HomeAttacks on U.S.Unintentionally Complicit: How LA Times Columnist Became Part of China's Propaganda Machine

Unintentionally Complicit: How LA Times Columnist Became Part of China’s Propaganda Machine

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The power of information and persuasion knows no boundaries. As a columnist, it is not unusual to receive criticism for one’s opinions. However, imagine discovering that your words, meant to foster discussion and critical thinking, have been co-opted to serve the interests of a foreign government’s propaganda machine. This is precisely what happened to Nicholas Goldberg, a veteran journalist and columnist for the Los Angeles Times. In this article, we will delve into Goldberg’s unexpected encounter with China’s vast propaganda apparatus and the implications it carries.

Nicholas Goldberg has never shied away from expressing his opinions on American policies and politics. He has weathered his fair share of criticism, labeled a traitor or worse by some readers who vehemently disagree with his views. Yet, Goldberg has always stood firm in his belief that he is not a shill or apologist for America’s adversaries. However, an unsettling revelation shook his conviction when he discovered that one of his columns had been embraced by China’s official Xinhua News Agency.

Xinhua News Agency is no small player in the world of media. With nearly a century of history and over 180 bureaus globally, it reaches a massive audience that rivals major news outlets like the Associated Press and the BBC. However, what sets Xinhua apart is its one-sided, agenda-driven portrayal of the world. It serves as the megaphone for China’s government, tirelessly working to promote its narrative and influence public perception worldwide.

Goldberg’s column, which had criticized dangerous partisanship and political polarization in the U.S., was suddenly presented on Xinhua’s platform in a harsher context. The headline read, “L.A. Times columnist bashes fight between U.S. Democrats and Republicans.” It was just one piece of a larger puzzle where Xinhua paints a bleak picture of America, focusing on issues like racism, police shootings, and environmental crises while simultaneously presenting China in a positive light.

The phenomenon of government propaganda is not new; it has been employed throughout history by various regimes worldwide. Yet, China’s approach is noteworthy. According to the Economist, Chinese President Xi Jinping dedicates billions to “tell China’s story well.” It appears to be working, as a recent study involving scholars from esteemed universities revealed that many respondents in 19 countries preferred China’s form of government to that of the United States. The messaging convinced them that China offers growth, stability, and competent leadership.

Nicholas Goldberg’s article became an unwitting part of this messaging. It may be disconcerting to realize one’s words are used in ways never intended, but the question remains: What can one do about it?

Goldberg’s response is clear: he will not alter his stance. He believes in the fundamental value of free debate and open discourse, even when his words are manipulated for propaganda purposes. In the United States, where free expression is a cherished principle, individuals can criticize the government without fear of intimidation or censorship. This contrasts starkly with China, where freedom of expression is severely restricted, and dissenters face harassment, detention, or prosecution.

Where information is weaponized for political gain, the power of free expression is invaluable. Nicholas Goldberg’s experience serves as a stark reminder of the importance of open dialogue, critical thinking, and a free press. While his column may have inadvertently become a tool of Chinese propaganda, he remains steadfast in his commitment to fostering a stronger and healthier democracy through free debate, even in the face of unintended consequences.

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2023-03-03/xinhua-china-propaganda

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