One beneficiary of the COVID-19 pandemic and the efforts being made to alleviate it has been the Western propaganda campaign against China and Russia. It was intriguing, if repulsive, to read the Washington Post story headlined “Trump called Russia’s coronavirus aid to US ‘very nice.’ Putin may use it as a propaganda coup.” Pictures of a loaded cargo aircraft prompted “former commanding general of the US Army in Europe, Ben Hodges, to tweet that a photograph published by Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs of thousands of cardboard boxes stacked in a plane hold was a ‘hoax’ because ‘no professional Loadmaster in the world… in any air force… would load a plane like this’.” The man is a malicious fool, but many people pay attention to his prattle.
It is apparent that the Washington Post and similar propagandists fail to understand that nations round the world are trying their best to assist others simply because it is in the interests of humankind for there to be as much international cooperation as possible in this crisis. As reported by the New York Times, “stockpiles of medical supplies are running low,” in the US, and it might be thought that any improvement in what is a most serious situation would be welcomed.
But the Post shuddered that “it is not Moscow’s first shipment of medical aid to a NATO country this month. Earlier it sent 15 planeloads of medical equipment and military virologists and epidemiologists to Italy, in trucks emblazoned with ‘From Russia with love’.” For the Post to highlight this labelling shows that these people have no sense of humour, because “from Russia with Love” is the title of a 1963 James Bond spy movie, which was corny but very popular during the years of the first Cold War. Anyway, the much-needed stores and experts are doing good in Italy, “a Nato country” (does that make Russian aid more sinister?) whose people are most grateful for the assistance, which must be irritating for the West’s anti-Russia propagandists.
And in Washington there are many people who have benefited from the pandemic, among them Senator Richard M. Burr who you might think would be spending as much of his time as possible, along with other US legislators, in assisting the administration in its flailing efforts to improve US health care. But Senator Burr had other priorities, as indicated by the New York Times which noted that he “sold hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of stock in major companies last month, as President Trump and others in his party were still playing down the threat presented by the coronavirus outbreak and before the stock market’s precipitous plunge. The stocks were sold in mid-February, days after Mr Burr, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, wrote an opinion article for Fox News suggesting that the United States was better prepared than ever before’ to confront the virus… The record of Mr. Burr’s stock transaction shows he and his wife sold 33 different stocks on February 13 that were collectively worth $628,000 to $1.7 million.”
Barr is obviously a clever person who has talents that could be put to good use in the worldwide battle against the pandemic, but there is no evidence that he is doing anything to help — and regrettable that he did not follow the example of Dolly Parton who has “donated $1m (£800,000) to research into a coronavirus vaccine, as she begins a new storytelling series for children in lockdown.” No doubt he’ll come out of it all smelling like roses.
Which brings us to the other side of the world, where the smell in India is of incipient dictatorship. The country is run by an ultra-nationalistic prime minister named Narendra Modi, a favourite of Donald Trump who considers him “an exceptional leader, a great champion of India.” But the great champion has seized upon the pandemic to extend his grip on the country and has clamped down ferociously — resulting in chaos and even more suffering by the poor and deprived who are innumerable in that country of 1.3 billion.
In one pre-pandemic indication of India’s accelerating descent to harsh autocracy the New York Times reported on 2 April that in March a large and widely-watched television station “had been cut off by an order from India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The government decided to block the channel for 48 hours because it had covered February’s biggest news story — the mob attacks on Muslims in New Delhi that flared into broader unrest — in a way that seemed ‘critical toward Delhi Police and RSS’. The RSS is a Hindu-nationalist social movement with close ties to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party.”
In 1930s Germany, before the television era, Nazi propaganda master Joseph Goebbels declared “It would not have been possible for us to take power or to use it in the ways we have without the radio . . . [Radio] reached the entire nation, regardless of class, standing, or religion. That was primarily the result of the tight centralization, the strong reporting, and the up-to-date nature of the German radio.” As in today’s India, the National Socialist party of the Reich would not permit adverse comment about the ruling party to be conveyed by the media, and Modi’s broadcasting minister, Prakash Javadekar, could have been following Goebbels’ guidelines when he said that “Press freedom is absolutely essential in a democratic setup and that is the commitment of the Modi government” — and adding that “but let me also say that everybody accepts that it has to be a responsible freedom.”
Yes indeed: a “responsible freedom” for the media — as laid down by the government in power, just as in Hungary, where, the Economist reports, “a law enacted on March 30th means [prime minister] Viktor Orbán can rule by decree — bypassing parliament — until the coronavirus crisis is over.” A member of the Nato military alliance, Hungary has for years been on the slope down to what one commentator describes as “an authoritarian regime that wields a cynical interpretation of the law as a weapon,” and this conclusion is amply justified by Orban’s new legislation that includes an all-embracing threat that to “claim or spread a falsehood or claim or spread a distorted truth in relation to the emergency in a way that is suitable for alarming or agitating a large group of people” would be punishable by up to three years of imprisonment.
There are many other beneficiaries of the COVID-19 Pandemic, and their motivations differ little from the greed and lust for power that have so far been demonstrated. Washington’s greedheads are complemented by those who seek global military supremacy, and the sinister and incompetent Modi has a European reflection in the more skilful but no less menacing Orbán of Hungary.
It is hoped that the pandemic will be overcome by international cooperation and national determination, and also that that when finally there is victory there will be concerted efforts to establish rapprochement and re-establish democracy in countries whose leaders have taken advantage of the crisis to try to stifle democracy.