The geopolitical battle for the COVID-19 narrative | The Listening Post (Full)

On The this week: From China to the US, the COVID-19 is as much medical as it is media. Plus, lessons from the coverage of the 1918 Spanish flu.

The for the COVID-19

As they have been isolating their populations to keep the coronavirus contained, some powerful governments are simultaneously waging a worldwide war of perceptions – laying out how the pandemic happened, where the responsibilities lie and which country should lead the fight against it.

China is out to shift the from its initially slow response – the way its censors kept a lid on the story – to the collective effort since then to bring down the infection rate. Beijing has also borrowed a page from Moscow’s playbook – using mainstream and social media platforms to spread conspiracy theories and to muddle perceptions. In Washington, DC, a campaign to brand COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” is being led by President Donald Trump himself.

This story has grown into a debate about competing ideologies – a global one, played out through the news media – of what the world will look like once the pandemic is over – and which political system, which superpower – will be best placed to lead.


Mark Galeotti – principal director, Mayak Intelligence and author of We Need to Talk about Putin

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian – China reporter, Axios

Emerson Brooking – resident fellow, DFR Lab and author of The Like War: The Weaponization of Social Media

On our radar:

Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Flo Phillips about the COVID-19 emergency laws that are threatening press freedom worldwide.

1918 to COVID-19: 100 years of covering pandemics

How should authorities respond to COVID-19, and what role should the media play? From the beginning of the outbreak, historians have looked to the past for valuable lessons learned – most notably, to the so-called Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

John Barry is an American historian and author of the New York Times bestseller, The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History.

The ’s Nic Muirhead interviews Barry on the role the media played in 1918; how news organisations, through self-censorship and misinformation, helped spread the virus, and how we are seeing some disturbing parallels in the coverage of COVID-19 today.


John M Barry – author of The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History.

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