Using an information warfare strategy called the Three Warfares, the CCP has a long history of doing exactly that.
Internet conspiracy theories are amusing and endearing in that soon-to-be-extinct way, like cartoon dinosaurs. Soon to be subsumed no doubt into a censorship safety net that sometimes snares obvious satire, internet conspiracy theories are a get-it-while-you-still can novelty.
Not even Spike Lee can get away with peddling conspiracy theories in this day and age.
One internet conspiracy theory maintains that the world as we knew it did in fact end at the conclusion of the Mayan long-count calendar, right about the time scientists at CERN switched on their Large Hadron Collider and started making tiny black holes to study anti-matter. Mandela Effect-theorists posit that our entire planet got sucked into one of those black holes and we’ve been living in a speeded-up series of alternative universes ever since.
Or one slightly-off alternative universe where everything is sliding more quickly than usual into atrophy, oblivion and the heat death of the universe.
They aren’t totally clear on that.
As amusing conspiracy theories go, this one is pretty harmless if not particularly plausible.
What would it take to make it plausible? What would it take to convince you of the possibility?
What if the most powerful government on earth decided to create an influence campaign to make belief in the Mandela Effect a mainstream idea?
Could they do it? Could it be done?
To accomplish it, what might that unprincipled, shadowy government do?
They would probably start by finding some scientists willing to speculate about alternative universes, hiding the implausibility of the Mandela Effect under a morass of complicated jargon about wormholes, Einstein’s theory of the fourth dimension of space, spooky action at a distance and charmed quarks or some such.
There are tens of millions of scientists in the world; surely some could be paid, influenced, coerced or otherwise convinced to throw their name and credibility behind such a theory. Unless you believe that science and all who practice it are some sort of angelic cabal of otherworldly beings without a long history of being corruptible by money and power.
Once a number of respected scientists lent credibility to the theory, the next step would obviously be to push the Mandela Effect in the press, as far and widely as possible.
A few scientific papers here, picked up by a few mainstream press outlets there, given extra weight by tech search engines and viola- it’s done. Even if and when the scientific papers are debunked and retracted later, it hardly matters; this is an information campaign- an attempt to influence public opinion about something- not an attempt to prove anything.
By the time peer review gets through sorting out the bad data and shoddy science, the news cycle will be miles ahead. By the time the truth percolates- that the Mandela Effect is a crackpot theory with no basis in science or reality- it would be much too late.
A subset of the population would never hear about the retraction, or wouldn’t lend credence to it if they did. A certain percentage of people would always believe in the credibility of the Mandela Effect.
Why wouldn’t they? A certain subset of the population still believes vaccines cause autism in children, based on one study which was retracted and debunked decades ago. And that’s without help from a coordinated influence campaign.
Someone trying to counter a widespread misinformation campaign could shout refutations from the rooftop all day long. A whole group of them could go on a world tour to convince people the Mandela Effect is bunk; none of it would do any good.
Modern propaganda ministers know what such people have always known; a lie, a smear, a story, once told, cannot be untold. It doesn’t matter if people are never shown one whit of proof; people don’t need proof. They only need to be convinced.
Could such a thing happen? Could a wacky theory like the Mandela Effect become widely accepted just because a powerful world government decided to make it so?
In fact, we have already seen just such a disinformation campaign laid bare.
Back in early 2020 when COVID-19 was first rearing its ugly head, the clamor to get to the bottom of how it originated- so that the virus could be better treated and cured- was at its peak.
It was right at this time that one man- working furiously behind the scenes- relegated the theory that COVID-19 leaked from a lab studying bat coronaviruses- coincidentally located at the epicenter of the crisis- to the dust bins of the internet.
He gathered a group of scientists and virologists- a very small group considering the size of that body worldwide- to sign a letter decrying the lab-leak theory as completely impossible.
Did other virologists and scientists disagree with this assessment?
Of course they did.
But it was the group of scientists denying the lab-leak theory who were propelled to the forefront of the conversation. Almost immediately, every major media outlet in the U.S. was treating the lab-leak theory as if it were radioactive- impossible, incendiary, even dangerous.
As if a scientific inquiry into the origins of a deadly virus could possibly be dangerous to anyone…not directly implicated.
Social media companies and search engine giants with itchy censorship fingers quickly did their part as well, suppressing any speculation- even by qualified scientists- about the lab-leak theory, de-platforming anyone espousing it and hiding anything contrary to the “Current Scientific Consensus”.
Media personalities, Hollywood celebrities, influencers in every industry soon played their role as well, draping the lab-leak theory in a cloak of putrid unpopularity and branding anyone expressing the remotest curiosity about it a dangerous heretic.
And just like that, for over a year while the entire world reeled from a pandemic, people died, and mitigation measures that have been the most restrictive and coercive in history shut down entire sections of the world economy, a possible lab-leak origin of COVID-19 was Not To Be Mentioned.
Speculation about the wet market theory was allowed, but that isn’t science. Science doesn’t investigate one theory and complete ignore a perfectly plausible conflicting theory. That’s pure politics.
The Chinese Communist Party-ruled government wasn’t exactly forthcoming during the first days of COVID-19, or at anytime after that really. From threatening and imprisoning Chinese doctors who reported the first cases of COVID-19, to a suspiciously-timed stockpiling of medical equipment and PPE, to a refusal to allow international scientific bodies access to the epicenter, the actions of CCP officials should not have inspired such confidence.
Would the actions of any other world government have inspired confidence?
And yet, somehow, that lab-leak theory stayed a third-rail until an inconvenient leak laid bare the behind-the-scenes machinations of the very people with the most to gain from preventing the idea from gaining traction.
What is the truth? Who knows.
It doesn’t matter what the truth is determined to be ultimately, if we ever do learn the truth about COVID-19’s origins. There is and will always remain a large subset of the U.S. population who believes the lab-leak theory is a racist, baseless distraction from the shortcomings of the Trump Administration. Ignoring the lab-leak theory means, for this group “Stop Asian Hate!” and “Trust the Science!”
For this group, to accept the possibility of the lab-leak theory would mean agreeing with Donald Trump and criticizing Chinese people- rather than the Chinese Communist Party officials who have stonewalled the international scientific community for well over a year.
The worst part about the suppression of the lab-leak theory- who benefits?- and the division sown over this and so many other media narratives which have later fallen spectacularly to pieces- who benefits?- is that it all happening in plain sight.
The Chinese Communist Party has a well-documented history of using an information warfare strategy called the “Three Warfares” against its geopolitical opponents since approving the practice in 2003.
“The concept is based on three mutually reinforcing strategies: (1) the coordinated use of strategic psychological operations; (2) overt and covert media manipulation; and (3) legal warfare designed to manipulate strategies, defense policies, and perceptions of target audiences abroad,” wrote Michael Raska in the Diplomat on December 18, 2015.
Nowhere has the 3W been more in evidence than in Taiwan.
Foreign policy experts around the world have long warned that China’s ruling political party is engaging in, “activities and operations attempting to exploit political, cultural, and social factions inside Taiwan; undermining trust between different political-social groups, delegitimizing Taiwan’s authorities and, subverting Taiwan’s public perceptions to ‘reunite’ Taiwan on Beijing’s terms.”
Other countries have also been victims of the CCP’s 3W, its massive cyber army and content farm, including India.
How much influence is Chinese Communist Party “public opinion warfare” strategy having on American society?
“None” seems overly naive in a world with chemical, biological, sonic, and nuclear weapons in it.
Would a government stockpiling all of the above really draw the line at information warfare? Other countries- like Russia and the U.S.- certainly don’t.
And if they could influence public opinion in the U.S. to the advantage of the Chinese Communist Party, wouldn’t they?
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)