Epoch Times newspaper delivered in N.L.

A sample issue of a controversial right-wing newspaper has been distributed via the mail in Newfoundland and Labrador. Some people are not happy about it.

James Grudic

The sample Epoch Times newspaper that was delivered to Newfoundland residents.
A sample issue of the Epoch Times was delivered in St. John’s. Residents received the paper in early January, unsolicited. James Grudic/Kicker

A provocative right-wing news organization has gotten samples of its newspapers to mailboxes in Newfoundland and Labrador, but it has received little of the province’s trademark warm welcome.

People started noticing the Epoch Times newspaper appearing in their mail in the last couple of weeks. As of early January, residents from St. John’s to Corner Brook have had copies of the publication delivered to their homes by Canada Post.

The arrival of the publication has stirred up a noticeable reaction in many of the locals, some of whom take issue with the newspaper’s content and are leery of its intentions.

Some people have taken to social media to denounce and mock the paper. A meme from a Newfoundland-based Facebook page that suggested using the Epoch Times as fire-starting tinder has been shared more than 1,000 times.

Tyler Callahan, 26, of St. John’s received the sample issue Epoch Times in the mail. He said his initial reaction to skimming the paper was one of “comedy”.

“It almost reads like a satirical piece, but then I realized, oh no, this is actually just blatant propaganda.”

Callahan voiced his concerns that some people might not vet all of the information that is sent to them and that those people may be susceptible to manipulation by the media.

“I felt a lot of disappointment and then anger,” he said.

“I don’t think that any journalism is really free from bias, but there’s a difference between acknowledging your bias, and blatantly preying on it,” said Callahan.

When asked about the likelihood that he would willingly seek his information from the Epoch Times, he chuckled and said, “Zero per-cent.”

Controversial track record

The Epoch Times has been the subject of controversy in Canada in the past. In May 2020, the CBC reported that a postal workers union local in Toronto had submitted a request to the federal government, asking the government for an interim order not to deliver a special COVID-19 themed edition of the Epoch Times.

The eight-page edition of the publication included an editorial that stated that the virus should be called the “CCP virus,” for the Chinese Communist Party. Postal workers and members of the union expressed concerns that the paper could fuel anti-Chinese sentiment within Canada. Public Services Minister Anita Anand replied to the request, saying Canada Post could not take steps to stop the paper being delivered.

Now in January of 2021, Ramiro Sepulveda, a Canada Post letter carrier in Regina has made the news for refusing to deliver the Epoch Times to his clients, on the grounds that he considered it to be “hate mail,” landing him a three-day suspension from his job.

The Epoch Times is a newspaper made by Epoch Media, a non-profit media organization based in Manhattan, New York. The group has roots in the Falun Gong religious movement, founded in China in the early 1990s.

The publication has adopted a strong tone against communism and against the Chinese government. As well, it has become an ardent supporter and promoter of former U.S. president Donald Trump.

We reached out to the Epoch Times for comment, but did not hear back from any of the paper’s representatives.

Lucian Ashworth says that there has been a crisis in the media, but he’s optimistic that people have begun to think more critically. Photo illustration by James Grudic/Kicker

The strong reaction against the Epoch Times might be an indicator that people are becoming more aware of media manipulation, suggests Memorial University political science professor Lucian Ashworth.

“I think it’s gotten to be known for what it is, and that’s why you see more ordinary people reacting to it in this way,” said Ashworth, head of the political science department at MUN.

Given the rapid decline of Trump’s support in America following the attacks on the U.S. capitol, it’s no surprise that a pro-Trump publication would fall flat in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“It’s come at the worst possible time for Trumpism because the wheels have just fallen off the wagon,” said Ashworth.

Ashworth said he can draw a comparison between the effects of political manipulation in today’s media and the issues that surrounded broadcast media in the last century. He noted that radio broadcasts contributed to the rise of totalitarianism in Europe.

“Right now, we’re experiencing a crisis in the media, but television and radio both went through the same thing in the early days,” said Ashworth,

“That’s why now we’re seeing things like Facebook and Twitter realizing they’re not just platforms. They seem like they’ve become a little less naïve.”

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