fbpx
06/08/2020 The Communication Science magazine

Fake News and the Coronavirus: How the Media verbalize Xenophobia in the New Decade

As the Coronavirus spreads so do the misinformation and fake news that lead to xenophobia around the globe. Stephanie writes about her own experience as an Asian student abroad.


The world is on fire. And the key player in the 2020 hysteria undoubtedly goes to the nCOV or the novel Coronavirus, first found in a wet market in Wuhan (China). As the virus spreads globally, misinformation on the media (aka fake news) about the epidemic also goes haywire. And the real, severe consequences of the misinformation have been observed among the Asian community, both in and outside the continent. 

Fake News: Xenophobia in the Digital Age

Fake news has become a prominent issue of the media in recent years leading to the spread of incorrect, biased, and racially-charged information. This issue becomes even more apparent with the media coverage of the Coronavirus; from local newspapers, magazines, official announcements to social media platforms, details regarding the Coronavirus contain elements of the very-much-still-exist xenophobia against the Asian population. Some of this was quite basic, from a fake “health issue alert” in Australia warning its citizens to avoid Chinese-populated areas to the fake flyers advising people to stay away from Asian-American restaurants such as Panda Express. 

And of course, this transmission of misinformation would be incomplete without the Internet trolls. An Australian Instagram user accused Sydney shops of selling “contaminated” fortune cookies, rice and “Chinese Red Bull”. European and American media, countries where Asians are considered a minority, also joined in the train of fake news and misleading information. A local French newspaper’s front page ran the headline “Alerte Jaune” (“Yellow Alert”) and a Danish newspaper featured an editorial cartoon of a Chinese flag with the virus symbol instead of stars. Racially insensitive content was present in UC Berkeley’s social media. Although more than 40% of the school is represented by Asians, their health services stated “xenophobia” as a normal reaction to the virus, which received backlash from the student population. 

As an Asian, I expected Asian nationals to encourage and lift one another up amidst this uncomfortable situation. However, this does not seem to be the case any longer. Instead, we turn our backs on one another and build walls.

This sentiment further deepened in the Asian continent, where the virus originated. In Malaysia, social media posts spread the stigmatized message of Chinese eating “exotic meat” as the cause of the outbreak. This idea was reiterated by a Burmese-language video titled “A Visit to Wuhan,” which was warning the Burmese citizens about the city that “finds bat soup delicious,” gaining 5.4 million views on Facebook within four days. A Whatsapp (owned by Facebook) message chain in Indonesia was also found to have disseminated inaccurate claims of Chinese-made products, from mandarin oranges to Xiaomi phones, carrying the nCOV.

Japanese Twitter users also contributed to the hysteria through the hashtag #ChineseDon’tComeToJapan that has trended as the outbreak intensifies. South Korea’s Youtube also circulated a conspiracy-theory video claiming that the coronavirus was leaked by a Chinese biochemical weapons facility. As these Asian countries are in close vicinity with China, this deceptive disinformation has caused serious panic and racism among Asians. As an Asian, I expected Asian nationals to encourage and lift one another up amidst this uncomfortable situation. However, this does not seem to be the case any longer. Instead, we turn our backs on one another and build walls. And now that the epidemic has reached a global scale, these xenophobic instances have become increasingly visible around the world…

Why I now Live in Fear

Many countries, including Japan, South Korea, Italy, and France, have chosen to deny service to Chinese (or Chinese-looking people) with written signs. Thus, Asians, especially students, have been sharing stories about the discriminatory behavior they received amidst this outbreak. Huynh, a Vietnamese student who lives in Monterey Park, California, shared how she received stares for coughing and how she felt self-conscious about the fact that because she’s Asian, people might think she has the coronavirus. Sam, a master’s student at the University of Manchester, also expressed how his ethnicity has made him feel like he was part of a “threatening and diseased mass”.

These comments have encapsulated and verbalized my inner thoughts throughout these last few months. As an Asian student in the Netherlands, I have never faced discrimination. However, since the virus outbreak was recorded, I could feel something changing. I suddenly became hyper-conscious and nervous about coughing or sneezing in public spaces, fearing that people would avoid sitting next to me. When I was sick earlier this year, even my mom told me to not cough in public because it was a “sensitive time. ” A time where my racial identity can affect people’s attitudes towards me.

When I was sick earlier this year, even my mom told me to not cough in public because it was a “sensitive time. ” A time where my racial identity can affect people’s attitudes towards me.

I realize how powerful media coverage can be as it plays an integral role in perpetuating the stigma against Asians. Although I understand that the media is not the mere culprit of people’s racist preconceptions, in this time of the crisis, the media have potentially accelerated and magnified this process through its global connectivity and virality. 

Media Companies to the Rescue?

As media companies recognize their own powerful yet destructive power, they have offered solutions to minimize the repercussions that misinformation might have caused, according to the BBC. Facebook announced that it would be using “existing fact-checkers to review and expose misinformation,” and provide links to clarify wrong data. Instagram also took up the cause by restricting some hashtags regarding the virus. Twitter, on the other hand, took a more informational approach where a prompt is made visible when its users search for the nCOV, recommending the users to get informed via the World Health Organization and Centres for Disease Control. It also suspended a financial website for an article hinting the involvement of a Chinese scientist in the outbreak.

Even the less conventional social media sites such as TikTok and Reddit have issued policies addressing fake news about the virus. TikTok added a link to the WHO’s website and reminded its users to report illegitimate content on its platform, while Reddit provided a thread that answers questions regarding the virus from official sources. Fake news is not the main cause of the xenophobia against Asians recently, but it verbalizes the hate and racism that unsurprisingly has not ceased to exist in our modern world. Therefore, the media have become more conscious and accountable for its power, and thus, it is wise to keep ourselves accurately informed and understand others’ hidden struggles during this hostile climate. 

Nonetheless, the media, especially social media, if well regulated, can offer real opportunities for those that experience discriminatory treatment to speak out and raise awareness. The Chinese in France took advantage of this global connectivity and shared their experience using the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus (“I am not a virus”). While we are divided by the media at the moment, it also brings hopes for a united future. As for myself, I won’t take any further racist and xenophobic remarks on the media as acceptable excuses for “protecting” oneself against the virus. It never should have, and never should be. 

Cover: Colin Behrens

Reacties

reacties

Related Posts

Teenage Girls in the Army: A Closer Look at the Fictional Country of Ravka

04/08/2020

04/08/2020

Fictional young girls and boys are fighting together in the army for their country Ravka. Danny explains why literature sets an example for equality in the military.

Folklore: Taylor Swift At Her Best While The World Is At Its Worst

01/08/2020

01/08/2020

Emma uses her Swiftie superpowers to unveil what’s hidden behind Taylor Swift's new album "folklore"

How Internet COVID-19 Face Mask Memes Tackle Skeptics in the Digital Age

30/07/2020

30/07/2020

In this article, Quynh talks about COVID-19 face mask memes. Are they just entertainment or do they also raise awareness?

The Secret Way to Good Grades – But One That Everyone Uses

29/07/2020

29/07/2020

Ritalin seems like the secret way to get a good grade when there is not enough time and too much workload. Jorrit explains why especially Communication Science students are keen to try it.

Delayed

24/07/2020

24/07/2020

In this article, Margarete dives into why Hollywood movie studios delayed the release dates of blockbusters, including Christopher Nolan's newest creation "Tenet."

Jemen: De grootste humanitaire crisis ter wereld die niet vergeten mag worden

18/07/2020

18/07/2020

Onze schrijver Elsa vertelt alles over de oorlog in Jemen die maar niet de nodige aandacht krijgt, en hoe jij kan helpen.

FSR-FMGxMEDIUM: Goodbye council of 2019/2020!

14/07/2020 and

14/07/2020

Together with the members of the FSR-FMG of 2019/2020 Medium is looking back on working together, teambuilding, learning new things and other memories at the end of the member's acedemic year.

Why We Should Cancel ‘Cancel Culture’

13/07/2020

13/07/2020

What does it mean to get cancelled these days? Emma explains the downfall of cancel culture and why it should get cancelled.

Is Hamilton Getting #Cancelled?

09/07/2020

09/07/2020

In this article, Rita writes about the in-demand musical Hamilton and the criticism it receives.

FSR-FMGxMEDIUM: File Update

30/06/2020

30/06/2020

This academic year has ended and so has the term of the current student council. In this article, Medium gives you an insight into the FSR-FMG’s achievements of this year.

Netflix’s “Queer Eye” Season 5 Review: Spreading Human Connection in Lonely Times

30/06/2020

30/06/2020

Quynh reviews the latest season of the Netflix Original 'Queer Eye'. This season continues the sociopolitical crusade of the Fab 5 in Philidelphia.

Movie theatres: Safely “escaping” 2020

23/06/2020

23/06/2020

What better way to escape the anxieties this year has brought us than by getting lost in a good movie? This article provides you with a list of Amsterdam's must visit movie theaters, for the ultimate escape from reality.

Usage of Surveillance Drones Over Black Lives Matter Protests in the USA

19/06/2020

19/06/2020

The murder of George Floyd on May 25th, 2020, sparked Black Lives Matter protests all over the U.S. Five years after BLM protests were calling for justice after the murder of Freddie Gray, the U.S. government has resorted to drone surveillance as it did in 2015. However, the questions remain, what are they watching?, why are they watching? and what happens to protesters' data in the footage?

“Er komt een tijd dat stilte verraad is”

18/06/2020

18/06/2020

Na de dood van George Floyd is de wereld gezamenlijk opgestaan om racisme te bestrijden. Elsa schrijft in dit artikel over drie acties die je kan ondernemen om wit privilege en racisme beter te begrijpen en zo je steentje kan bijdragen voor een betere wereld.

The Pros And Cons Of Studying Online

17/06/2020

17/06/2020

Online-learning continues throughout next semester of the UvA. Andrada tells us what this means for the quality of academic education.

bayan escort escort bayan mersin escort bayan escort brazzers tecavüz porno altyazili porno porno hikayeleri turbanlı porno escort bayan bayan escort escort bayan
mersin escort