NEW YORK — With language virtually inviting government prosecutions and other punitive action, the New York Times published a front-page article Aug. 5 claiming that several organizations and individuals in the United States are part of “a financial network that stretches from Chicago to Shanghai and uses American nonprofits to push Chinese talking points worldwide.”
The Times — the paper of “record” of the U.S. ruling class — dedicated considerable resources to the lengthy screed, bylined by four “investigative” reporters on three continents with the aid of seven other reporters and researchers. None of the organizations fingered by the “reporting” team have “registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, as is required of groups that seek to influence public opinion on behalf of foreign powers,” says the article. “That usually applies to groups taking money or orders from foreign governments.”
The organizations cited include Codepink, whose website says it is a “feminist grassroots organization working to end U.S. warfare and imperialism”; New York-based People’s Forum; and several groups that present the regime in Beijing as a model of a “just” society and promoter of world “peace.” Among the individuals whose constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly are targeted by name are businessman Neville Roy Singham; Codepink leader Jodie Evans; and Vijay Prashad, executive director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland Aug. 8 urging an immediate investigation into Codepink, People’s Forum, Tricontinental, six other named organizations, and “all related organizations linked to Mr. Singham.”
The Times singles out Singham, who made his fortune in a software company he founded. “Mr. Singham has long admired Maoism, the Communist ideology that gave rise to modern China,” the paper said.
In 2017 Singham married Evans, a co-founder of Codepink. The Times editors’ intrusive sensationalism includes a screenshot of their wedding invitation. Evans served in Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration and managed his 1991 bid for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.
The Times charges that Singham and others are at the center of a loose coalition called “No Cold War,” which is “part of a lavishly funded influence campaign” that allegedly works “closely with the Chinese government media machines and is financing its propaganda worldwide.”
The Times claims that Singham through various nonprofit groups in the U.S. also funds political activity of groups in South Africa and other parts of the world.
Foreign Agents Registration Act
In addition to raising the specter of Foreign Agents Registration Act violations, the Times also quotes anonymous “tax experts” who say that Singham “may have” claimed tax deductions for his donations to nonprofit groups. This is a not-so-subtle hint to the government to initiate intrusive audits and jerk the tax exempt status of such groups.
Codepink, People’s Forum, and other organizations are circulating and asking for signatures to a letter headlined “McCarthyism Is Back: Together We Can Stop It.” It correctly points out, “This attack isn’t only on the left but against everyone who exercises their free speech and democratic rights.” Receiving funds to promote the views of an organization or individual “is not illicit,” it notes.
But the statement undermines any ability to build a broad defense of the Constitution’s First Amendment rights by urging signers in its closing lines to “remain committed to building an international peace movement.” For Codepink, People’s Forum, Tricontinental Institute and some others targeted by the Times, what they mean by “peace” is making excuses for Moscow’s now year-and-a-half-long war on Ukraine’s national sovereignty and independence and calling for “negotiations” that would leave substantial parts of that country occupied by the regime of Vladimir Putin. And keeping quiet, at best, or openly supporting Beijing’s repressive actions against the Uighur national minority and protests for political rights in Hong Kong.
The broadest defense possible of free speech and association is needed. Like some daily mouthpiece of imperialist Washington, the Times boasts that it “is the first to unravel the funding and document Mr. Singham’s ties to Chinese propaganda interests.”
Already, the Times article and its allegations have been picked up by other news media around the world. Defenders of the interests of the working class need to be prepared to respond to other attempts like this to undermine constitutional rights, both those already underway and more to come.