Pushing Back Against Anti-Asian Hate & Anti-Semitism
by Eddie Wong. Posted on April 11, 2020.
We have reported on the rise of anti-Chinese and anti-Asian hate crimes with posts by William Gee Wong and Helen Zia on the roots and implications of this wave of racism and xenophobia. Since its launch two weeks ago, the Stop AAPI Hate website has received reports of 1,135 incidents of hate, half of which were directed against women.
We’ve also shared efforts to rally allies such as the Asian American Christian Collaborative‘s call for solidarity among the religious communites. Our best defense against hate is to expose the haters and educate about solidarity.
Our friends at 18M Rising have just launched an online drive to pressure social media outlets to take down posts that foment anti-Asian violence.
To Facebook, Twitter and YouTube:
Hate and disinformation about COVID-19 are spreading on your platforms and worsening the global pandemic. Lies, racist rhetoric and bigoted conspiracy theories from people including violent white supremacists, Fox News personalities and President Trump himself are endangering the lives of everyone — especially people of color and religious minorities in the midst of this public-health crisis.
During this urgent moment, you must invest more in people — not algorithms — to identify and remove harmful content and to equip moderators to do this work safely from home. With millions of people sheltering in place and dependent on social media for up-to-date, truthful information about how to keep themselves, their families and their communities safe, it is urgent that you stop hate and disinformation on your platforms.
In a message to supporters, 18M Rising added:
We’re living through a global health pandemic and insufficient government and corporate response that is causing people to lose their lives and loved ones. The hate and disinformation spread online around COVID-19 are putting even more lives in danger. Companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are hotspots for coronavirus opportunists to spread their dangerously misleading lies and fuel xenophobic and anti-Asian violence.
Asian Americans are being blamed for spreading COVID-19 and targeted, particularly those of us who are of East Asian descent. Our community, including children and elders, are victims of acid burns, stabbings, verbal assaults and are experiencing over 100 hate crimes per day across the U.S.
Will you tell Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and tell them to immediately shut down hate and misinformation about COVID-19 on their platforms?
As I began to research online hate to set the context for the 18M Rising petition, I saw the raw, ugly nature of not only slurs against Chinese and Chinese Americans but also against Jewish people. I did not know that anti-semites are spreading conspiracy theories about how Jewish people are spreading coronavirus. It’s vital that we understand that racism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism are all cut from the same cloth; it’s all about “othering” people and demonizing them while exalting white supremacy and white Christian nationalism.
The following images taken from websites such as Telegram are chilling reminders of the persecution of Jewish people that led up to the Holocaust.
This graphic appeared on March 15 on Telegram and it presents the Jewish global domination conspiracy theory in the form of the coronavirus Trojan horse.
The Anti-Defamation League has condemned both the anti-Asian and anti-Semitic images and posts that have appeared on Telegram, 4chan, and Gab. Hateful messages are often followed by violence as documented in the murder of Jewish people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018 and Khabad synagogue in Poway, CA in 2019. And on the eve of Passover this week, we saw anti-Semitic vandals at work in Los Angeles and Huntsville, AL.
The delusional and hateful posts of hard-core xenophobes and anti-Semites has been magnified by President Trump and a host of Republican legislators and conservative news outlets. There is no mistaking Trump’s anti-Semitic intentions in his July 2016 campaign tweet entitled “Crooked Hillary” with the Star of David set against a sea of $100 bills.
When political leaders sound the call for hate and spread disinformation, it spreads virally. The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Lab noted that after Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) labelled the pandemic on March 8 at 9:08pm as the “Wuhan virus,” it was retweeted 24,049 times an hour later. GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called it the “Chinese Coronavirus” the following day which probably led President Trump to cross out “coronavirus” and mark “China virus” in his press briefing of March 10.
Trump’s 2020 re-election political action committee, America First Action, has now upped the ante in revving up anti-Chinese sentiment by promoting the slogan “China Lied, Americans Died.” There may have been underreporting of the extent of the viral outbreak in Wuhan, but President Trump was briefed on January 29 by White House Trade Advisor Peter Navarro about the projections for 500,000 deaths in the US and $5.7 trillion dollar damage to the US economy. Trump knew and did nothing but downplay the crisis for weeks, thereby delaying mobilization of resources and misleading the public about needed safety measures.
We can expect even higher levels of China bashing as Trump seeks to win a second term by using fear and the image of a “strong leader” to expand his base. In a campaign video released this week, the Trump campaigned used a photo of former Gov. Gary Locke with former Vice President Joe Biden to allude to collusion with Chinese leaders. It just didn’t matter to them that Gary Locke is Chinese American and was serving as U.S. Ambassador to China in 2013 when that photo was taken. When it comes time for China bashing, all Asians are going to catch hell.
It’s sickening to watch this unfold . We need to counter it with campaigns and countermeasures that emphasize international cooperation as scientists all over the world are working non-stop to develop treatment drugs and a vaccine.
American Action News also promoted Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson’s claims of a censorship campaign after Twitter and Facebook removed a post by Rudy Guliani citing hydroxycholoroquine as a “cure.” Disinformation is deadly and that’s the whole point of 18M Rising’s campaign.
CNET’s reporter Quennie Wong piece“Coronavirus Sparks a Different Kind of Problems for Social Networks” (March 25, 2020) takes Facebook and Twitter to task by asking why a tweet citing Chinese as “very dirty people” did not violate its standards of acceptability. Facebook and Twitter took down the post, but TikTok did not. She also showed TikTok a video that portrayed Asian students wearing masks as the the music track included the phrase “coronavirus check.” The post received 90,000 likes before it was removed.
18M Rising’s call to action intends to keep the pressure on social networks to act responsibly. It’s a constant battle as we can see by this recent hate post on 4 chan (April 10, 2020): “So how exactly does the US plan to make back all the trillions we just blew on chinkflu.”
In addition to 18M Rising’s efforts, several other groups and websites are offering vehicles to denounce the racism and xenophobia and to assert Asian American pride and resilience.
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The fight against racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism is an ongoing one and takes on greater importance as incidents of hate continue to mount. We must cut off all avenues for haters to spew their venom. It won’t stop racist violence, but it will send a signal that we will not tolerate it. As haters wage their assaults on us, we will show them that we are not alone; we are not victims, we are victors and makers of our own history.
Eddie Wong is the editor/publisher of East Wind Ezine.