A highly controversial study by a Chinese virologist, published Monday, sought to provide a scientific veneer to the conspiracy theory that a Chinese laboratory is the source of Covid-19. But behind the scenes, Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, is in the driver’s seat.
This is one of the most famous conspiracy theories in the Covid-19 era. Crazy claims that the Sars-CoV-2 virus came from a Chinese military laboratory in Wuhan has delighted conspirators since the pandemic began. But what is less well known is the efforts of Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist of US President Donald Trump, to continue to feed him behind the scenes.
Latest evidence so far: a strange “scientific” study online, Monday, September 14, on the portal Zenodo scientific self-publication. A team of Chinese researchers, led by virologist Li-Meng Yan, claim that “unusual properties of the Sars-CoV-2 genome suggest sophisticated genetic manipulation” rather than a natural origin.
Guest on Fox News
Enough to instantly revive the fantasy machine and several established conservative media, such as the British Daily Mail or New York Post, devoted an article to this publication which, however, has not been evaluated by other researchers, as is customary before any scientific publication. Fox News even had Li-Meng Yan develop his dissertation on Wednesday, September 16, during the popular show for pro-Trump host Tucker Carlson.
Faced with this media brawl, Science Media Center, a British science communication portal, found it necessary to get several well-known researchers to respond to these allegations. All point to inconsistencies, approximations and hasty conclusions of the study.
In addition to the scientific aspect, Kevin Bird, an American researcher, was the first to get attention, on Twitter, on the links between Li-Meng Yan and Steve Bannon.
The work of the Chinese virologist has actually been funded by the Rule of Law Society and the Rule of Law Foundation, two organizations founded by the previous emergence of the US President and the central figure of the far right in the United States. , reminiscent of the Daily Beast website. Steve Bannon was even until recently accused of fraud in August, the director of these institutes, whose stated goal is to “free the Chinese from the yoke of the Beijing regime”. These two units have never supported research work before Li-Meng Yan.
Long-prepared media stunt
The researcher’s meeting, cold with the Chinese authorities, with Steve Bannon seemed inevitable in these times of disinformation about the pandemic. Li-Meng Yan says she was forced to leave China in April after being pressured by authorities to question the official dissertation on the origins of Covid-19. She has been repeating on the Internet since January that the hypothesis about the virus that would have spread from a market in Wuhan does not seem plausible to her. discovered the newspaper Liberation.
Steve Bannon also threw himself very quickly into the bath of conspiracies and made the Wuhan laboratory “Ground Zero” of Sars-Cov-2. He regularly gives the floor, in his podcast on pandemics, to supporters of this dissertation, reminiscent of the Daily Beast.
To the former adviser to the US President, Li-Meng Yan was holy bread. On paper, it already presents very well. She is actually a doctor and has worked for the prestigious Hong Kong University. Before declaring himself a whistleblower about the origin of the virus, Li-Meng Yan had even participated in serious studies on Sars-Cov-2, published in leading scientific journals such as Nature and The Lancet.
The paths of these two individuals probably crossed just before the summer. In July, Steve Bannon assured the Daily Mail that Chinese scientists with knowledge of what was happening in the Wuhan laboratory had fled China to reveal the truth to the world. One month later, he invited Li-Meng Yan to participate in his podcast.
The publication of the study therefore seems to have been a prepared media stunt for a long time. It was also accompanied by a rapid offensive on social networks to ensure the widest possible spread of this smoky article. Hundreds of Twitter accounts quickly shared links to a handful of far-right US websites that had temporarily published articles praising Li-Meng Yan’s work moments after his work went live. “I find it alarming to note how well these networks are organized to spread their misinformation at a time when the serious scientific community has the greatest difficulty in convincing the public,” regrets researcher Kevin Bird on Twitter.
Chinese billionaire, third piece of the puzzle
The reasons for this offensive by Steve Bannon may seem obvious. A conspiracy theory that suggests that Chinese scientists in a military laboratory are the origin of the pandemic is playing into the hands of its political protege, Donald Trump. The tenant in the White House has actually turned his anti-Chinese crusade into an archery weapon.
But there is a third thief in history: Guo Wengui, Chinese billionaire in exile and co-worker of Steve Bannon. He is the second founder of the two organizations that funded Li-Meng Yan’s work. Since arriving in the United States in 2015, he has done everything in his power to discredit the Chinese regime, for which he is responsible. For his part, Beijing accuses him of corruption and has made him “one of the most wanted refugees”. emphasizes the Wall Street Journal.
In this regard, Li-Meng Yan can represent a valuable farmer in Guo Wengui’s struggle against the Chinese authorities. It is also no coincidence that one of the first sites to report on the Chinese virologist’s study was G News, an information portal created by the Chinese billionaire for the sole purpose of “exposing the extent of corruption” among Chinese elites. Website for which Steve Bannon was also a time columnist …
The backstory of this controversial “scientific” publication illustrates how conspiracy theories, the extravagance of which can sometimes make you smile, are often weapons in the hands of actors with much more serious motives. And which, they do not smile at all, like refueling the Sino-American tension.