Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #1090 Fascism: 2019 World Tour, Part 5 (Destabilizing China)

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This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Intro­duc­tion: We begin with brief review of the Falun Gong cult and its con­nec­tions. Part of a con­stel­la­tion of orga­ni­za­tions and indi­vid­u­als work­ing with for­mer Trump chief of staff Steve Ban­non to neu­tral­ize Chi­na, Falun Gong has gar­nered the sup­port of CIA deriv­a­tive Broad­cast­ing Board of Gov­er­nors in the effort.

The Falun Gong teach­es that: post menopausal women can regain men­stru­a­tion, con­sid­ered manda­to­ry for spir­i­tu­al evo­lu­tion; gays are demo­nized; mixed race peo­ple are demo­nized; cult mem­bers are dis­cour­aged from seek­ing mod­ern med­ical treat­ment; space aliens are inhab­it­ing human bod­ies and are respon­si­ble for mod­ern tech­nol­o­gy such as air­planes and com­put­ers; tiny beings are said to be invad­ing human bod­ies and caus­ing “bad kar­ma;” mas­ter Li Hongzhi knows the secrets of the uni­verse; mas­ter Li Hongzhi can lev­i­tate and walk through walls; mas­ter Li Hongzhi can install a phys­i­cal “Falun”–swastika–in the abdomen of fol­low­ers which revolves in var­i­ous direc­tions; Falun Gong teach­ing demo­nizes fem­i­nists and pop­u­lar music; there will be a “Judge­ment Day” on which com­mu­nists and oth­ers deemed unwor­thy by mas­ter Li Hongzhi will be neu­tral­ized.

Falun Gong–largely through its Epoch Times newspaper–has estab­lished a major social media pres­ence and is a key ally of Pres­i­dent Trump’s re-elec­tion effort: “. . . . In April, at the height of its ad spend­ing, videos from the Epoch Media Group, which includes The Epoch Times and dig­i­tal video out­let New Tang Dynasty, or NTD, com­bined for around 3 bil­lion views on Face­book, YouTube and Twit­ter, rank­ing 11th among all video cre­ators across plat­forms and out­rank­ing every oth­er tra­di­tion­al news pub­lish­er, accord­ing to data from the social media ana­lyt­ics com­pa­ny Tubu­lar. That engage­ment has made The Epoch Times a favorite of the Trump fam­i­ly and a key com­po­nent of the president’s re-elec­tion cam­paign. . . . .”

Pro­gram High­lights Include: The enor­mous amount of mon­ey under con­trol of Falun Gong; sim­i­lar­i­ties to the Uni­fi­ca­tion Church; the anti-com­mu­nist dog­ma of the cult (again, not unlike the Uni­fi­ca­tion Church); the role of the inter­net and social media–Facebook, in particular–in the growth of Falun Gong’s oper­a­tions; the spin put by NBC on Falun Gong’s beliefs.

1.We begin with brief review of the Falun Gong cult and its con­nec­tions. Part of a con­stel­la­tion of orga­ni­za­tions and indi­vid­u­als work­ing with for­mer Trump chief of staff Steve Ban­non to neu­tral­ize Chi­na, Falun Gong has gar­nered the sup­port of CIA deriv­a­tive Broad­cast­ing Board of Gov­er­nors in the effort.

The Falun Gong teach­es that: post menopausal women can regain men­stru­a­tion, con­sid­ered manda­to­ry for spir­i­tu­al evo­lu­tion; gays are demo­nized; mixed race peo­ple are demo­nized; cult mem­bers are dis­cour­aged from seek­ing mod­ern med­ical treat­ment; space aliens are inhab­it­ing human bod­ies and are respon­si­ble for mod­ern tech­nol­o­gy such as air­planes and com­put­ers; tiny beings are said to be invad­ing human bod­ies and caus­ing “bad kar­ma;” mas­ter Li Hongzhi knows the secrets of the uni­verse; mas­ter Li Hongzhi can lev­i­tate and walk through walls; mas­ter Li Hongzhi can install a phys­i­cal “Falun”–swastika–in the abdomen of fol­low­ers which revolves in var­i­ous direc­tions; Falun Gong teach­ing demo­nizes fem­i­nists and pop­u­lar music; there will be a “Judge­ment Day” on which com­mu­nists and oth­ers deemed unwor­thy by mas­ter Li Hongzhi will be neu­tral­ized.

Falun Gong–largely through its Epoch Times newspaper–has estab­lished a major social media pres­ence and is a key ally of Pres­i­dent Trump’s re-elec­tion effort: “. . . . In April, at the height of its ad spend­ing, videos from the Epoch Media Group, which includes The Epoch Times and dig­i­tal video out­let New Tang Dynasty, or NTD, com­bined for around 3 bil­lion views on Face­book, YouTube and Twit­ter, rank­ing 11th among all video cre­ators across plat­forms and out­rank­ing every oth­er tra­di­tion­al news pub­lish­er, accord­ing to data from the social media ana­lyt­ics com­pa­ny Tubu­lar. That engage­ment has made The Epoch Times a favorite of the Trump fam­i­ly and a key com­po­nent of the president’s re-elec­tion cam­paign. . . . .”

“Trump, QAnon and an impend­ing judg­ment day: Behind the Face­book-fueled rise of The Epoch Times” by Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins, NBC News, 08/20/2019

Start­ed almost two decades ago with a stat­ed mis­sion to “pro­vide infor­ma­tion to Chi­nese com­mu­ni­ties to help immi­grants assim­i­late into Amer­i­can soci­ety,” The Epoch Times now wields one of the biggest social media fol­low­ings of any news out­let.

By the num­bers, there is no big­ger advo­cate of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Face­book than The Epoch Times.

The small New York-based non­prof­it news out­let has spent more than $1.5 mil­lion on about 11,000 pro-Trump adver­tise­ments in the last six months, accord­ing to data from Facebook’s adver­tis­ing archive — more than any orga­ni­za­tion out­side of the Trump cam­paign itself, and more than most Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates have spent on their own cam­paigns.

Those 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. The Epoch Times looks like many of the con­ser­v­a­tive out­lets that have gained fol­low­ings in recent years.

But it isn’t.

Behind the scenes, the media outlet’s own­er­ship and oper­a­tion is close­ly tied to Falun Gong, a Chi­nese spir­i­tu­al com­mu­ni­ty with the stat­ed goal of tak­ing down China’s gov­ern­ment.

It’s that moti­va­tion that helped dri­ve the orga­ni­za­tion toward Trump, accord­ing to inter­views with for­mer Epoch Times staffers, a move that has been both lucra­tive and ben­e­fi­cial for its mes­sage.

For­mer prac­ti­tion­ers of Falun Gong told NBC News that believ­ers think the world is head­ed toward a judg­ment day, where those labeled “com­mu­nists” will be sent to a kind of hell, and those sym­pa­thet­ic to the spir­i­tu­al com­mu­ni­ty will be spared. Trump is viewed as a key ally in the anti-com­mu­nist fight, for­mer Epoch Times employ­ees said.

In part because of that unusu­al back­ground, The Epoch Times has had trou­ble find­ing a foothold in the broad­er con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment.

“It seems like an inter­lop­er — not well inte­grat­ed social­ly with­in the move­ment net­work, and not ter­ri­bly well-cir­cu­lat­ing among right-wingers,” said A.J. Bauer, a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor of media, cul­ture and com­mu­ni­ca­tion at New York Uni­ver­si­ty, who is part of an ongo­ing study in which he and his col­leagues inter­view con­ser­v­a­tive jour­nal­ists.

“Even when dis­cussing more fringe‑y sites, con­ser­v­a­tive jour­nal­ists tend to ref­er­ence Gate­way Pun­dit or Infowars,” Bauer said. “The Epoch Times doesn’t tend to come up.”

That seems to be chang­ing.

Before 2016, The Epoch Times gen­er­al­ly stayed out of U.S. pol­i­tics, unless they dove­tailed with Chi­nese inter­ests. The publication’s recent ad strat­e­gy, cou­pled with a broad­er cam­paign to embrace social media and con­ser­v­a­tive U.S. pol­i­tics — Trump in par­tic­u­lar — has dou­bled The Epoch Times’ rev­enue, accord­ing to the organization’s tax fil­ings, and pushed it to greater promi­nence in the broad­er con­ser­v­a­tive media world.

Start­ed almost two decades ago as a free news­pa­per and web­site with a stat­ed mis­sion to “pro­vide infor­ma­tion to Chi­nese com­mu­ni­ties to help immi­grants assim­i­late into Amer­i­can soci­ety,” The Epoch Times now wields one of the biggest social media fol­low­ings of any news out­let.

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

That engage­ment has made The Epoch Times a favorite of the Trump fam­i­ly and a key com­po­nent of the president’s re-elec­tion cam­paign. The president’s Face­book page has post­ed Epoch Times con­tent at least half a dozen times this year— with sev­er­al arti­cles writ­ten by mem­bers of the Trump cam­paign. Don­ald Trump Jr. has tweet­ed sev­er­al of their sto­ries, too.

In May, Lara Trump, the president’s daugh­ter-in-law, sat down for a 40-minute inter­view in Trump Tow­er with the paper’s senior edi­tor. And for the first time, The Epoch Times was a main play­er at the con­ser­v­a­tive con­fer­ence CPAC this year, where it secured inter­views with mem­bers of Con­gress, Trump Cab­i­net mem­bers and right-wing celebri­ties.

At the same time, 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, to reach the main­stream.

Despite its grow­ing reach and pow­er, lit­tle is pub­licly known about the pre­cise own­er­ship, ori­gins or influ­ences of The Epoch Times.

The outlet’s opac­i­ty makes it dif­fi­cult to deter­mine an over­all struc­ture, but it is loose­ly orga­nized into sev­er­al region­al tax-free non­prof­its. The Epoch Times oper­ates along­side the video pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny, NTD, under the umbrel­la of The Epoch Media Group, a pri­vate news and enter­tain­ment com­pa­ny whose own­er exec­u­tives have declined to name, cit­ing con­cerns of “pres­sure” that could fol­low.

The Epoch Media Group, along with Shen Yun, a dance troupe known for its ubiq­ui­tous adver­tis­ing and unset­tling per­for­mances, make up the out­reach effort of Falun Gong, a rel­a­tive­ly new spir­i­tu­al prac­tice that com­bines ancient Chi­nese med­i­ta­tive exer­cis­es, mys­ti­cism and often ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive cul­tur­al world­views. Falun Gong’s founder has referred to Epoch Media Group as “our media,” and the group’s prac­tice heav­i­ly informs The Epoch Times’ cov­er­age, accord­ing to for­mer employ­ees who spoke with NBC News.

Exec­u­tives at The Epoch Times declined to be inter­viewed for this arti­cle, but the pub­lish­er, Stephen Gre­go­ry, wrote an edi­to­r­i­al in response to a list of emailed ques­tions from NBC News, call­ing it “high­ly inap­pro­pri­ate” and part of an effort to “dis­cred­it” the pub­li­ca­tion to ask about the company’s affil­i­a­tion with Falun Gong and its stance on the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

Inter­views with for­mer employ­ees, pub­lic finan­cial records and social media data illus­trate how a secre­tive news­pa­per has been able to lever­age the devot­ed fol­low­ers of a reclu­sive spir­i­tu­al leader, polit­i­cal vit­ri­ol, online con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and the rise of Trump to become a dig­i­tal media pow­er­house that now attracts bil­lions of views each month, all while pub­licly deny­ing or down­play­ing its asso­ci­a­tion with Falun Gong.

Behind the times

In 2009, the founder and leader of Falun Gong, Li Hongzhi, came to speak at The Epoch Times’ offices in Man­hat­tan. Li came with a clear direc­tive for the Falun Gong vol­un­teers who com­prised the company’s staff: “Become reg­u­lar media.”

The pub­li­ca­tion had been found­ed nine years ear­li­er in Geor­gia by John Tang, a Chi­nese Amer­i­can prac­ti­tion­er of Falun Gong and cur­rent pres­i­dent of New Tang Dynasty. But it was falling short of Li’s ambi­tions as stat­ed to his fol­low­ers: to expose the evil of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment and “save all sen­tient beings” in a forth­com­ing divine bat­tle against com­mu­nism.

Rough­ly trans­lat­ed by the group as “law wheel exer­cise,” Falun Gong was start­ed by Li in 1992. The prac­tice, which com­bines bits of Bud­dhism and Tao­ism, involves med­i­ta­tion and gen­tle exer­cis­es and espous­es Li’s con­tro­ver­sial teach­ings.

“Li Hongzhi sim­pli­fied med­i­ta­tion and prac­tices that tra­di­tion­al­ly have many steps and are very con­fus­ing,” said Ming Xia, a pro­fes­sor at the Grad­u­ate Cen­ter of the City Uni­ver­si­ty of New York who has stud­ied Falun Gong. “Basi­cal­ly it’s like fast food, a quick­ie.”

Li’s teach­ings quick­ly built a sig­nif­i­cant fol­low­ing — and ran into ten­sion with China’s lead­ers, who viewed his pop­u­lar­i­ty as a threat to the com­mu­nist government’s hold on pow­er.

In 1999, after thou­sands of Li’s fol­low­ers gath­ered in front of Pres­i­dent Jiang Zemin’s com­pound to qui­et­ly protest the arrest of sev­er­al Falun Gong mem­bers, author­i­ties in Chi­na banned Falun Gong, clos­ing teach­ing cen­ters and arrest­ing Falun Gong orga­niz­ers and prac­ti­tion­ers who refused to give up the prac­tice. Human rights groups have report­ed some adher­ents being tor­tured and killed while in cus­tody.

The crack­down elicit­ed con­dem­na­tion from West­ern coun­tries, and attract­ed a new pool of fol­low­ers in the Unit­ed States, for whom Chi­na and com­mu­nism were com­mon adver­saries.

“The per­se­cu­tion itself ele­vat­ed Li’s sta­tus and brought tremen­dous media atten­tion,” Ming said.

It has also invit­ed scruti­ny of the spir­i­tu­al leader’s more uncon­ven­tion­al ideas. Among them, Li 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.

Li has also taught that sick­ness is a symp­tom of evil that can only be tru­ly cured with med­i­ta­tion and devo­tion, and that aliens from undis­cov­ered dimen­sions have invad­ed the minds and bod­ies of humans, bring­ing cor­rup­tion and inven­tions such as com­put­ers and air­planes. The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has used these con­tro­ver­sial teach­ings to label Falun Gong a cult. Falun Gong has denied the government’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion.

The Epoch Times pro­vid­ed Li with an Eng­lish-lan­guage way to push back against Chi­na — a posi­tion that would even­tu­al­ly dove­tail with Trump’s elec­tion.

In 2005, The Epoch Times released its great­est sal­vo, pub­lish­ing the ”Nine Com­men­taries,” a wide­ly dis­trib­uted book-length series of anony­mous edi­to­ri­als that it claimed exposed the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party’s “mas­sive crimes” and “attempts to erad­i­cate all tra­di­tion­al moral­i­ty and reli­gious belief.”

The next year, an Epoch Times reporter was removed from a White House event for Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Hu Jin­tao after inter­rupt­ing the cer­e­mo­ny by shout­ing for sev­er­al min­utes that then-Pres­i­dent George W. Bush must stop the leader from “per­se­cut­ing Falun Gong.”

But despite its small army of devot­ed vol­un­teers, The Epoch Times was still oper­at­ing as a fledg­ling start­up.

Ben Hur­ley is a for­mer Falun Gong prac­ti­tion­er who helped cre­ate Australia’s Eng­lish ver­sion of The Epoch Times out of a liv­ing room in Syd­ney in 2005. He has writ­ten about his expe­ri­ence with the paper and described the ear­ly years as “a giant PR cam­paign” to evan­ge­lize about Falun Gong’s belief in an upcom­ing apoc­a­lypse in which those who think bad­ly of the prac­tice, or well of the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty, will be destroyed.

Hur­ley, who wrote for The Epoch Times until he left in 2013, said he saw prac­ti­tion­ers in lead­er­ship posi­tions begin draw­ing hard­er and hard­er lines about accept­able polit­i­cal posi­tions.

“Their views were always anti-abor­tion and homo­pho­bic, but there was more room for dis­agree­ments in the ear­ly days,” he said.

Hur­ley said Falun Gong prac­ti­tion­ers saw 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, Hur­ley said.

This kind of cov­er­age fore­shad­owed the news organization’s embrace of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries like QAnon, the over­ar­ch­ing the­o­ry that there is an evil cabal of “deep state” oper­a­tors and child preda­tors out to take down the pres­i­dent.

“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.”

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Li declined an inter­view request. Li lives among hun­dreds of his fol­low­ers near Drag­on Springs, a 400-acre com­pound in upstate New York that hous­es tem­ples, pri­vate schools and quar­ters where per­form­ers for the organization’s dance troupe, Shen Yun, live and rehearse, accord­ing to four for­mer com­pound res­i­dents and for­mer Falun Gong prac­ti­tion­ers who spoke to NBC News.

They said that life in Drag­on Springs is tight­ly con­trolled by Li, that inter­net access is restrict­ed, the use of med­i­cines is dis­cour­aged, and arranged rela­tion­ships are com­mon. Two for­mer res­i­dents on visas said they were offered to be set up with U.S. res­i­dents at the com­pound.

Tiger Huang, a for­mer Drag­on Springs res­i­dent who was on a U.S. stu­dent visa from Tai­wan, said she was set up on three dates on the com­pound, and she believed her abil­i­ty to stay in the U.S. was tied to the arrange­ment.

“The pur­pose of set­ting up the dates was obvi­ous,” Huang said. Her now-hus­band, a for­mer Drag­on Springs res­i­dent, con­firmed the account.

Huang said she was told by Drag­on Springs offi­cials her visa had expired and was told to go back to Tai­wan after months of dat­ing a non­prac­ti­tion­er in the com­pound. She lat­er learned that her visa had not expired when she was told to leave the coun­try.

Cam­paign sea­son

By 2016, The Epoch Times Group appeared to have heed­ed the call from Li to run its oper­a­tion more like a typ­i­cal news orga­ni­za­tion, start­ing with The Epoch Times’ web­site. In March, the com­pa­ny placed job ads on the site Indeed.com and assem­bled a team of sev­en young reporters oth­er­wise uncon­nect­ed to Falun Gong. The aver­age salary for the new recruits was $35,000 a year, paid month­ly, accord­ing to for­mer employ­ees.

Things seemed “strange,” even from the first day, accord­ing to five for­mer reporters who spoke with NBC News — four of whom asked for anonymi­ty over con­cerns that speak­ing neg­a­tive­ly about their expe­ri­ence would affect their rela­tion­ship with cur­rent and future employ­ers.

As part of their ori­en­ta­tion, the new reporters watched a video that laid out the Chi­nese per­se­cu­tion of Falun Gong fol­low­ers. The pub­lish­er, Stephen Gre­go­ry, also spoke to the reporters about his vision for the new dig­i­tal ini­tia­tive. The for­mer employ­ees said Gregory’s talk framed The Epoch Times as an answer to the lib­er­al main­stream media.

Their con­tent was to be crit­i­cal of com­mu­nist Chi­na, clear-eyed about the threat of Islam­ic ter­ror­ism, focused on ille­gal immi­gra­tion and at all times root­ed in “tra­di­tion­al” val­ues, they said. This meant no con­tent about drugs, gay peo­ple or pop­u­lar music.

The reporters said they worked from desks arranged in a U‑shape in a sin­gle-room office that was sep­a­rat­ed by a locked door from the oth­er staff mem­bers who worked on the paper, dozens of Falun Gong vol­un­teers and interns. The new recruits wrote up to five news sto­ries a day in an effort to meet a quo­ta of 100,000 page views, and sub­mit­ted their work to a hand­ful of edi­tors — a team of two Falun Gong-prac­tic­ing mar­ried cou­ples.

“Slave labor may not be the right word, but that’s a lot of arti­cles to write in one day,” one for­mer employ­ee said.

It wasn’t just the amount of writ­ing but also the con­ser­v­a­tive edi­to­r­i­al restric­tions that began to con­cern some of the employ­ees.

“It’s like we were sup­posed to be fight­ing so-called lib­er­al pro­pa­gan­da by mak­ing our own,” said Steve Klett, who cov­ered the Trump cam­paign for The Epoch Times as his first job in jour­nal­ism. Klett likened The Epoch Times to a Russ­ian troll farm and said his arti­cles were edit­ed to remove out­side crit­i­cism of Trump.

“The worst was the Pulse shoot­ing,” Klett said, refer­ring to the 2016 mass shoot­ing in which 50 peo­ple includ­ing the gun­man were killed at a gay night­club in Orlan­do, Flori­da. “We weren’t allowed to cov­er sto­ries involv­ing homo­sex­u­al­i­ty, but that bumps up against them want­i­ng to cov­er Islam­ic ter­ror­ism. So I wrote four arti­cles with­out using the word gay.”

Klett said that the pub­li­ca­tion also began to skew in favor of Trump, who had tar­get­ed Chi­na on the cam­paign trail with talk of a trade war.

“I knew I had to for­get about all the worst parts of Trump,” Klett said.

Klett, how­ev­er, would not end up hav­ing to cov­er the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. Eight days before the elec­tion, the team was called togeth­er and fired as a group.

“I guess the exper­i­ment was over,” a for­mer employ­ee said.

The con­tent

The Epoch Times, dig­i­tal pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny NTD and the heav­i­ly adver­tised dance troupe Shen Yun make up the non­prof­it net­work that Li calls “our media.” Finan­cial doc­u­ments paint a com­pli­cat­ed pic­ture of more than a dozen tech­ni­cal­ly sep­a­rate orga­ni­za­tions that appear to share mis­sions, mon­ey and exec­u­tives. Though the source of their rev­enue is unclear, the most recent finan­cial records from each orga­ni­za­tion paint a pic­ture of an over­all busi­ness thriv­ing in the Trump era.

The Epoch Times brought in $8.1 mil­lion in rev­enue in 2017 — dou­ble what it had the pre­vi­ous year — and report­ed spend­ing $7.2 mil­lion on “print­ing news­pa­per and cre­at­ing web and media pro­grams.” Most of its rev­enue comes from adver­tis­ing and “web and media income,” accord­ing to the group’s annu­al tax fil­ings, while indi­vid­ual dona­tions and sub­scrip­tions to the paper make up less than 10 per­cent of its rev­enue.

New Tang Dynasty’s 2017 rev­enue, accord­ing to IRS records, was $18 mil­lion, a 150 per­cent increase over the year before. It spent $16.2 mil­lion.

That expo­nen­tial growth came around the same time The Epoch Times expand­ed its online pres­ence and increased its ad spend­ing, hon­ing its mes­sage on two basic themes: enthu­si­as­tic sup­port for Trump’s agen­da, and the expo­sure of what the pub­li­ca­tion claims is a labyrinthi­an, glob­al con­spir­a­cy led by Clin­ton and for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma to tear down Trump. One such con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, loose­ly called “Spy­gate,” has become a com­mon talk­ing point for Fox News host Sean Han­ni­ty and con­ser­v­a­tive news web­sites like Bre­it­bart.

The paper’s “Spy­gate Spe­cial Cov­er­age” sec­tion, which fre­quent­ly sits atop its web­site, the­o­rizes about a grand, years­long plot in which for­mer Oba­ma and Clin­ton staffers, a hand­ful of mag­a­zines and news­pa­pers, pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tors and gov­ern­ment bureau­crats plan to take down the Trump pres­i­den­cy.

In his pub­lished response, pub­lish­er Gre­go­ry said the media outlet’s ads “have no polit­i­cal agen­da.”

While The Epoch Times usu­al­ly strad­dles the line between an ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive news out­let and a con­spir­a­cy ware­house, some pop­u­lar online shows cre­at­ed by Epoch Times employ­ees and pro­duced by NTD cross the line com­plete­ly, and spread far and wide.

One such show is “Edge of Won­der,” a ver­i­fied YouTube chan­nel that releas­es new NTD-pro­duced videos twice every week and now has more than 33 mil­lion views. In addi­tion to claims that alien abduc­tions are real and the drug epi­dem­ic was engi­neered by the “deep state,” the chan­nel push­es the QAnon con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry, which false­ly posits that the same “Spy­gate” cabal is a front for a glob­al pedophile ring being tak­en down by Trump.

One QAnon video, titled “#QANON – 7 facts the MEDIA (MSM) Won’t Admit” has almost 1 mil­lion views on YouTube. Oth­er videos in the channel’s QAnon playlist, which include videos about 9/11 con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and one titled “13 BLOODLINES & their Dia­bol­i­cal End Game,” gained hun­dreds of thou­sands of views each.

Travis View, a researcher and pod­cast­er who stud­ies the QAnon move­ment, said The Epoch Times has san­i­tized the con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry by push­ing Spy­gate, which drops the wildest and more pruri­ent details of QAnon while retain­ing its con­spir­a­to­r­i­al ele­ments.

“QAnon is high­ly stig­ma­tized among peo­ple try­ing to push the Spy­gate mes­sage. They know how tox­ic QAnon is,” View said. “Spy­gate leaves out the spir­i­tu­al ele­ments, the child sex traf­fick­ing, but it’s cer­tain­ly inte­gral to the QAnon nar­ra­tive.”

Gre­go­ry denied any con­nec­tion with “Edge of Won­der,” writ­ing in a state­ment that his orga­ni­za­tion was “aware of the enter­tain­ment show,” but “is in no way con­nect­ed with it.”

But The Epoch Times has itself pub­lished sev­er­al cred­u­lous reports on QAnon and for years, the web­series hosts Rob Counts and Ben­jamin Chas­teen were employed as the company’s cre­ative direc­tor and chief pho­to edi­tor, respec­tive­ly. In August 2018, six months after the cre­ation of “Edge of Won­der,” Counts tweet­ed that he still worked for Epoch Times. Counts and Chas­teen did not respond to an email seek­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tion on their roles.

Discussion

One comment for “FTR #1090 Fascism: 2019 World Tour, Part 5 (Destabilizing China)”

  1. Here’s a sto­ry to watch as the Wuhan flu con­tin­ues to grow into a glob­al pan­dem­ic relat­ed to Steve Ban­non’s efforts to desta­bi­lize Chi­na : There’s a ‘news’ web­site found­ed by an exiled Chi­nese bil­lion­aire push­ing the idea that the Wuhan flu virus orig­i­nat­ed in a Chi­nese gov­ern­ment lab. The site also pub­lished a doc­u­ment described as “ques­tion­able” that fueled a con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry that the Chi­nese mil­i­tary spread the dis­ease delib­er­ate­ly. The doc­u­ment has been pop­u­lar on mes­sage boards like 4chan, which is par­tic­u­lar­ly pop­u­lar with the ‘Alt Right’. What makes this behav­ior by G News par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing is that this bil­lion­aire, Guo Wen­gui (also known as Miles Kwok and Miles Guo), recent­ly hired Steve Ban­non for $1 mil­lion to make intro­duc­tions to “media per­son­al­i­ties” and advise on “indus­try stan­dards.” Ban­non and Buo also fre­quent­ly appear togeth­er in videos on G News that attack the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment

    Anoth­er Amer­i­can who appears to be asso­ci­at­ed with G New is hedge fund man­ag­er J. Kyle Bass who report­ed­ly has invest­ment posi­tions that prof­it from a decline in the val­ue if Chi­na’s econ­o­my fails. Bass is the chair of the Rule of Law Foun­da­tion, a non­prof­it that runs ban­ner ads at the top and bot­tom of the G News web­site. Guo and Ban­non hap­pen to run a $100 mil­lion invest­ment fund called the Rule of Law Fund, but Bass claims that his Rule of Law Foun­da­tion has no ties to that fund and that he has ties to G News at all.

    As we’re going to see in the sec­ond arti­cle below, Bass has tied to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion via his friend­ly with Tom­my Hick, Jr., a long-time friend of Don­ald Trump Jr. and cur­rent co-chair­man of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee. Bass has report­ed­ly used his con­nec­tions to Hicks to meet with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and share his views on Chi­na.
    Recall how Hicks was one of the fig­ures who report­ed­ly met with Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man as they were work­ing on their Naftogaz scheme in Ukraine.

    So a new anti-Chi­na dis­in­for­ma­tion site just popped up that appears to be work­ing with Ban­non and Kyle Bass and Bass appears to be work­ing with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. Ok, first, here’s the sto­ry about the new G News site and its ties to Ban­non and Bass:

    Buz­zFeed News

    A Site Tied To Steve Ban­non Is Writ­ing Fake News About The Coro­n­avirus

    Found­ed by an exiled bil­lion­aire and crit­ic of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment, G News claimed with­out proof that Chi­na was pre­pared to admit the dis­ease orig­i­nat­ed in its labs.

    Jane Lytvy­nenko Buz­zFeed News Reporter
    Post­ed on Feb­ru­ary 3, 2020, at 12:03 p.m. ET

    A web­site that pub­lished two false coro­n­avirus claims, which paint­ed Chi­na in a neg­a­tive light, pre­vi­ous­ly had a con­tract with for­mer White House chief strate­gist Steve Ban­non and was cre­at­ed by an exiled Chi­nese bil­lion­aire and crit­ic of the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Par­ty.

    On Jan. 25, G News pub­lished a false sto­ry say­ing the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment was prepar­ing to admit that the coro­n­avirus orig­i­nat­ed in one of its labs. It did not, but the arti­cle still racked up over 19,000 tweets and 18,000 Face­book engage­ments, accord­ing to social track­ing web­site Buz­zSumo. The sto­ry was debunked by Face­book fact-check­ing part­ner Poli­ti­Fact.

    The web­site also pub­lished a ques­tion­able doc­u­ment that fed a con­spir­a­cy that the Chi­nese mil­i­tary spread the dis­ease delib­er­ate­ly. That doc­u­ment, which seems to have come from G News orig­i­nal­ly, has been pop­u­lar on anony­mous mes­sage boards like 4chan and 2chan.

    G News is part of Guo Media, a project fund­ed by Chi­nese bil­lion­aire Guo Wen­gui, also known as Miles Kwok and Miles Guo. He fled Chi­na in 2014 and has been accused of bribery, mon­ey laun­der­ing, and fraud by the main­land gov­ern­ment. He has denied the charges, call­ing them polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed, and has become a vocal crit­ic of Bei­jing.

    In August 2018, Guo’s orga­ni­za­tion signed what Axios report­ed to be a $1 mil­lion con­tract with Steve Ban­non, for­mer White House strate­gist and for­mer chair of the hyper­par­ti­san news site Bre­it­bart. The con­tract required Ban­non to make intro­duc­tions to “media per­son­al­i­ties” and advise on “indus­try stan­dards,” accord­ing to Axios. Guo and Ban­non fre­quent­ly appear togeth­er in videos on G News that attack the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment.

    ...

    Anoth­er per­son con­nect­ed to G News, hedge fund man­ag­er J. Kyle Bass, also spread a false coro­n­avirus claim in a tweet. His hedge fund report­ed­ly had invest­ments that will increase in val­ue if the Chi­nese econ­o­my fails, but he told Buz­zFeed News he no longer holds “any Chi­nese equi­ty posi­tions what­so­ev­er.” Bass has remained a Chi­na crit­ic, fre­quent­ly echo­ing Ban­non.

    “A hus­band and wife Chi­nese spy team were recent­ly removed from a Lev­el 4 Infec­tious Dis­ease facil­i­ty in Cana­da for send­ing pathogens to the Wuhan facil­i­ty. The hus­band spe­cial­ized in coro­n­avirus research,” Bass tweet­ed, link­ing to a CBC News arti­cle that did not sup­port his claim.

    His tweet gar­nered almost 13,000 retweets and caused Cana­di­an offi­cials to issue a clar­i­fi­ca­tion deny­ing that coro­n­avirus was stolen from the Win­nipeg lab. “This is mis­in­for­ma­tion and there is no fac­tu­al basis for claims being made on social media,” Eric Mor­ris­sette, the chief of media rela­tions for Health Cana­da and the Pub­lic Health Agency of Cana­da, told CBC News.

    When asked about his tweet, Bass said he had no plan to remove it.

    “I am extreme­ly con­cerned about the spread of mis­in­for­ma­tion about the coro­n­avirus by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment,” he said.

    Bass is the chair of the Rule of Law Foun­da­tion, a non­prof­it that runs ban­ner ads at the top and bot­tom of the G News web­site solic­it­ing dona­tions. He said he had no affil­i­a­tion with the site.

    “I have noth­ing to do with G News or its con­tent,” he said. “Guo Wen­gui has no lead­er­ship posi­tion, oper­at­ing con­trol, or legal posi­tion with the Rule of Law Foun­da­tion.”

    Bass added that he hadn’t “read any G News sto­ry. Peri­od.” He also claimed that the Rule of Law Foun­da­tion was sep­a­rate from the $100 mil­lion fund start­ed by Guo and Ban­non called the Rule of Law Fund.

    Aside from Guo’s site shar­ing false infor­ma­tion dur­ing the coro­n­avirus out­break, he has been a source of con­tro­ver­sy since arriv­ing in the US. Accord­ing to Politi­co, he is involved in a legal dis­pute stem­ming from his alleged hir­ing of a pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tion firm to dig up dirt on Chi­nese nation­als.

    After being exiled from Chi­na, he has faced accu­sa­tions of both finan­cial and sex­u­al mis­con­duct, includ­ing a rape alle­ga­tion from a for­mer assis­tant. Guo has main­tained his inno­cence, say­ing that alle­ga­tions were polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed.

    ———-

    “A Site Tied To Steve Ban­non Is Writ­ing Fake News About The Coro­n­avirus” by Jane Lytvy­nenko; Buz­zFeed News; 02/03/2020

    “On Jan. 25, G News pub­lished a false sto­ry say­ing the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment was prepar­ing to admit that the coro­n­avirus orig­i­nat­ed in one of its labs. It did not, but the arti­cle still racked up over 19,000 tweets and 18,000 Face­book engage­ments, accord­ing to social track­ing web­site Buz­zSumo. The sto­ry was debunked by Face­book fact-check­ing part­ner Poli­ti­Fact.”

    Mak­ing up fake news for Machi­avel­lian pur­pos­es. It’s like a Chi­nese dis­si­dent bil­lion­aire Bre­it­bart, includ­ing the involve­ment of Steve Ban­non, who was paid $1 mil­lion to advise on “indus­try stan­dard”. Pre­sum­ably that advice involves Ban­non’s exper­tise in shred­ding those indus­try stan­dards:

    ...
    The web­site also pub­lished a ques­tion­able doc­u­ment that fed a con­spir­a­cy that the Chi­nese mil­i­tary spread the dis­ease delib­er­ate­ly. That doc­u­ment, which seems to have come from G News orig­i­nal­ly, has been pop­u­lar on anony­mous mes­sage boards like 4chan and 2chan.

    G News is part of Guo Media, a project fund­ed by Chi­nese bil­lion­aire Guo Wen­gui, also known as Miles Kwok and Miles Guo. He fled Chi­na in 2014 and has been accused of bribery, mon­ey laun­der­ing, and fraud by the main­land gov­ern­ment. He has denied the charges, call­ing them polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed, and has become a vocal crit­ic of Bei­jing.

    In August 2018, Guo’s orga­ni­za­tion signed what Axios report­ed to be a $1 mil­lion con­tract with Steve Ban­non, for­mer White House strate­gist and for­mer chair of the hyper­par­ti­san news site Bre­it­bart. The con­tract required Ban­non to make intro­duc­tions to “media per­son­al­i­ties” and advise on “indus­try stan­dards,” accord­ing to Axios. Guo and Ban­non fre­quent­ly appear togeth­er in videos on G News that attack the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment.
    ...

    $1 mil­lion for mak­ing intro­duc­tions to “media per­son­al­i­ties” and advis­ing on “indus­try stan­dards”. Nice work if you can get it.

    And then there’s the involve­ment of US hedge fund man­ag­er J. Kyle Bass, who report­ed­ly had invest­ments that ben­e­fit from a weak­ened Chi­nese econ­o­my but who also claims to have no involve­ment with G News at all despite all of the avail­able evi­dence:

    ...
    Anoth­er per­son con­nect­ed to G News, hedge fund man­ag­er J. Kyle Bass, also spread a false coro­n­avirus claim in a tweet. His hedge fund report­ed­ly had invest­ments that will increase in val­ue if the Chi­nese econ­o­my fails, but he told Buz­zFeed News he no longer holds “any Chi­nese equi­ty posi­tions what­so­ev­er.” Bass has remained a Chi­na crit­ic, fre­quent­ly echo­ing Ban­non.

    ...

    Bass is the chair of the Rule of Law Foun­da­tion, a non­prof­it that runs ban­ner ads at the top and bot­tom of the G News web­site solic­it­ing dona­tions. He said he had no affil­i­a­tion with the site.

    “I have noth­ing to do with G News or its con­tent,” he said. “Guo Wen­gui has no lead­er­ship posi­tion, oper­at­ing con­trol, or legal posi­tion with the Rule of Law Foun­da­tion.”

    Bass added that he hadn’t “read any G News sto­ry. Peri­od.” He also claimed that the Rule of Law Foun­da­tion was sep­a­rate from the $100 mil­lion fund start­ed by Guo and Ban­non called the Rule of Law Fund.
    ...

    No ties at all. It’s just a coin­ci­dence that Bass hap­pens to chair the Rule of Law Foun­da­tion which runs ban­ner das on the G News site and it’s just a coin­ci­dence that Ban­non and Guo start­ed a $100 mil­lion fund called the “Rule of Law Fund”. That’s Kyle Bass’s offi­cial answer on these mat­ters.

    Now here’s the ProP­ub­li­ca report from last year that described how Bass’s hedge fund was posi­tioned to ben­e­fit from a falling Chi­nese econ­o­my. The report is actu­al­ly pri­mar­i­ly about Tom­my Hicks Jr., a long-time friend of Don­ald Trump Jr. who was named the co-chair of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee in Jan­u­ary of 2019. Hick and Bass appear to be quite close too. The arti­cle describes the role Hicks has played in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion devel­op­ing a nation­al strat­e­gy around 5G wire­less tech­nol­o­gy, a top­ic that involves ques­tions of nation­al secu­ri­ty and pos­si­ble risks asso­ci­at­ed with Chi­nese tech­nol­o­gy firms. Hick appears to have reg­u­lar­ly met with White House offi­cials on the top­ic and uses his ties to the Trump fam­i­ly to arrange for asso­ciates to meet with White House offi­cials. Asso­ciates like Kyle Bass, who was allowed to present his views China’s bank­ing sys­tem to Heath Tar­bert, an assis­tant sec­re­tary at Trea­sury in charge of a pow­er­ful inter­gov­ern­men­tal com­mit­tee that reviews for­eign invest­ments in the U.S. for nation­al secu­ri­ty con­cerns. As the arti­cle notes, Bass has become a vocal advo­cate for an aggres­sive US pol­i­cy against Chi­na:

    ProP­ub­li­ca

    Want to Meet With the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion? Don­ald Trump Jr.’s Hunt­ing Bud­dy Can Help

    Tom­my Hicks Jr. isn’t in gov­ern­ment, but he’s a long­time pal of the president’s son. That has put him in the room when the admin­is­tra­tion talks Chi­na and 5G pol­i­cy, and it lets him help oth­ers — includ­ing one friend who had $143 mil­lion rid­ing on the out­come.

    by Jake Pear­son
    July 22, 2019, 4 a.m. EDT

    Over the past two years, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has been grap­pling with how to han­dle the tran­si­tion to the next gen­er­a­tion of mobile broad­band tech­nol­o­gy. With spend­ing expect­ed to run into hun­dreds of bil­lions of dol­lars, the admin­is­tra­tion views it as an ultra-high-stakes com­pe­ti­tion between U.S. and Chi­nese com­pa­nies, with enor­mous impli­ca­tions both for tech­nol­o­gy and for nation­al secu­ri­ty. Top offi­cials from a raft of depart­ments have been meet­ing to hash out the best approach.

    But there’s been one per­son at some of the dis­cus­sions who has a dif­fer­ent back­ground: He’s Don­ald Trump Jr.’s hunt­ing bud­dy. Over the past two decades, the two have trained their sights on duck, pheas­ant and white-tailed deer on mul­ti­ple con­ti­nents. (An email from anoth­er Trump Jr. pal char­ac­ter­ized one of their joint duck-hunt­ing trips to Mex­i­co years ago as “muy aggre­si­vo.”)

    Tom­my Hicks Jr., 41, isn’t a gov­ern­ment offi­cial; he’s a wealthy pri­vate investor. And he has been a part of dis­cus­sions relat­ed to Chi­na and tech­nol­o­gy with top offi­cials from the Trea­sury Depart­ment, Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, Com­merce Depart­ment and oth­ers, accord­ing to emails and doc­u­ments obtained by ProP­ub­li­ca. In one email, Hicks refers to a meet­ing at “Lan­g­ley,” an appar­ent ref­er­ence to the CIA’s head­quar­ters.

    Hicks’ finan­cial inter­ests, if any, in the mat­ters he has dis­cussed aren’t clear. The inter­ests are much more appar­ent when it comes to at least one of his asso­ciates. Hicks used his con­nec­tions to arrange for a hedge fund man­ag­er friend, Kyle Bass — who has $143 mil­lion in invest­ments that will pay off if China’s econ­o­my tanks — to present his views on the Chi­nese econ­o­my to high-lev­el gov­ern­ment offi­cials at an inter­a­gency meet­ing at the Trea­sury Depart­ment, accord­ing to the doc­u­ments.

    Hicks is hard­ly the first pri­vate-sec­tor pow­er bro­ker to emerge in a pres­i­den­tial admin­is­tra­tion, but he may rep­re­sent a new sub­species: The Friend of the President’s Kid.

    In fact, Hicks’ influ­ence and career over­whelm­ing­ly hinge on two peo­ple: Trump Jr., his friend of about two decades, and, first and fore­most, Hicks’ father. In a rough­ly 20-year career, Hicks has spent 17 of them work­ing for invest­ment funds and sports teams owned by his wealthy financier dad, Thomas Hicks Sr., and the oth­er three work­ing for a client of his father.

    The gen­er­al­ly priv­i­leged life of the younger Hicks has been speck­led with occa­sion­al instances of mis­be­hav­ior, one of them seri­ous. At age 18, he plead­ed no con­test to mis­de­meanor assault, reduced from an orig­i­nal charge of felony aggra­vat­ed assault, after he and two oth­ers were arrest­ed in the beat­ing of a fel­low high school stu­dent at a par­ty. (The vic­tim was also kicked in the face dur­ing the assault, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the case. He told police that one of the three assailants — he didn’t say which — asked him, “What is your name, fag­got?”) The crim­i­nal con­vic­tion did not pre­vent Hicks from being admit­ted to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas, where his father was an alum­nus, a mem­ber of the Board of Regents and soon there­after the first chair­man of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas Invest­ment Man­age­ment Com­pa­ny, which man­ages the school’s endow­ment and oth­er assets.

    As an adult, friends say, Hicks’ carous­ing ways and occa­sion­al bel­liger­ent out­bursts led some in his cir­cle to bestow a heav­i­ly iron­ic nick­name: “Sen­a­tor Hicks.” His tenure as a direc­tor of the soc­cer team his father owned in Liv­er­pool, Eng­land, a decade ago end­ed right after an email he sent to a heck­ling fan — “Blow me fuc kface. Go to Hell. I’m sick of you.” — sur­faced pub­licly.

    Friends say Hicks has matured, par­tic­u­lar­ly since he mar­ried and had three daugh­ters. He has risen quick­ly in recent years. Hicks lever­aged his Dal­las finan­cial net­work to become a top Trump cam­paign fundrais­er in 2016 and a vice chair­man of the inau­gur­al finance com­mit­tee; in Jan­u­ary, he was named co-chair­man of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee. His friends say he is moti­vat­ed by patri­o­tism.

    Hicks also played a behind-the-scenes role, accord­ing to two peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter and an account by a Turk­ish jour­nal­ist, in the free­ing last year of Andrew Brun­son, an Amer­i­can pas­tor who was detained for two years by the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment on what the U.S. gov­ern­ment viewed as pho­ny charges of spy­ing and help­ing ter­ror­ists.

    Even before becom­ing the sec­ond high­est-rank­ing GOP offi­cial, Hicks was a fre­quent White House guest. He liked to have lunch in the White House mess with his half sis­ter, who worked for a time in the com­mu­ni­ca­tions oper­a­tion. (The fam­i­ly is not relat­ed to Hope Hicks, the for­mer White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor.) Hicks would then stroll the halls, accord­ing to a for­mer senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial, drop­ping in to offices for impromp­tu chats with var­i­ous offi­cials, includ­ing Jared Kush­n­er.

    Those sorts of con­nec­tions have giv­en Hicks a con­ven­ing pow­er, the abil­i­ty to call togeth­er mul­ti­ple offi­cials. “He basi­cal­ly opened the door for hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with peo­ple who I didn’t know but need­ed to know,” said Robert Spald­ing, a for­mer senior direc­tor for strate­gic plan­ning at the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil dur­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

    The efforts, detailed in hun­dreds of pages of gov­ern­ment emails and oth­er doc­u­ments obtained under the Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act, show that Hicks had access to the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment to influ­ence pol­i­cy­mak­ing in ways that could lead to painful eco­nom­ic out­comes for the Chi­nese — and a poten­tial­ly lucra­tive result for Hicks’ hedge fund friend, Bass.

    “When some­body comes in like this, a hedge fund man­ag­er who has an inter­est in the via­bil­i­ty of China’s econ­o­my, you’re giv­ing them an oppor­tu­ni­ty to influ­ence pol­i­cy,” said Vir­ginia Can­ter, a for­mer ethics lawyer at the Trea­sury Depart­ment who now serves as chief ethics coun­sel for Cit­i­zens for Respon­si­bil­i­ty and Ethics in Wash­ing­ton, a watch­dog group. (CREW has sued Don­ald Trump for accept­ing emol­u­ments from for­eign gov­ern­ments.) “The ques­tion is why?”

    Hicks’ unusu­al role as a non­govern­ment employ­ee who opened doors on behalf of both indus­try and oth­ers, Can­ter said, put him in a gray zone of ethics and lob­by­ing reg­u­la­tions. “He’s act­ing in a lob­by­ist role when he may fall out­side the lob­by­ist dis­clo­sure rules, and it’s not clear how he ben­e­fits finan­cial­ly,” she said. “So the ques­tion is: What’s he get­ting out of it? What are his friends get­ting out of it? And is the gov­ern­ment pro­cess­ing it in a way that ensures the pub­lic ben­e­fits?”

    Bass pre­sent­ed his views on China’s bank­ing sys­tem in the office of Heath Tar­bert, an assis­tant sec­re­tary at Trea­sury in charge of inter­na­tion­al mar­kets and invest­ment pol­i­cy and a pow­er­ful inter­gov­ern­men­tal com­mit­tee that reviews for­eign invest­ments in the U.S. for nation­al secu­ri­ty con­cerns. Among the offi­cials at the meet­ing with Tar­bert were Bill Hin­man, the direc­tor of the divi­sion of cor­po­ra­tion finance at the Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion, and Ray Wash­burne, a wealthy Dal­las restau­rant own­er and fam­i­ly friend of Hicks’ who was nom­i­nat­ed by Trump to head the Over­seas Pri­vate Invest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion.

    Hicks and Bass, both Dal­las res­i­dents and long­time denizens of the finan­cial com­mu­ni­ty there, have invest­ed togeth­er since at least 2011, accord­ing to secu­ri­ties fil­ings and court records. They’ve owned shares of a pub­licly trad­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tions-tech­nol­o­gy man­u­fac­tur­er. And they were among the biggest cred­i­tors to the bank­rupt law enforce­ment con­tract­ing com­pa­ny run by Chris Kyle, the ex-Navy SEAL por­trayed by Bradley Coop­er in “Amer­i­can Sniper.” The man­ag­ing direc­tor of a new invest­ment fund start­ed by Hicks had pre­vi­ous­ly advised Bass on the suc­cess­ful stock-short­ing of a Texas real estate lender, accord­ing to cor­po­rate fil­ings and court papers from a law­suit in state court in Dal­las.

    But it’s not clear if Hicks or his fam­i­ly have an invest­ment in Bass’ Chi­na-relat­ed funds. Reached twice on his cell­phone, Hicks declined to be inter­viewed by ProP­ub­li­ca. In the sec­ond call, in June, Hicks didn’t dis­pute that he and his fam­i­ly have invest­ed in Bass’ funds. But when asked to detail their busi­ness rela­tion­ship, he cut the con­ver­sa­tion short. “I’ve got to run. Let me see if I can get back to you,” Hicks said before hang­ing up. He didn’t call back.

    Weeks lat­er, after ProP­ub­li­ca fol­lowed up with ques­tions to the RNC, a spokesman respond­ed by email­ing a “state­ment attrib­uted to Tom­my Hicks.” It read: “As a busi­ness­man, I pas­sion­ate­ly sup­port­ed caus­es I believed in and, if appro­pri­ate, would some­times meet with gov­ern­ment offi­cials to pro­mote them. There is noth­ing wrong with that. I have tak­en every pre­cau­tion dur­ing my time as Co-Chair of the RNC to ensure there is no con­flict of inter­est between my job here and any per­son­al busi­ness­es.” (The spokesper­son also emailed a state­ment on behalf of the RNC: “Tom­my has done an out­stand­ing job work­ing on behalf of Pres­i­dent Trump and his agen­da.”)

    Bass, who made his name and for­tune by bet­ting against sub­prime mort­gages before the crash and is known for large bets that economies or cer­tain macro trends will turn down­ward, declined to com­ment. “I’m not inter­est­ed in talk­ing with you about my friends or any meet­ings I have or haven’t had pri­vate­ly with any­one,” he wrote in an email. In a sub­se­quent mes­sage, Bass wrote that any sug­ges­tion “that we had cor­rupt inten­tions in meet­ing with Trea­sury offi­cials... is cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly false and defam­a­to­ry and could neg­a­tive­ly affect our busi­ness.”

    An admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial briefed on the Bass meet­ing at the Trea­sury down­played it as “strict­ly a lis­ten­ing ses­sion.” He said Bass did not ask the atten­dees to take any actions, nor did the atten­dees divulge any­thing about U.S.-China pol­i­cy. Gov­ern­ment ethics offi­cers vet­ted the fed­er­al employ­ees for any con­flicts and found none, the offi­cial said. He acknowl­edged that the review didn’t include an exam­i­na­tion of any finan­cial rela­tion­ship between Hicks and Bass.

    Spald­ing said the con­ver­sa­tion cen­tered pri­mar­i­ly on Bass’ analy­sis of pub­licly avail­able records on the Chi­nese finan­cial sys­tem. “I think the thing that I’ve dis­cov­ered over the past years is that the infor­ma­tion in the pri­vate sec­tor is bet­ter than any­thing we have in gov­ern­ment,” Spald­ing said of Bass’ pre­sen­ta­tion. “You have to reach out to where the exper­tise is. In our coun­try, that’s where the tal­ent is.”

    ...

    Bass has become a vocal advo­cate for an aggres­sive U.S. pol­i­cy toward Chi­na. On Twit­ter and on cable busi­ness chan­nels he’s denounced every­thing from the country’s Com­mu­nist Par­ty gov­ern­ment to its busi­ness prac­tices. Secu­ri­ties fil­ings show Bass raised $143 mil­lion from about 81 investors in two funds — invest­ments that would ben­e­fit if China’s cur­ren­cy were deval­ued or the coun­try faced cred­it or bank­ing crises. In April, in a let­ter to his investors, Bass wrote that his com­pa­ny, Hay­man Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, was posi­tioned for com­ing prob­lems in Hong Kong and was set up to “main­tain a mas­sive asym­me­try to a neg­a­tive out­come in Hong Kong and/or Chi­na.”

    Hicks’ work on the 5G ini­tia­tive was exten­sive.

    Over just a few months in late 2017 and 2018, records show, he was part of an infor­mal group led by then NSC offi­cial Spald­ing, that advo­cat­ed for a strat­e­gy in which the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment would plan out a nation­al pol­i­cy for 5G. One memo described their goal as the “equiv­a­lent of the Eisen­how­er Nation­al High­way Sys­tem — a sin­gle, inher­ent­ly pro­tect­ed, infor­ma­tion trans­porta­tion super­high­way.”

    The group con­duct­ed mul­ti­ple meet­ings and brief­in­gs. For exam­ple, Hicks, Spald­ing and oth­ers trav­eled to Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics’ Dal­las-area offices for one meet­ing in Jan­u­ary 2018.

    That same month Hicks attend­ed a 5G meet­ing that he’d arranged with Com­merce Sec­re­tary Wilbur Ross. Com­merce plays a key role in the future of 5G since a divi­sion with­in the agency man­ages gov­ern­ment spec­trum and anoth­er main­tains a list of com­pa­nies the gov­ern­ment believes are, or will become, nation­al secu­ri­ty threats. Com­pa­nies that end up on that list can be effec­tive­ly shut out from glob­al deal-mak­ing. The meet­ing with Ross focused heav­i­ly on the threat of Chi­na, said Ira Green­stein, who served as a White House aide and was part of Spalding’s 5G crew.

    Hicks was one of a dozen non­govern­ment employ­ees, includ­ing exec­u­tives from Wells Far­go, Nokia, Eric­s­son and Google, that Spald­ing sent read­ing mate­ri­als to ahead of a 5G dis­cus­sion in the Eisen­how­er Exec­u­tive Office Build­ing. Copied on the email were top Com­merce Depart­ment offi­cials, a Booz Allen Hamil­ton con­trac­tor and a senior advis­er for cyber­se­cu­ri­ty and IT mod­ern­iza­tion at the White House Office of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy. On the agen­da? “Mid Band vs High Band” spec­trum, “secu­ri­ty,” “sup­ply chain,” “financ­ing” and oth­er crit­i­cal issues.

    Hicks wasn’t just a pas­sive observ­er. On Jan. 2, 2018, the man­ag­ing direc­tor of OPIC, which pro­vides finan­cial back­ing to Amer­i­can com­pa­nies expand­ing into for­eign mar­kets, emailed Spald­ing and oth­ers to say that the CEO of a satel­lite com­pa­ny called OneWeb had a plan to pro­vide world­wide 5G cov­er­age by 2027. Hicks fired back a note from his iPhone. “2027 is too late,” he wrote. “Let’s dis­cuss as a small­er group tomor­row.”

    Spald­ing was forced out of the West Wing in ear­ly 2018 after a draft 20-page brief­ing memo he authored propos­ing a gov­ern­ment-orga­nized nation­al 5G net­work was leaked, then panned as an attempt to nation­al­ize the wire­less broad­band indus­try. Trump has not pur­sued such an ini­tia­tive, ulti­mate­ly defer­ring to wire­less car­ri­ers to bid on pub­licly main­tained spec­trum and devel­op their own net­works as has tra­di­tion­al­ly been the case.

    Still, the admin­is­tra­tion has made sig­nif­i­cant efforts to counter Chi­nese influ­ence in 5G and relat­ed tech­nolo­gies, which are said to be crit­i­cal for indus­tries such as dri­ver­less cars, arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, machine learn­ing and much more. In May the Com­merce Depart­ment barred Chi­nese tele­com equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­er Huawei from doing busi­ness in the U.S. for nation­al secu­ri­ty rea­sons. And the top Depart­ment of Defense offi­cial in charge of acqui­si­tions also recent­ly announced the cre­ation of a gov­ern­ment-approved pri­vate mar­ket­place to pair Amer­i­can pri­vate equi­ty firms with U.S. tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies pro­duc­ing prod­ucts with nation­al secu­ri­ty appli­ca­tions to keep Chi­nese mon­ey out of 5G.

    It isn’t clear what influ­ence, if any, Hicks had in those deci­sions. But his pro­file is only ris­ing. In April, he led a Repub­li­can del­e­ga­tion to Tai­wan along­side a U.S. gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tion. Hicks met with the country’s pres­i­dent, Tsai Ing-wen, who has late­ly been posi­tion­ing her country’s cor­po­ra­tions as safer providers of 5G equip­ment than those in Chi­na. Tsai thanked the U.S. for sell­ing arms to Tai­wan. She asked Hicks to con­vey her regards to the Trumps.
    ———-

    “Want to Meet With the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion? Don­ald Trump Jr.’s Hunt­ing Bud­dy Can Help” by Jake Pear­son; ProP­ub­li­ca; 07/22/2019

    “Tom­my Hicks Jr., 41, isn’t a gov­ern­ment offi­cial; he’s a wealthy pri­vate investor. And he has been a part of dis­cus­sions relat­ed to Chi­na and tech­nol­o­gy with top offi­cials from the Trea­sury Depart­ment, Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, Com­merce Depart­ment and oth­ers, accord­ing to emails and doc­u­ments obtained by ProP­ub­li­ca. In one email, Hicks refers to a meet­ing at “Lan­g­ley,” an appar­ent ref­er­ence to the CIA’s head­quar­ters.”

    Yep, Tom­my Hicks Jr. isn’t part of the gov­ern­ment, but he sure acts like it, at least when it comes to issues relat­ed to Chi­na and tech­nol­o­gy, which both heav­i­ly over­lap with US 5G wire­less tech­nol­o­gy poli­cies. And it’s that clear con­flict of inter­est that gets more con­flict­ed when we learn that Hicks has been using his Trump fam­i­ly con­nec­tions to arrange for meet­ings by Kyle Bass so Bass can air his views on Chi­na:

    ...
    Hicks’ finan­cial inter­ests, if any, in the mat­ters he has dis­cussed aren’t clear. The inter­ests are much more appar­ent when it comes to at least one of his asso­ciates. Hicks used his con­nec­tions to arrange for a hedge fund man­ag­er friend, Kyle Bass — who has $143 mil­lion in invest­ments that will pay off if China’s econ­o­my tanks — to present his views on the Chi­nese econ­o­my to high-lev­el gov­ern­ment offi­cials at an inter­a­gency meet­ing at the Trea­sury Depart­ment, accord­ing to the doc­u­ments.

    ...

    Friends say Hicks has matured, par­tic­u­lar­ly since he mar­ried and had three daugh­ters. He has risen quick­ly in recent years. Hicks lever­aged his Dal­las finan­cial net­work to become a top Trump cam­paign fundrais­er in 2016 and a vice chair­man of the inau­gur­al finance com­mit­tee; in Jan­u­ary, he was named co-chair­man of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee. His friends say he is moti­vat­ed by patri­o­tism.

    Hicks also played a behind-the-scenes role, accord­ing to two peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter and an account by a Turk­ish jour­nal­ist, in the free­ing last year of Andrew Brun­son, an Amer­i­can pas­tor who was detained for two years by the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment on what the U.S. gov­ern­ment viewed as pho­ny charges of spy­ing and help­ing ter­ror­ists.

    Even before becom­ing the sec­ond high­est-rank­ing GOP offi­cial, Hicks was a fre­quent White House guest. He liked to have lunch in the White House mess with his half sis­ter, who worked for a time in the com­mu­ni­ca­tions oper­a­tion. (The fam­i­ly is not relat­ed to Hope Hicks, the for­mer White House com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor.) Hicks would then stroll the halls, accord­ing to a for­mer senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial, drop­ping in to offices for impromp­tu chats with var­i­ous offi­cials, includ­ing Jared Kush­n­er.

    Those sorts of con­nec­tions have giv­en Hicks a con­ven­ing pow­er, the abil­i­ty to call togeth­er mul­ti­ple offi­cials. “He basi­cal­ly opened the door for hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with peo­ple who I didn’t know but need­ed to know,” said Robert Spald­ing, a for­mer senior direc­tor for strate­gic plan­ning at the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil dur­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

    ...

    Hicks’ work on the 5G ini­tia­tive was exten­sive.

    Over just a few months in late 2017 and 2018, records show, he was part of an infor­mal group led by then NSC offi­cial Spald­ing, that advo­cat­ed for a strat­e­gy in which the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment would plan out a nation­al pol­i­cy for 5G. One memo described their goal as the “equiv­a­lent of the Eisen­how­er Nation­al High­way Sys­tem — a sin­gle, inher­ent­ly pro­tect­ed, infor­ma­tion trans­porta­tion super­high­way.”

    The group con­duct­ed mul­ti­ple meet­ings and brief­in­gs. For exam­ple, Hicks, Spald­ing and oth­ers trav­eled to Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics’ Dal­las-area offices for one meet­ing in Jan­u­ary 2018.

    That same month Hicks attend­ed a 5G meet­ing that he’d arranged with Com­merce Sec­re­tary Wilbur Ross. Com­merce plays a key role in the future of 5G since a divi­sion with­in the agency man­ages gov­ern­ment spec­trum and anoth­er main­tains a list of com­pa­nies the gov­ern­ment believes are, or will become, nation­al secu­ri­ty threats. Com­pa­nies that end up on that list can be effec­tive­ly shut out from glob­al deal-mak­ing. The meet­ing with Ross focused heav­i­ly on the threat of Chi­na, said Ira Green­stein, who served as a White House aide and was part of Spalding’s 5G crew.

    Hicks was one of a dozen non­govern­ment employ­ees, includ­ing exec­u­tives from Wells Far­go, Nokia, Eric­s­son and Google, that Spald­ing sent read­ing mate­ri­als to ahead of a 5G dis­cus­sion in the Eisen­how­er Exec­u­tive Office Build­ing. Copied on the email were top Com­merce Depart­ment offi­cials, a Booz Allen Hamil­ton con­trac­tor and a senior advis­er for cyber­se­cu­ri­ty and IT mod­ern­iza­tion at the White House Office of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy. On the agen­da? “Mid Band vs High Band” spec­trum, “secu­ri­ty,” “sup­ply chain,” “financ­ing” and oth­er crit­i­cal issues.

    ...

    It isn’t clear what influ­ence, if any, Hicks had in those deci­sions. But his pro­file is only ris­ing. In April, he led a Repub­li­can del­e­ga­tion to Tai­wan along­side a U.S. gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tion. Hicks met with the country’s pres­i­dent, Tsai Ing-wen, who has late­ly been posi­tion­ing her country’s cor­po­ra­tions as safer providers of 5G equip­ment than those in Chi­na. Tsai thanked the U.S. for sell­ing arms to Tai­wan. She asked Hicks to con­vey her regards to the Trumps.
    ...

    And it was Hicks act­ing as this lob­by­ist mid­dle-man that arranged for Bass, an advo­cate for aggres­sive poli­cies towards Chi­na, to be allowed to basi­cal­ly per­son­al­ly lob­by the per­son in charge of a pow­er­ful inter­gov­ern­men­tal com­mit­tee that reviews for­eign invest­ments in the U.S. for nation­al secu­ri­ty con­cerns. And Bass just hap­pens to have raised $143 mil­lion in invest­ments for two funds that ben­e­fit from a declin­ing Chi­nese econ­o­my:

    ...
    Bass pre­sent­ed his views on China’s bank­ing sys­tem in the office of Heath Tar­bert, an assis­tant sec­re­tary at Trea­sury in charge of inter­na­tion­al mar­kets and invest­ment pol­i­cy and a pow­er­ful inter­gov­ern­men­tal com­mit­tee that reviews for­eign invest­ments in the U.S. for nation­al secu­ri­ty con­cerns. Among the offi­cials at the meet­ing with Tar­bert were Bill Hin­man, the direc­tor of the divi­sion of cor­po­ra­tion finance at the Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion, and Ray Wash­burne, a wealthy Dal­las restau­rant own­er and fam­i­ly friend of Hicks’ who was nom­i­nat­ed by Trump to head the Over­seas Pri­vate Invest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion.

    ...

    Bass, who made his name and for­tune by bet­ting against sub­prime mort­gages before the crash and is known for large bets that economies or cer­tain macro trends will turn down­ward, declined to com­ment. “I’m not inter­est­ed in talk­ing with you about my friends or any meet­ings I have or haven’t had pri­vate­ly with any­one,” he wrote in an email. In a sub­se­quent mes­sage, Bass wrote that any sug­ges­tion “that we had cor­rupt inten­tions in meet­ing with Trea­sury offi­cials... is cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly false and defam­a­to­ry and could neg­a­tive­ly affect our busi­ness.”

    ...

    Bass has become a vocal advo­cate for an aggres­sive U.S. pol­i­cy toward Chi­na. On Twit­ter and on cable busi­ness chan­nels he’s denounced every­thing from the country’s Com­mu­nist Par­ty gov­ern­ment to its busi­ness prac­tices. Secu­ri­ties fil­ings show Bass raised $143 mil­lion from about 81 investors in two funds — invest­ments that would ben­e­fit if China’s cur­ren­cy were deval­ued or the coun­try faced cred­it or bank­ing crises. In April, in a let­ter to his investors, Bass wrote that his com­pa­ny, Hay­man Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment, was posi­tioned for com­ing prob­lems in Hong Kong and was set up to “main­tain a mas­sive asym­me­try to a neg­a­tive out­come in Hong Kong and/or Chi­na.”
    ...

    Adding to the con­flicts of inter­est in this whole arrange­ment is that Hicks and Bass have invest­ed togeth­er since at least 2011 and Hicks does­n’t dis­pute that he and his fam­i­ly are invest­ed in Bass’s funds:

    ...
    Hicks and Bass, both Dal­las res­i­dents and long­time denizens of the finan­cial com­mu­ni­ty there, have invest­ed togeth­er since at least 2011, accord­ing to secu­ri­ties fil­ings and court records. They’ve owned shares of a pub­licly trad­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tions-tech­nol­o­gy man­u­fac­tur­er. And they were among the biggest cred­i­tors to the bank­rupt law enforce­ment con­tract­ing com­pa­ny run by Chris Kyle, the ex-Navy SEAL por­trayed by Bradley Coop­er in “Amer­i­can Sniper.” The man­ag­ing direc­tor of a new invest­ment fund start­ed by Hicks had pre­vi­ous­ly advised Bass on the suc­cess­ful stock-short­ing of a Texas real estate lender, accord­ing to cor­po­rate fil­ings and court papers from a law­suit in state court in Dal­las.

    But it’s not clear if Hicks or his fam­i­ly have an invest­ment in Bass’ Chi­na-relat­ed funds. Reached twice on his cell­phone, Hicks declined to be inter­viewed by ProP­ub­li­ca. In the sec­ond call, in June, Hicks didn’t dis­pute that he and his fam­i­ly have invest­ed in Bass’ funds. But when asked to detail their busi­ness rela­tion­ship, he cut the con­ver­sa­tion short. “I’ve got to run. Let me see if I can get back to you,” Hicks said before hang­ing up. He didn’t call back.
    ...

    So, on one lev­el, it’s just anoth­er tale of cor­rupt insid­er deal­ing com­ing out of the Trump White House involv­ing Trump’s fam­i­ly and friends. A typ­i­cal sto­ry we should expect at this point.

    But it still seems like an unusu­al­ly cor­rupt sto­ry even by the debased stan­dards of Trump-relat­ed cor­rup­tion. Because we have the cre­ation of a web­site that’s explic­it­ly pump­ing out fake news that appears to be designed to pro­voke anger in the Chi­nese pop­u­lace against the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. The site appears to be a co-cre­ation of Steve Ban­non and tied to Kyle Bass, who man­ages funds that explic­it­ly ben­e­fit from a declin­ing Chi­nese econ­o­my. And Bass appears to have an inside track to White House Chi­na pol­i­cy via his friend­ly with Tom­my Hicks, Jr., the long-time friend of Don­ald Trump, Jr. We’re used to sto­ries involv­ing right-wing fake news, sto­ries about the Trump chil­dren sell­ing their access to the White House, sto­ries involv­ing busi­ness insid­ers prof­it­ing from their Trump poli­cies, and sto­ries about Trump try­ing to desta­bi­lize entire coun­tries. This sto­ry has it all, which is reminder that the desta­bi­liza­tion of soci­eties can make a lot of mon­ey, espe­cial­ly for the peo­ple car­ry­ing out the actu­al desta­bi­liza­tion.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 4, 2020, 5:11 pm

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