A worldwide campaign to spread conspiracy theories and misinformation has arrived in Humboldt County in the form of a weird “newspaper” with the headline: “How China’s Communist Regime Endangered the World.” Last Saturday, residents in Eureka and Arcata received unsolicited copies of the Epoch Times, a far-right and pro-Trump newspaper funded by Falun Gong.
Who is Falun Gong, you might ask?
Well it is not a person. Instead it is a religious movement that started in China in the 1990s and has since moved its headquarters to New York. Falun Gong involves a bit of regulated breathing and meditation exercises and was founded by Li Hongzhi. The movement grew in popularity in China and was eventually banned because the Chinese government deemed it an “evil cult.”
How does a religious movement get banned in China?
Well, China has been known for crushing dissent and members of Falun Gong are just that. According to interviews with NBC News, members of Falun Gong believe “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.”
The Epoch Times started in May 2000 and originally focused solely on pushing anti-communinist messaging and generally stayed out of American politics, however that eventually changed.
In October 2009, Li Hongzhi gave a speech at the Epoch Times where he urged the paper to change its course — to essentially become more of a “newspaper” that builds its own revenue and reputation.
“As The Epoch Times has made its way from its start-up to where it is today, it has become quite influential,” Li Hongzhi said at the meeting. “This tells us, then, that even though while running the paper people’s cultivation states may have often been inadequate, the main current has been good and made indelible achievements. That’s excellent. And as for its future prospects, things should only get better and better as you continue, and ordinary people will attach ever greater importance to the paper.”
The Epoch Times has exploded in reach over the last few years with 6.1 million followers on Facebook, 67,400 followers on Instagram, 278,000 followers on Twitter and spent around $1 million on countless YouTube ads. The Epoch Times also charter a new course when it came to going to bat for an American politician. Its publishers are all-in for Trump and see him as an ally in the fight against communism in China.
According to analysis by NBC News, over a six-month period in 2019 the Epoch Times spent $1.5 million for nearly 11,000 ads promoting President Trump, “more than any organization outside of the Trump campaign itself.”
There is nothing nefarious about showing blatant support for a political figure; mainstream news outlets do it all the time on both sides of the political aisle. However, most of them do not peddle baseless conspiracy theories, align themselves with QAnon and publish misinformation about COVID-19. (Although, there is some debate about this too.)
So why did the Epoch Times end up on people’s doorsteps in Humboldt County?
It was actually part of an international campaign to deliver the paper. Residents in the United Kingdom also found the paper on their doorstep, along with residents in the Bay Area, in Colorado and even Canada.
One LoCO reader in Eureka was so upset about the incident she emailed us the following:
“People, myself included, are standing outside in front of our mailboxes with this “newspaper” in our hands yelling profanities out loud to ourselves and to anyone who can hear, shouting “What the Fuck…??!!” and “What the hell is this shit doing in my mailbox…??!!”, “What the bloody fucking hell…??!!”, (that last one was mine), along with similar expressions of shock, horror, and disgust of the contents on the pages, and their disbelief to have had this delivered by the United States Postal Service. And then some of these people are walking around with this mail, looking for other neighbors, wondering if they received it too, and they’re all desperately wanting to discuss the horror of what’s printed, and their disbelief that it was actually mailed to them and that they’re actually holding this in their hands. So, this is what’s going on in Eureka, if it interests you.”
So if you were one of the (un)lucky ones to find a copy of the Epoch Times in your mailbox or on your front step consider reusing it. You can make papier-mâché, or airplanes, or use it for a fire starter for your wood burning stove. Or just line the bottom of a bird cage with it because, after all, the paper is total shit.