Facts, reality, honest reporting, these things apparently don’t’ matter at The New York Times as the laughably-referred to “paper of record” on Saturday made a desperate and vile attempt to blame Donald Trump and Republicans for using the phrase “China virus.”
Technology reporter Davey Alba tried to back up the wholly unsubstantiated notion that the man who killed eight people around Atlanta was motivated by anti-Asian posts online, and (100% factual) Republican descriptions of the coronavirus as originating in China.
Here’s the headline: “Anti-Asian Online Posts Helped Set the Stage For Real-World Violence – Misinformation Led By Spread of Covid.” But Alba’s attempt to connect dots failed miserably. She certainly failed to show how white hatred online led to the massacre.
The [social media] Telegram group was a sign of how anti-Asian sentiment has flared up in corners of the internet, amplifying racist and xenophobic tropes just as attacks against Asian-Americans have surged. On messaging apps like Telegram and on internet forums like 4chan, anti-Asian groups and discussion threads have been increasingly active since November, especially on far-right message boards such as The Donald, researchers said.
Alba seemed shocked that “people blamed the pandemic on China.” Readers were also treated to yet another tiresome lecture about the phrase “Chinese virus” (“Brazilian variant” is apparently just fine.)
The activity follows a rise in anti-Asian misinformation last spring after the coronavirus, which first emerged in China, began spreading around the world. On Facebook and Twitter, people blamed the pandemic on China, with users posting hashtags such as #gobacktochina and #makethecommiechinesepay. Those hashtags spiked when former President Donald J. Trump last year called Covid-19 the “Chinese virus” and “Kung Flu.”
Factual assertions about the virus are “Negative Asian-American tropes”?
Negative Asian-American tropes have long existed online but began increasing last March as parts of the United States went into lockdown over the coronavirus. That month, politicians including Representative Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona, and Representative Kevin McCarthy, a Republican of California, used the terms “Wuhan virus” and “Chinese coronavirus” to refer to Covid-19 in their tweets.
Misinformation linking the coronavirus to anti-Asian beliefs also rose last year. Since last March, there have been nearly eight million mentions of anti-Asian speech online, much of it falsehoods, according to Zignal Labs, a media insights firm.
In one example, a Fox News article from April that went viral baselessly said that the coronavirus was created in a lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan and intentionally released. The article was liked and shared more than one million times on Facebook and retweeted 78,800 times on Twitter, according to data from Zignal and CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned tool for analyzing social media.
There’s no link to identification of the Fox News piece, but this was a Fox scoop from mid-April. It says nothing about the virus being “intentionally released.” And the theory that the virus was created in the lab perhaps for benign reasons, has gathered adherents. Why China, which allowed the virus to spread worldwide while it imprisoned whistleblowers and then tried to blame the U.S. military for the virus, is shielded from criticism by the Times remains a sordid mystery.
Alba must not have found much violence instigated from “far-right” whites — her examples involved intra-ethnic conflicts (is Dr. Li-Meng Yan truly “anti-Asian”?)
But it still occasionally flared up, such as when Dr. Li-Meng Yan, a researcher from Hong Kong, made unproven assertions last fall that the coronavirus was a bioweapon engineered by China. In the United States, Dr. Yan became a right-wing media sensation. Her appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show in September has racked up at least 8.8 million views online.
Alba’s “anti-Asian” examples sounded more like lame intra-ethnic insults.
During this second surge, calls for violence against Asian-Americans became commonplace.
“Filipinos are not Asians because Asians are smart,” read a post in a Telegram channel that depicted a dog holding a gun to its head.
That rude but un-violent line goes back to at least 2009, where it was used in a context that had nothing to do with calling for “violence” against Asians, however defined.
After the shootings in Atlanta, a doctored screenshot of what looked like a Facebook post from the suspect circulated on Facebook and Twitter this week. The post featured a miasma of conspiracies about China engaging in a Covid-19 cover-up and wild theories about how it was planning to “secure global domination for the 21st century.”
Is Alba suggesting that China is not trying to “secure global domination for the 21st century”?