion on crusaders, especially long-serving ones like Bob Fu.
As Guo pumped out YouTube videos pinning Fu atop a “global traitor elimination list,” busloads of protesters began showing up outside Fu’s home in Midland, Texas. They livestreamed their stakeout along Fu’s street for at least two solid weeks, six hours a day, carrying American flags and signs with his photograph, calling him a spy for China and a traitor. Midland Mayor Patrick Payton said he believed the protesters were hired and paid for “by China.”
The FBI and local law enforcement found the threats credible. ChinaAid, the human rights organization Fu founded, has closed its offices for now. On Oct. 5 police moved Fu, his wife, and two of their three children into protective custody at an undisclosed location. The first time I spoke to Fu by phone, he said, “The threats are very real.”
In China Guo Wengui has had powerful supporters inside the CCP, but he left under murky circumstances. In the United States, where he also goes by the name Miles Kwok, Guo bought a lavish apartment overlooking New York’s Central Park and deployed his fortune and online platform against alleged foes. At the same time, he cultivated friends in high places—including President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and former adviser Steve Bannon, both pictured with Guo.
Strategic Vision, a research firm that became the target of a Guo defamation suit, concluded Guo “was not the dissident he claimed to be” but “a dissident-hunter, propagandist, and agent in the service of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party.” His media stunts, according to the firm, actually are aimed at uncovering Chinese nationals believed to be helping the U.S. government.
We in the free West sit surrounded by many “weapons of mass distraction”—disinformation from media and even leaders designed to foster chaos rather than order, to sow doubt where truth should be obvious. But this isn’t mere entertainment or someone’s shtick. Bob Fu’s story shows how disinformation can endanger even “average” Americans. We can’t afford to dismiss it with cynicism or complacency.
Fu is fortunate to have a long public record and supporters stretching around the globe, particularly from Midland to Washington, D.C. Midland Mayor Payton held press conferences to help defuse the scene at Fu’s house, encouraged neighbors not to confront the protesters, and vowed to protect their property. Police have arrested protesters for trespassing, even jaywalking, he said.
Area pastors held a rally for Fu at a nearby outdoor amphitheater and issued statements of support. On Capitol Hill, where Fu has provided expert testimony at least 13 times before congressional committees, lawmakers rallied to his defense.
Fu and his family continued in hiding, his offices for ChinaAid closed and the work to shed light on CCP atrocities suspended. “We are holding together,” Fu told me. “The children are realizing there is a price to pay for religious advocacy, even on U.S. soil.”
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