The major through-line in messaging from Russia, China, and Iran last week was a focus on police brutality, racial justice protests, and violence and unrest in the United States, following a pattern established earlier this year in their respective responses to the killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests. Russian coverage of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, took on familiar themes, including (1) emphasizing the brutality of the shooting, (2) pointing out broader inequities in police responses, and (3) highlighting images of chaos and destruction in the aftermath. Iranian government and state media accounts and websites used the shooting and protests to paint a picture of the United States as a crumbling society clinging to a broken model of governance. China’s coverage of the unrest generally was more measured, its key foreign ministry influencers on Twitter leveraged the platform to push out tweets supporting protestors and criticizing the U.S. government’s response. Outside of content related to U.S. protests, Russian state media continued its extensive coverage of protests in Belarus, highlighting the West’s alleged hypocrisy in its response to protests there compared to its response to protests in Portland, Oregon, and the Yellow Vest protests in France. Russian diplomats also disputed allegations of a Kremlin-directed cover-up of the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, with state media casting doubt on the poisoning diagnosis made by doctors in Berlin. Tehran-linked accounts also amplified Russian narratives, including their accounts of accomplishments in Syria, their line on Belarus, and their tensions with the United States. Finally, Chinese state media and diplomats criticized the United States for its aggressive stance against Chinese tech companies. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying portrayed a ban on TikTok as an expression of US politicians’ fear, while diplomatic provocateur Zhao Lijian threatened Apple with retaliation should WeChat also be banned.
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