Bursting Your Bubble: Please shut up about the ‘Chinese spy balloon’

Enough is enough.

We’ve all heard it by now: An alleged Chinese spy balloon was shot down Saturday on the President’s orders after the Pentagon said they had found it a few days earlier — just floating around Montana. You know, just chilling. And possibly checking out a nuclear missile silo nearby.

The news media, predominantly American, took to obsessing and pontificating over every detail. Left-leaning publications seized on the peculiarity of the whole ordeal, but insisted President Joe Biden was doing the right thing by not shooting it down immediately. An article for the Atlantic, in particular, showed a random moment of self-awareness: 

“Montana residents probably wouldn’t appreciate stuff spilling from the sky,” the article read. “Falling debris could maim or even kill Americans on the ground. Personal and property damage would occur. Kinetic action in a situation like this has a cost borne not by another country or its citizens, but by ours.”

Speaking of which, anyone remember Afghanistan? Syria? Iraq? No? OK, moving on.

Meanwhile, Republicans did what they always do: blame Biden. “President Trump would have never tolerated this,” “Why doesn’t someone just tell Joe Biden the Chinese spy balloon is unvaxed [sic],” et cetera, et cetera. Whatever. 

I can’t make myself care about all of this bullshit. And it’s not just because I’m writing this at three in the morning. Goading the public into being hyped for a war with China is just boring. 

There’s nothing quite like war, or even the prospect of it, to distract from domestic ills; it’s a tried-and-true tactic all over the world. (Isn’t it curious, for example, how dissent and allegations of corruption against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy all but disappeared after the Russian invasion last year?) And as you may have noticed, the United States could use a bit of a distraction right now. The brutal murder of Tyre Nichols dramatized by the very police department that killed him, fervent movements against teaching proper Black history — American history — and financial woes are few among many ills weighing down on this country. 

It’s also worth mentioning that we aren’t even sure if the balloon was actually conducting reconnaissance. The more cautious outlets called it a “suspected spy balloon,” but let’s be honest — just how much is that single word really doing? Fox News, of course, blared a breaking news alert simply headlined, “CHINA FLOATS SPY BALLOON OVER U.S.” China has so far claimed the balloon, but said it was a “civilian airship.” I won’t tell you who to trust. I can assume you, the American reader, would be predisposed to disbelieving China, and that’s perfectly reasonable. But also consider whether the Pentagon, an agency that went so far as to lie about the scope of a war (that it lost anyway) is a reliable source on the matter, especially when it’s the only source we have. 

And “who to trust” shouldn’t be the point, anyway. Picking sides in a petty war of rivaling economies only helps said economies and never the people running them. Besides, consider why the U.S. would benefit from making all this fuss in the first place. The last shred of American exceptionalism we have left is our sheer economic and military dominance over the rest of the world. 

The American dream is dead and our people are suffering, but at least our gross domestic product per capita is the highest in the world. But by 2035, a Statista analysis estimates, that last thread of relevance will, too, be dead as China overtakes the U.S. by a large margin. Perhaps, then, this great regime, solely reliant throughout history on iron-grip control of all that stood in its way, will fade away in Ozymandian fashion.

Until then, fall not for the dizzying propaganda of the U.S. media machine. Read through the lines, find the issues closer to you — the ones that truly matter. And then we’ll be fine — even if our country may not be.
Jonathan Park is a sophomore writing about current events beyond the U.S. sphere. His column, “Bursting Your Bubble,” typically runs biweekly on Tuesdays. He is also the news assignments editor for the Daily Trojan.