Government officials and state-controlled media in China, Iran, and Russia are working collectively to call out US hypocrisy on the way Washington handled the recent Black Lives Matter protests.
Social media research group Graphika says official messaging from the three foreign powers has been focused on showcasing US hypocrisy and double standards in matters of its external diplomacy.
Over the past years, the US has publicly and aggressively criticized China for its police brutality during the Hong Kong protests, Iran for its brutal reprisals of recent anti-government protests in early 2020, and Russia for its crackdown on free press.
Now, in light of rampant reports of police brutality against protesters and journalists covering the BLM protests, the three countries are using the opportunity to discredit the US’ position as a staunch supporter of human rights and press freedoms.
Graphika, which mapped out news articles from state-controlled media and social media posts from diplomats in the three countries, said it found no evidence of covert groups or operations stoking division inside the US by posing as Americans on social media. This is in contrast with past operations that have employed “troll farms” and carefully planned messaging that often pitted different groups of US society against each other.
Furthermore, there was also no evidence of planned-ahead coordination between China, Iran, and Russia. Graphika said the three countries appear to be working opportunistically, taking advantage of the BLM protests as they unfold, and are merely using each other’s messaging to amplify US criticism and give their voices more visibility and credibility.
In many cases, messages coming out of the three countries had often used local US media reports to sustain their criticism, rather than using questionable news sources.
As it was expected, in China, most of the messages posted by state officials and state-run media have been singular in focus, namely to discredit the US’ past criticism of how China has handled the Hong Kong protests.
The primary messaging has been to showcase US hypocrisy and double standards, Graphika said.
For example, Chinese media and officials have often resurfaced past US threats to impose economic sanctions for China’s brutal police crackdown on the Hong Kong protesters, and are now comparing the two countries’ responses side by side.
As Graphika points out, many Chinese officials are now using the US brutal crackdown on the BLM protests to justify their Hong Kong actions as the natural result of applying national security laws, similar to how the US has acted.
However, Chinese officials are also looking beyond the Hong Kong protests. Graphika said that some officials used the US’ extremely brutal crackdown on the BLM protests to promote Chinese interests in Africa by using US racism against black people to bring African nations closer to Chinese officials.
Similar messaging was also seen from Iranian officials and state-controlled media. Graphika says Iran took “US criticisms of Iranian crackdowns on demonstrations and turned them on the United States.”
Iran’s messaging, just like in China’s case, has been to show US hypocrisy and the country’s false stance as being a beacon of democracy and freedom.
In Russia, Graphika said that things were a little bit different as Russia did not have to deal with any recent protests, and had to focus its propaganda efforts elsewhere.
Graphika says Russian media provided ample coverage of the BLM issues but focused “on a specific interpretation of the protest.”
Coverage in Russian media has focused on attacking US mainstream media, defending Donald Trump’s violent rhetoric, but also attacking him for being a racist at the same time, criticizing human rights groups for not speaking out against US abuse but speaking out against abuse in other countries, and others.
Furthermore, messages from official Russian diplomats have also called out the US for police violence against journalists. Ironically, this message came from a country with the highest rate of deaths among reporters.
“One other factor in this coverage merits attention, and that is the way in which state outlets from these different countries amplified one another,” Graphika said.
“This cross-pollination occurred in multiple directions. As noted above, Russian state voices echoed the Chinese argument of hypocrisy vis-a-vis Hong Kong. Russian outlets also echoed Iranian narratives, and Chinese officials amplified Russian claims (including some of the Russian amplification of Chinese narratives).
“This likely reflects a current confluence of interests rather than a ‘confluence of tactics,’ as all three states have a shared interest in undermining US influence as the main power capable of limiting their own geopolitical intentions,” the research group said.