Who Is Behind the Billboards Advertising The Epoch Times?

The Epoch Times was created and funded by Falun Gong.

A billboard on Broadway. (Fascinated by Fake News)

I’ve seen a lot of partisan digital ads for The Epoch Times. Now I see billboards around town advertising The Epoch Times as “#1 Trusted News” here in Portland. Who is behind these billboards, and what is their agenda in Oregon? And who is the low-resolution, vaguely unsettling man featured in these advertisements? —Fascinated by Fake News

That guy? Just an ordinary seeker of truth like yourself, Fascinated. He was placed there so you can identify with his quest for enlightenment, symbolized by the stock photo of heaven used as a backdrop for his head shot. What you say about his company is what you say about society!

Naw, I’m just bullshitting you: The unidentified dude appears to be Epoch Times reporter Joshua Philipp, host of EpochTV’s Crossroads. The Epoch Times is a journal of right-wing disinformation that’s grown into the nation’s fourth-largest newspaper (according to them) since making the editorial decision in 2016 to go all-in on Donald Trump. Editorially, it’s not that different from Breitbart News or The Daily Caller, but it does enjoy the unique distinction of being started by a cult.

I mean, I guess we can quibble over the use of the word “cult.” But the fact remains that The Epoch Times was created and funded by Falun Gong, a religious movement founded in China in 1992 by a secretive, charismatic leader who lives on a compound, tells his followers not to use medicine, and believes that a program of five simple exercises can “save all sentient beings.” Your call.

Falun Gong’s most sympathetic trait is the fact that it’s been suppressed by the Chinese government (how brutally is a subject of debate). The original Epoch Times was founded in 2000 to document and protest this treatment. However, before you get overwhelmed by warm fuzzies, an investigation by The New York Times in 2020 found that today’s Epoch Times empire was built on a combination of viral misinformation (anti-vaxx, QAnon), sleazy algorithm manipulation tactics (using bots to fake likes and shares on Facebook), and aggressive fundraising from archconservative donors.

Finally, you may be interested to learn that The Epoch Times is just one arm of a Falun Gong-affiliated media empire. There’s also a TV production company, NTD (New Tang Dynasty) TV, and a Chinese dance troupe called Shen Yun. I’m sure you’ve seen their posters; they’re those ones that always try extra hard be anti-Communist. I guess now we know why.

Questions? Send them to dr.know@wweek.com.

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