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Here’s how Asian American elders are fed dangerous lies

I was concerned when my father, 84, informed me that he was canceling his cable subscription. My mother had recently passed away and it pained me to imagine him sitting in silence in my absence, even without the sound of the television.

He and my mother used to watch the evening news on KTSF, the Chinese-language station in the San Francisco Bay Area. What about the news? I asked. Don’t you want to know what’s going on?

“No problem,” he told me, “I watch YouTube.”

In recent years, many of us have become increasingly aware (and suspicious) of Big Tech’s AI-driven recommendation algorithms and how they prevent the spread of disinformation, such as big lie (that the 2020 election was stolen) and that COVID-19 is a hoax.

One group that is generally ignored or overlooked in these conversations is Asian Americans, particularly the older AAPI immigrant community. But like some scholars, reporter, and AAPI advocates point out that this demographic has increasingly become the target of disinformation campaigns. This has led to the formation of groups like that Asian American disinformation tablea national coalition dedicated to addressing “issues of domestic and transnational misinformation and disinformation affecting Asian Americans.”

Despite these efforts, however, the algorithms continue to fluctuate and the disinformation continues to spread. For some of us, like myself – a first-generation Chinese American – this is a worrying trend, not only because of my love and concern for my father, but because of its broader impact on the AAPI community.

For example as Minh-Tu Pham enrolled The Washington Post last year, Chinese Americans gave the Proud Boys more than 80 percent of funding for medical expenses after the January 6 riot and viewed their support as a rejection of communism and a belief that the Proud Boys would protect American democracy. Never mind that the Proud Boys are a far-right, white nationalist organization that is vehemently anti-immigrant.

Following last week’s mass shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, California, both of which occurred at the beginning of the Lunar New Year, a conversation has sprung up in Asian American communities about the mental health of our elders, and men in particular.

Along with many of my colleagues, I struggle to process the horrific actions of the shooters, ages 72 and 66, as well as that of another Asian-American shooter in Laguna Hills, California, in May 2022, who was 68.

While there is no evidence that media disinformation played a role in the shootings, we wonder why these men were so angry, so violent, and so willing to take matters into their own hands.

Let me be clear again: I am not saying that these men were in any way influenced by the media. However, in light of larger conversations about the mental health of our elders, it is worth noting that this demographic is experiencing increasing levels of depression, anxiety and anger, heightened by social isolation due to COVID, fear of anti-Asian violence, and heightened unrest due to polarized political discourse.

The last of the three is powered by recommendation algorithms like YouTube, which allow viewers to easily see their suggestions and create an echo chamber that confirms their worst suspicions and fears — whether about the evils or virtues of the Chinese government, should President Joe Biden and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are communists or that the 2020 election was rigged. Ideologically-oriented Asian media is ubiquitous on YouTube, and Asian elders share it with their peers through apps like WeChat and WhatsApp.

I’ve watched some of these videos with my dad – many are off-the-cuff and theatrical, designed to maximize viewers’ anxiety.

In the repeated confrontation with these ideologies, assumptions become truth – a cause for anger, excitement and mistrust, which in turn is directed against those who think differently.

At the risk of generalizing, I would say that Asian American elders, particularly those who communicate primarily in an Asian language, are limited in the range of media they consume.

For my parents (as well as my extended family) who immigrated to the United States in the 1970s and 80s, local Chinese-language broadcasters like KTSF or US-based Chinese-language newspapers like the were the main news source for a long time world journal or Chant the Tao daily. (One of the most popular Chinese language newspapers today is The Epoch Times, a far-right publication founded in 2000.) After a long day’s work spent communicating in an adopted language, engaging with the news in one’s native language is a source of comfort and reassurance and to hear them. Questioning media narratives or the factuality of reporting was not an issue; there were always more pressing concerns, like bills and raising children.

Now that he’s retired, my father, who fled communist China as a refugee, has much more free time. This gives him time to click video after video for hours. I check on him every day and remind him to get off YouTube, talk to the neighbors and maybe get some fresh air.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/heres-how-asian-american-elders-are-fed-dangerous-lies?source=articles&via=rss Here’s how Asian American elders are fed dangerous lies

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