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Corporate Journalists Need to Stop Being Useful Idiots for Authoritarian Regimes



Iran Shuts Down Morality Police news segment with woman in green blazer
Corporate journalists have a long history of telling lies that benefit authoritarian regimes to unsuspecting Westerners. This must stop.

Author Helen Raleigh profile




The New York Times broke the news last Sunday morning that the Iranian government abolished its notorious morality police, government agents who enforce a strict dress code based on the state’s interpretation of Islamic Sharia law. They have become a universally condemned symbol of oppression after 22-year-old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini died on Sept. 16 in Tehran after the “morality police” arrested and beat her for not wearing her hijab “properly.” Amini’s death sparked nationwide protests that continue today.

The Times celebrated Iran’s abolishment of the morality police as an “apparent victory for feminists.” Other corporate media, from The Wall Street Journal to CNBC, quickly repeated the Times’ story. Margaret Brennan, host of CBS’s “Face the Nation,” began her interview with the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken by saying, “I want to start with some breaking news overnight out of Iran, they have abolished the morality police.” 

Yet within minutes of the Times’ reporting, human rights activists in Iran and the West denounced the Times story as false. U.S.-based Iranian activist Masih Alinejad tweeted, “It’s disinformation that the Islamic Republic of Iran has abolished it’s [sic] morality police. It’s a tactic to stop the uprising.” Another Iranian activist, Amin Pouria, tweeted, “To lift world’s public opinion pressure, the IR changes [the] name of the ‘Morality Police.However, Iranian women & girls are still beaten, imprisoned or killed like #MahsaAmini for mandatory dress code. Don’t let the IR fool you with lies and be Iranian’s voice.” 

Even Iran’s government and state media have denied suspending the morality police. Iranian lawmaker and cleric Hossein Jalali reportedly said the morality police are here to stay, and “the Islamic Republic’s crackdown on women not wearing proper hijab will continue with a range of measures that may include blocking their bank accounts.” Kasra Aarabi, an analyst of the U.K.’s Tony Blair Institute, called the Times’ story “fake news.” He pointed out in his tweet, “This disinfo was propagated today to distract media attention from the 3 days of major protests in #Iran which begin tomo. Why did mainstream media ignore this context?” 

It turned out the Times’ report was based on a vague comment by Iran’s Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri. When asked by reporters why people hadn’t seen many “morality police” on the streets, Montazeri replied, “The morality police had nothing to do with the judiciary, and the same institution that established it has now shut it down.” The Times ran its story based on this comment while ignoring what Montazeri said: “the judiciary will continue to supervise social behaviors.” After the pushback from Iranian human rights activists, some media began questioning or adding context to the story. Still, the Times has issued no correction or apology to its original report. 

How did Western corporate media such as the Times get the morality police story wrong? Corporate media today are less about reporting straight news than advocating narratives, and people who work at these outlets see themselves as activists more than traditional journalists. They search for and only report news that supports their preferred narratives. The fake story of the morality police’s abolishment fits neatly with the narrative that courageous feminists forced an authoritarian regime to make a compromise. It was such a perfect story that the Times’ reporters ran with it rather than spending time to verify and confirm it with more reliable sources. 

I see a similar pattern in how Beijing’s latest moves to lift some Covid restrictions after week-long national protests were reported. One analyst of Human Rights Watch tweeted, “The Chinese government is now easing Covid restrictions, thanks to the protesters who courageously took to the street.” While it is true that Chinese protesters were courageous, and Beijing did announce some relief from its Covid restrictions this week, it is delusional to interpret Beijing’s action as a comprise to the protesters. 

The Wall Street Journal reported that some Chinese officials were quietly seeking ways to ease the “zero Covid” restrictions to rescue China’s falling economy months before the nationwide protests. According to the WSJ, “Chinese exports fell at the steepest pace in more than two years in November, the latest indication of how the country’s pandemic restrictions and waning global demand for goods are throttling China’s economy.” Besides the economic toll, Beijing is concerned that the continuation of strict Covid controls would “threaten China’s key position in global supply chains” and “lead to a broader decoupling between China and the world.” While Xi publicly vowed to stick to his “zero Covid” policy, he permitted the lifting of some Covid restrictions because even he was keenly aware that economic instability would lead to social unrest. The economic reality, not the nationwide protests, drove Beijing’s latest announcement.

While there is easing, some loathed Covid restrictions remain in place. For example, in some cities, when even one person in an apartment building tested positive, local Covid police sealed the entrance and exit to the entire building and confined all residents in their tiny apartments, forcing them to survive on limited and often overpriced food delivery. The continuation of these inhuman restrictions should surprise no one because Beijing’s “zero Covid” policy was never about health care but controlling people.

Besides chasing narratives, the lack of understanding of the true nature of authoritarian regimes is another explanation for why corporate media outlets often fall for authoritarian disinformation and inadvertently become useful idiots for these regimes.

It is common for democracies to respond to people’s will and make necessary policy changes. But authoritarian regimes do not budge, and their response to civil disobedience is more violent oppression. Since nationwide protests erupted in Iran, more than 18,000 protesters have reportedly been arrested, and the death toll of protesters surpassed 470. This week, Aarabi tweeted that the Iranian government executed another young protester and announced more future executions. Canadian human rights activist and lawyer Kaveh Shahrooz said in an interview, “Iran’s regime is not normal; its official statements are often lies designed to mislead the world. Our media should not take them at their word and must exercise extra caution when reporting on Iran.” 

The CCP is not normal, either. It didn’t send tanks to flatten protesters last week only because the regime has found a better way to crack down on dissent without the “unpleasant” visuals of protesters dying in broad daylight. In recent years, Beijing has perfected its surveillance tools in Xinjiang against the Uyghurs. By persecuting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists under a dubious national security law, the Chinese authorities have not only silenced the city’s political dissent but also established the illusion that the CCP practices “rule by law.” 

Beijing has already deployed these tactics to identify and intimidate protesters. Additionally, Covid-tracking QR codes that every Chinese citizen was forced to download on their phones to “track not only their COVID-19 risk status, but also their minute-by-minute movements — where they go, how they travel, and the people they encounter — data that is available to police.” Even if not all of these protesters end up in jail, the omnipresent social credit system will ensure they live a miserable life, unable to travel, find employment, open a bank account, or even own a pet. 

If the corporate media truly care about maintaining their credibility and striving to support people who live in authoritarian regimes who yearn for freedom and democracy, they need to develop an understanding of these authoritarian regimes and understand that tyrants do not compromise. Corporate journalists must stop passing on these regimes’ disinformation, no matter how well it fits their preferred narratives. They must also find the decency to apologize and retract reporting when proven wrong.

Helen Raleigh, CFA, is an American entrepreneur, writer, and speaker. She’s a senior contributor at The Federalist. Her writings appear in other national media, including The Wall Street Journal and Fox News. Helen is the author of several books, including “Confucius Never Said” and “Backlash: How Communist China’s Aggression Has Backfired.” Follow her on Parler and Twitter: @HRaleighspeaks.


Germany’s Green Energy Follies Are A Warning To The United States



Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin

Author Helen Raleigh profile




Germany is reportedly working on reducing the nation’s economic dependency on Communist China due to concerns about “human rights abuses and the risks of being beholden to an increasingly assertive authoritarian state,” Reuters reports. Berlin finally learned one lesson from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: it’s dangerous to economically rely on authoritarian regimes. 

Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s policies — building an economy based on Russia’s energy supply and China’s market demand — were primarily responsible for German’s economic predicament today. Zealous in fighting climate change, Merkel shut down coal mines and retired the majority of nuclear power plants in Germany while relying on Russia for energy and raw materials, despite repeated warnings from the Trump administration. By 2020, Russia supplied more than half of Germany’s natural gas and about a third of all the oil that Germans burned to heat homes, power factories, and fuel vehicles.

While paying Russia billions of euros for energy supply (the money no doubt helped finance Putin’s war chest), Merkel neglected to invest in German’s armed forces, even after Putin annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. She outsourced Germans’ and, to a larger extent, Europe’s security to the United States and simply hoped for the best. When Merkel retired in 2021, after being in office for 16 years, German’s military was left “in a weak position and require years of renewal to become a credible deterrent to Russian aggression,” according to The American Institute for Contemporary German Studies.  

Strengthened China Ties

Besides empowering and enriching Russia, Merkel was keen on strengthening Germany’s economic ties with China while in office. No other leaders from Western democracies had visited China more often than Merkel (she had 11 state visits to China).

To promote Germany’s export-oriented economy, Merkel was indifferent to China’s aggression in the South China Sea, its geopolitical expansion through the “Belt and Road” infrastructure project, and its increasingly assertive foreign policies. In addition, she avoided criticizing China’s mishandling of Covid-19 in the early days of 2020 and turned a blind eye to many human rights abuses in China, especially the genocide of Uyghur Muslims and suppression of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. 

Under Merkel, China became Germany’s largest trading partner in 2016. German’s auto industry especially relies on China — about 50 percent of German car maker Volkswagen’s profit comes from China. Merkel’s China policy has made Germany’s economy vulnerable and helped speed up the Chinese military’s modernization.

Beijing reportedly focused on investments in Germany to obtain critical technologies, especially those with dual-use, meaning both civilian and military applications. For example, engines made by German companies have powered several types of Chinese navy warships, Deutsche Welle found.  

Although Merkel retired in 2021, the effects of her economic policies continued. According to a German Economic Institute (IW) study, Germany’s economic dependency on China has continued to grow in 2022. “China’s share of German imports rose to 12.4 percent in the first half of 2022, compared with only 3.4 percent in 2000. German imports of Chinese goods… have surged by 45.7 percent year-on-year in the comparable period of the first six months. Germany’s trade deficit with the country had leapt to almost EUR 41 bn by mid-2022.”

A Wake-Up Call

After Russia invaded Ukraine, Germany joined other EU nations in imposing punitive economic sanctions on Russia. Putin retaliated by weaponizing his energy supply to Europe, sending energy prices soaring and dealing a blow to the German economy. 

Inflation in Germany has reached a 40-year high. Suppose Putin shut off the natural gas supply to Europe, as he threatened. In that case, many predict an energy-induced recession in Europe is inevitable, and Germany could lose close to $240 billion in economic output over the next two years.

The grim economic outlook, and the fact that Beijing refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and helped Russia evade the West’s economic sanctions by purchasing Russian energy and agriculture products, have become a wake-up call for Germany. Additionally, Beijing’s “zero-Covid” policy that has kept dozens of cities and millions of Chinese people in lockdown means German businesses have had limited access to the Chinese market, and the trend will continue in the foreseeable future. 

The German Economic Institute called for the government to change its economic policy, “specifically a reduction in incentives for doing business with China and a shift towards more trade with other emerging markets.” It also warned German businesses to “curb their dependency on China.” Otherwise, companies may expose themselves to bankruptcy due to Western sanctions imposed on China in the event of the People’s Liberation Army’s invading Taiwan. 

Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing also warned, “When it comes to dependencies, we also have to face the awkward question of how to deal with China.” He appealed to the German government to decouple economically from China and acknowledged such a move would “require a change no less fundamental than decoupling from Russian energy.” 

Germany Stepping Back

These calls for action have reached their desired audience. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock acknowledged Germany couldn’t afford to “just behave following the motto ‘business first,’ without taking into account the long-term risks and dependencies.”

Reuters reports that Germany’s economic ministry is considering several actions to cut Germany’s reliance on China, including reducing or scrapping investment and export guarantees for China and no longer promoting trade fairs and manager training there. It is also contemplating screening not just Chinese investments in Germany but also German investments in China. It also might submit a complaint to the World Trade Organization about unfair Chinese trade practices, together with the Group of Seven, an intergovernmental political forum consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

While Germany is waking up to the risks of economic dependency on authoritarian regimes, the Biden administration has deepened our nation’s economic reliance on China with a green revolution that centers around replacing fossil fuels with solar and wind, and gas-powered cars with electric vehicles (EVs). China dominates the global supply chain of raw materials and parts for EV batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines. The nation has been able to keep the manufacturing cost low by burning coal and employing forced labor from Uyghur and other ethnic minorities.

Even Politico has had to admit the dirty truth: “The U.S path to clean energy goes straight through China.” Germany’s economic woes should serve as a timely warning to the Biden administration that relying on an authoritarian regime is both dangerous and foolish.

Helen Raleigh, CFA, is an American entrepreneur, writer, and speaker. She’s a senior contributor at The Federalist. Her writings appear in other national media, including The Wall Street Journal and Fox News. Helen is the author of several books, including “Confucius Never Said” and “Backlash: How Communist China’s Aggression Has Backfired.” Follow her on Parler and Twitter: @HRaleighspeaks.

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