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Leading US Conservatives Push Bioweapons Conspiracy in Podcasts, Study Finds

April 19th, 2022 17:11

The Brook­ings Insti­tu­tion, a US think tank, recent­ly report­ed that in their pod­casts, lead­ing US con­ser­v­a­tives are pro­mot­ing false the­o­ries about the exis­tence of US-sup­port­ed bio­log­i­cal weapons capa­bil­i­ties in Ukraine. Accord­ing to the Book­ings report:

March 23, 2022  Over a 10-day peri­od begin­ning March 8—when U.S. Under Sec­re­tary of State for Polit­i­cal Affairs Vic­to­ria Nuland said that the Unit­ed States had pro­vid­ed fund­ing to Ukrain­ian labs car­ry­ing out research to pre­vent the dif­fu­sion of harm­ful pathogens (not bioweapons)—13 pop­u­lar polit­i­cal pod­cast­ers devot­ed seg­ments in 30 episodes to the false the­o­ry that the Unit­ed States had fund­ed bio­log­i­cal weapons research in Ukrain­ian labs. […] Over­all, 30 pod­cast episodes in our data set repeat­ed the false claim that the U.S. gov­ern­ment funds bio­log­i­cal weapons facil­i­ties in Ukraine. Of those, 27 episodes sup­port­ed the bioweapons nar­ra­tive. Three episodes aired the nar­ra­tive with­out endors­ing or refut­ing it. As of March 21, 2022, 12 of the 13 shows that gave cre­dence to the con­spir­a­cy are in Apple’s Top 100 for the cat­e­go­ry “News.” Two of these shows are cur­rent­ly in the Top 10. Notably, while many promi­nent polit­i­cal pod­cast­ers on the right embraced the bioweapons con­spir­a­cy, at least one did not: The Ben Shapiro Show devot­ed a seg­ment of an episode to debunk­ing the narrative.

Read the rest here.

Accord­ing to Brook­ings, the fol­low­ing con­ser­v­a­tive pod­casts have sup­port­ed the US bioweapons con­spir­a­cy theory:

  • Bannon’s War Room (Steve Ban­non,  far-right media strate­gist and for­mer Trump advisor)
  • The Char­lie Kirk Show (leader of Pro-Trump youth organization)
  • The Dan Bongin­go Show
  • Human Events Dai­ly with Jack Poso­biec (well known rightwing con­spir­a­cy theorist)
  • The Michael Knowles Show
  • Con­ser­v­a­tive Review with Daniel Horowitz (far-right con­ser­v­a­tive writer)
  • Tim Pool Dai­ly Show
  • Amer­i­ca First with Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka Pod­cast (media per­son­al­i­ty with ties to far-right and for­mer Trump advisor)
  • The Glenn Beck Pro­gram (media fig­ure and con­spir­a­cy theorist)
  • The Michael Sav­age Show
  • The Rubin Report (Dave Rubin, lead­ing fig­ure of the “Intel­lec­tu­al Dark Web”)

In mid-Feb­ru­ary, the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) report­ed that Russ­ian media was claim­ing the Unit­ed States was devel­op­ing bio­log­i­cal weapons in a net­work of labs in Ukraine. These claims have been echoed by Chi­nese offi­cials and ampli­fied by QAnon con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists and con­ser­v­a­tive Amer­i­can polit­i­cal fig­ures, includ­ing Fox News host Tuck­er Carl­son and Don­ald Trump Jr. Carlson’s com­ments, in turn, have been repeat­ed­ly ampli­fied by Russ­ian state-affil­i­at­ed media out­lets. A recent report by the Dai­ly Beast high­lights how US con­ser­v­a­tive and con­spir­a­to­r­i­al influ­encers have con­tributed to this Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion campaign.

Recent GIOR cov­er­age on the US bioweapons con­spir­a­cy has included:

  • In April, we report­ed on a study that found that Face­book had failed to label 80% of arti­cles on its plat­form pro­mot­ing the bioweapons con­spir­a­cy theory.
  • In March, we report­ed that Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da about US bioweapon labs in Ukraine is copy-past­ed from sim­i­lar fake sto­ries used to dis­cred­it legit­i­mate bio­log­i­cal research in Geor­gia and Kazakhstan.
  • In March, we report­ed a clear over­lap on Twit­ter between pro-Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da pushed by inau­then­tic accounts and gen­uine Chi­nese offi­cials ampli­fy­ing the US bioweapons con­spir­a­cy theory.