Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters
A new investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reveals a global network of harassment promulgated by various online media properties backed by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and his billionaire benefactor Miles Guo.
The New York Times and other outlets have reported previously on the extensive connections between Bannon and Guo, who regularly appears on Bannon's podcast War Room: Pandemic. Notably, Bannon was recently arrested by federal agents aboard Guo's yacht, and he's been charged by the Southern District of New York for defrauding donors to a private charity purportedly building a wall along the southern border.
Now, two former members of Guo's so-called "whistleblowers' movement" are speaking out against the pair. John Pan, "who was amongst Mr Guo's inner circle until December 2019" and has been subjected to threats and harassment after he left the movement, says their disinformation campaign is "trying to interrupt the United State[s'] elections" by spreading salacious and unverified allegations against Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
As Bannon's scheme with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani to smear the Biden family has fallen apart, its allegations have appeared on Guo's GTV website. According to a report by The New York Times, "Mr. Giuliani did not respond to questions about the origins of the materials featured by the Guo-linked outlets," though "Mr. Bannon acknowledged that he pushes content to GTV, which also carries his podcast."
From ABC's investigation:
Together with Steve Bannon, Mr Guo launched an aggressive anti-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) movement called the New Federal State of China in June this year, with branches in countries like the US, Canada, Taiwan, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.
Through a plethora of media channels, spot rallies, flyer and email spam campaigns, the movement has been instrumental in pushing out Mr Guo's conspiracy theories and misinformation.
They called it "the whistleblowers' movement", a media campaign with an aim to "take down the CCP" by any means necessary.
Dr Anne Kruger, the director of Asia Pacific at the fact check organisation FirstDraft, studied the group's operations and said followers flood the internet with questionable material.
"Their main tactic is really to try to appeal to people that might have a gripe against the Chinese Communist Party and to push conspiracy theories," Dr Kruger said[.]
Foreign Policy magazine has also reported on this network of harassment and threats directed by Guo to keep his critics silent. Some are now speaking out, including Pan, a Brisbane, Australia-based human rights advocate who was attracted to Guo's criticisms of the repressive Chinese government. When he had a change of heart after learning of Guo's deceptive practices, ABC reports that Pan became a target:
After witnessing the movement's dangerous tactics, Mr Pan became uncomfortable with its direction.
In late 2019, he decided to branch out and create his own charity to fight for human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang province.
A few days after having a conversation about it with Mr Guo, Mr Guo told his 1.4 million followers in his online broadcasts that Mr Pan was a "CCP spy", and urged them to attack him.
"He started calling me a fraud and a scam. A Chinese government spy. I should deserve to die," Mr Pan said.
"I can't sleep. I'm quite shocked. I had a panic attack."
On October 8 this year, a group of the online harassers picketed outside his house in Brisbane, waving flags and banners of the New Federal State of China and chanting slogans: "Kick the CCP agent out of Australia."
Similar to Guo's intimidation tactics, his partner Steve Bannon often accuses liberals and other critics of being agents of the Chinese government, witting or unwitting. On the October 30, 2020, edition of War Room: Pandemic, he said Joe McCarthy was "right," referring to Senator Joe McCarthy's bogus 1950s crusade against "subversive communist influence" in major America institutions. McCarthy's baseless charges were condemned as "a fraud and a hoax" by a U.S. Senate special committee.
According to the ABC, Guo touts a "hit list" of other Chinese dissidents that are critical of his tactics.Others like John Pan have been subjected to terroristic threats and violence.
Mr Pan's name is on a Guo hit list with about 10 other Chinese dissidents around the world.
Mr Guo recently launched on his livestream an "eliminate the traitors campaign", calling on his supporters to harm those on the list.
One of the dissidents has already been beaten up on the streets of LA.
Another, Texas-based pastor and human rights activist Bob Fu, told the ABC that he's had the bomb squad in Midland Texas searching his house for hidden explosives.
Mr Guo has made at least three livestream videos encouraging his followers to "eliminate Pastor Fu".
Fu runs a charity aiding Christians facing religious persecution in China. According to the ABC report, a police "riot squad escorted Mr Fu's daughter from school" and his family is "still residing in an undisclosed location" under protective custody due to threats by Guo's followers.
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