This post definitely falls into the intrigue category. Buckle your seat belt, dear reader. It’s one hell of a story.
Christopher Balding (CB), a one-time Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV) professor recently went down in professional flames because of a red line he chose to cross for 15 minutes of infamy while indulging his hatred of China and embracing the alt-right community in the US. Pride goeth before a fall and this one was a doozy by any standard.
This 30 October 2020 NBC report tells you all you need to know: How a fake persona laid the groundwork for a Hunter Biden conspiracy deluge – A 64-page document that was later disseminated by close associates of President Donald Trump appears to be the work of a fake “intelligence firm.”
Here are some key excerpts (my bold).
One month before a purported leak of files from Hunter Biden’s laptop, a fake “intelligence” document about him went viral on the right-wing internet, asserting an elaborate conspiracy theory involving former Vice President Joe Biden’s son and business in China.
The document, a 64-page composition that was later disseminated by close associates of President Donald Trump, appears to be the work of a fake “intelligence firm” called Typhoon Investigations, according to researchers and public documents.
The author of the document, a self-identified Swiss security analyst named Martin Aspen, is a fabricated identity, according to analysis by disinformation researchers, who also concluded that Aspen’s profile picture was created with an artificial intelligence face generator. The intelligence firm that Aspen lists as his previous employer said that no one by that name had ever worked for the company and that no one by that name lives in Switzerland, according to public records and social media searches.
One of the original posters of the document, a blogger and professor named Christopher Balding, took credit for writing parts of it when asked about it and said Aspen does not exist.
Despite the document’s questionable authorship and anonymous sourcing, its claims that Hunter Biden has a problematic connection to the Communist Party of China have been used by people who oppose the Chinese government, as well as by far-right influencers, to baselessly accuse candidate Joe Biden of being beholden to the Chinese government.
Time to Pull the Plug And Right Quick
FUV didn’t waste any time releasing an official Statement regarding former university employee Christopher Balding about this high-profile fake news.
October 30, 2020
In a story published on 30 October 2020, days before the US presidential election, How a fake persona laid the groundwork for a Hunter Biden conspiracy deluge, NBC News reported that Dr. Christopher Balding is an associate professor at Fulbright University Vietnam. In fact, Dr. Balding has not been employed by the University since September 10, 2020 when his contract was not renewed.
The University has asked NBC News to update its story by clarifying that Dr. Balding is not employed by Fulbright University Vietnam, nor is he associated with the university in any way.
The Fulbright community expects its member to hold the highest standards of integrity and excellence. Regrettably, Dr. Balding’s action does not reflect the values of this institution. (Ouch!)
Here’s the NBC News interpretation: CORRECTION (Oct 30, 2020. 11:19 a.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misstated Christopher Balding’s position at Fulbright University Vietnam. As of Thursday afternoon, the university had listed him as being currently employed, but later put out a statement saying he was a former professor. He is no longer an employee of the university as of Sept. 10, 2020. Either FUV was slow in updating its website or it moved quickly to retroactively throw CB under the bus. I guess there are limits to academic freedom, after all, at “Vietnam’s first not-for-profit, independent, liberal arts undergraduate program.” I can just imagine the shock waves this scandal sent through Boston and Washington, D.C. I’m not sure what CB expected. Assuming he was still on the FUV payroll, did he really think he was an indispensable member of the faculty and could get away with this outrage? Or did he simply not give a shit, pardon my salty language, which is why he merrily poured gasoline on a smoldering fire?
Everything else CB said, Tweeted, and wrote on his blog was OK but he obviously crossed the line with a fraudulent, anti-Biden diatribe. (He’s an angry and bitter guy who spends way too much time online preaching to his anti-China/pro-USA choir and obviously has yet to discover the benefits of digital minimalism.) At least he’ll no longer be able to poison the minds of young Vietnamese by teaching them how effing awesome his home country is and how evil China is.
A couple of years ago, CB also wore out his welcome in China, where he was a professor at the Peking University HSBC Business School in Shenzhen. I’m sure he’ll land on his feet somewhere in the US national security state. (Or Breitbart, or the RNC, or the Trump Organization.) God knows the Empire needs loyalists, opportunists, and pseudo-intellectuals like him to continue to do its bidding. However, I doubt if he’ll find a position with a reputable university. Fabricating documents and hanging out with alt-right loonies like Steve Bannon is likely to follow him around for the rest of his academic career. (Just ask revisionist historian Mark Moyar, author of that classic, Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954–1965 (2006), how successful he’s been obtaining an academic appointment at a legitimate university. (Sorry, Mark, the U.S. Marine Corps University doesn’t count.)
If not embedded within the US national security state or with an alt-right “think” tank (an oxymoron, if there ever was one), there’s always private equity. I know it’s hard to believe but my sources tell me that some folks in that sector are MAGA supporters. CB can have his cake and eat it, too.
Out of curiosity, I did a quick search for CB on the FUV website in the following categories: Research, News & Events, and OpenCourseWare. The result for the first two was No data matching! (In other words, he was a ghost.) The third one returned the documents listed below. Maybe scrubbing their server clean of any trace of CB is on the FUV to-do list. Or they decided to leave them there for posterity.
Lecture 1. Introduction
Date: 21/10/2020 16:31; File size: 142,143 bytes
Lecture 1. Reciprocity in the World Trade Organization
Date: 20/06/2020 16:42; File size: 221,624 bytes
Lecture 1. What do we mean by “negotiation”?
Date: 18/08/2020 10:59; File size: 70,280 bytes
Lecture 2. CPTPP Rules of Origin & Textile and Apparel Goods
Date: 20/06/2020 16:43; File size: 827,282 bytes
Lecture 2. Framing Negotiations
Date: 18/08/2020 11:02; File size: 65,252 bytes
Lecture 2. Negotiation is a process
Date: 21/10/2020 16:32; File size: 133,251 bytes
Lecture 3. European Union and Vietnam Free Trade Agreement: Sanitary and Phytosanitary
Date: 20/06/2020 16:43; File size: 373,487 bytes
Lecture 3. Value Negotiation: How to Finally Get the Winwin Right
Date: 18/08/2020 11:03; File size: 67,350 bytes
Lecture 4. Bargaining is a part of life
Date: 18/08/2020 11:04; File size: 160,711 bytes
Lecture 4. European Union and Vietnam Free Trade Agreement: Intellectual Property
Date: 20/06/2020 16:44; File size: 205,749 bytes
More Recommended Reading
Questions Mount About Controversial Hunter Biden-China Dossier (The Intercept, 11.11.20)
Fake Faces, Fake Names and Bald-faced Lies (China US Focus, 8.12.20)
Is it okay if disinformation is not foreign? Does any researcher in his right mind really think piling on more disinformation is a credible way of guarding against disinformation?
It is unclear if the mealy-mouthed Christopher Balding is the sole author of the 64-page dossier or if this was something he collaborated on with Next Digital’s Mark Simon, and perhaps others.
Balding shares with the mythic Ron Vara (and his real-world counterpart Ron Navarro) a connection to University of California in Irvine, and like Navarro he made a failed bid for electoral office in California. He has since worked as a professor in Shenzhen and most recently in Ho Chi Minh City. His most recent employer, Fulbright University Vietnam, has gone on the record saying, “Regrettably, Dr. Balding’s action does not reflect the values of this institution.”
Balding has been described as a political grifter, and that’s not entirely derogatory since he is working in the tradition of Donald Trump, Peter Navarro, Steve Bannon, all of whom play fast with the facts and have through their tweets and retweets, podcasts and broadcasts, created “editorial space” to disseminate faulty information such as the Hunter Biden dossier.
Balding recently appeared on a recent Steve Bannon podcast along with self-proclaimed anti-Biden specialist, Rudy Giuliani.
USA, USA, USA!
One reflection of CB’s red, white, and blue world view is the fact that he’s an associate fellow with the Henry Jackson Society of DEMOCRACY. FREEDOM. HUMAN RIGHTS fame. Noble on its face but downright Orwellian when you consider the source and the people involved. Think War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength. Its list of “international patrons” is a veritable “who’s who” of neocons and former members of the US national security state, including Max Boot, Robert Kagan, William Kristol, Richard Perle, and James Woolsey, to mention just a few.
Shalom (שלום), MAA