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Keiko @keikoinboston
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1. This thread examines Andy Ngo’s piece in the WSJ about his recent trip to the UK where he visited Muslim majority neighborhoods in London (Tower Hamlets, Leyton) & Luton (probably Bury Park) and the ensuing outrage.
3. I am deliberately not tagging any people or outlets in this thread because I’m looking to discuss, not send harassment their way. There is no need to tag Andy—I know him and will send him the thread via DM when I’m done.
4. I’m not in a position to fact check this piece from personal experience because I haven’t been to the UK in ~15 years and have never spent time in Muslim majority UK neighborhoods but I will look at the piece and outrage from several angles.
5. This thread covers:
- ineffectiveness of harassing/insulting journalists who engage in “bad” journalism or hold “wrong” opinions
- parachute journalism
- problems with Ngo’s piece
- double standards of some of the backlash against Ngo
6. I don’t know how he views the negative tweets but I refer readers to Paul Bloom’s recent NYT piece: “Are We All ‘Harmless Torturers’ Now?”

“In the age of online shaming, we should push ourselves to consider the collective consequences of our actions.”…
7. If you scroll through Ngo’s timeline you’ll see that he retweeted a mix of both positive and negative feedback. Here are some of the tweets. Please don’t harass any of these people.

“Attorney, Advocate, NYT Bestselling Author”

[rabiasquared 8/30/18 11am, 7pm]

Left: “artist / game maker“

Right: “Doctor and independent political commentator on Egypt & MENA” 34.3K followers

Left: “Analyst, Photographer”

Right: “Humanist&Writer”

Left: “Actor”

Right: “Fellow [Henry Jackson Society] on Islamism, Terrorism, Policy”

[danielh_g 8/30/18, Emma_A_Webb 8/30/18]

1. “Independent multimedia journalist, based in Stockholm, covering everything, everywhere”

2. “Culture writer at GQ”

3. “National Reporter [HuffPost] covering hate & extremism”
13. It is totally possibly to critique Ngo’s piece in strong terms without:
- insulting his intelligence
- insulting him because of his perceived politics
- racialized insults
- making fun of his teenaged self
- suggesting that bodily harm should come to him
14. Assumptions about Ngo/WSJ’s motives are implied in this thread but it’s educational. I’m not familiar with H.A. Hellyer’s work but he appears to have the requisite credentials for an informed response.

15. Another response thread from a British Jewish editor who understands that British Muslims are not a homogenous other in foreign clothing—they are their kindly neighbors, fellow cricket players, fellow tea enthusiasts.
16. Some of the criticisms being directed at Ngo are misplaced and should likely be directed to the editors at the WSJ. Ngo is unlikely to have been responsible for the headline, and that the piece was published at all is the responsibility of the editors.
17. The WSJ tweeted this terrible synopsis of Ngo’s piece. This language is not a quote from the piece:

“I saw what British multiculturalism really looks like, writes [Ngo]“.

18. Ngo’s piece is an example of parachute journalism—when journalists with little to no local knowledge parachute into communities and then leave, as opposed to being part of, or at least local to, the communities they are covering.
19. This problem has been much discussed in relation to coverage of the 2014 unrest in Ferguson, Missouri following the Michael Brown shooting and the massive fail of coastal journalists during the 2016 US election in missing the mood in flyover states that led to Trump’s win.
21. Outsiders can sometimes shine a light on problems in communities in a way that insiders can’t, but they typically lack the insider knowledge to write in a culturally competent way.
22. Journalists may compensate for this by trying to interview as many locals as they can or by connecting with local journalists or fixers.
23. If Ngo interviewed anyone or talked to local journos in these communities, that does not appear to be reflected in his piece, as he doesn’t name a single person he spoke with or provide the relevant context for debates that they’ve been having in the UK for years.
24. As a result, to some people the piece reads as as an alarmist: “OMG, I went to the UK and THERE WERE NO WHITE PEOPLE. They’ve been replaced by MUSLIMS who tried to convert me!”
25. I think that what some people are reacting to is that the tone of Ngo’s piece makes it seem that he went in as an observer who viewed the residents as a curiosity to be studied.
26. It reads a bit like an anthropologist’s ethnography—[hushed voice] And here we observe the male British Muslim being groomed by his barber while his womenfolk wait outside under the hot sun.
27. Ngo’s piece is informed by his status as a visitor—an outsider. It centered his experiences without seeking to investigate whether his impressions were accurate. Some locals say they were not.
28. Ngo went there to tell -his- story about them, to project impressions upon the community, not to investigate how the community sees itself and facilitate telling their story.
29. This is an opinion piece, not a deep dive investigative piece. Which isn’t to say that Ngo didn’t do research, but observational research is no substitute for talking to people on the ground and listening to their stories.
30. But the young men & imam Ngo spoke with are background players in his story, not he in theirs.
31. Some people feel that outsiders should not be permitted to write about communities unless they plan to write supportive pieces. So Ngo, as a Vietnamese American tourist to the UK, ought not to write about British Muslim communities.
32. Poorly fact checked and badly framed pieces like this make it harder for people in minority communities who are already wary of the media to trust journalists with their stories and will make it harder for other outsiders to write about communities that they are not part of.
33. While increasing class and ethnic diversity within the international media is important, we cannot go in the direction of allowing only journalists with the correct identities to cover specific stories or populations.
34. American indy journalist, Tim Pool, & his producer, Emily Molli, went to Sweden in February–March 2017 in response to President Trump’s “last night in Sweden” remarks. They did a much better job of providing local context.…
35. Pool was both criticized and praised for his coverage. Some Swedes were angry with the way he was portraying their country while others were grateful that he was allowing stories outside the accepted mainstream Swedish narrative to be told.…
36. Ngo failed to provide context for why some Brits are concerned about the so-called Islamization of the UK and why he chose these neighborhoods as purportedly representative of British multiculturalism.…
37. In 2012, an analysis of the 2011 England & Wales census was published by the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity, showing that in 3 UK towns—Slough, Luton and Leicester—no ethnic group had a majority.

“How has ethnic diversity grown 1991-2001-2011?” pp. 1, 3
39. That means that white British are no longer the majority in these towns.………
40. Birmingham is set to see the same demographic changes in the near future.…

"Birmingham Community Cohesion Strategy (Green Paper)" pp. 5-8

Link to report at bottom of page:…
41. Concerns about ethnic polarization in the UK were raised by the 2001 Cantle Report, authored by Ted Cantle.…
43. This demographic shift is also happening in the US. Some call it the “browning” of the US & Europe. This is causing fear, anxiety, and anger among some whites.…………
44. Pieces like Ngo’s feed into what social scientists call the “[insert marginalized group] threat narrative”—in this case the Muslim threat narrative.
45. Unfortunately, critics have mainly focused their outrage on the minor errors/cherrypicked info that Ngo used to paint his picture of Muslims as Other—alcohol restriction sign, lack of eye contact, and lack of Union Jacks 🇬🇧.
46. Some people are making fun of teenaged-Ngo who experienced terror upon seeing women in niqabs. This is not an age thing, this is a cultural thing. This is not about maturity, it’s about fear when confronted with something different.
47. I know elderly white American women who find women in black niqabs terrifying and creepy. For them, these “faceless figures” robed in black (as Ngo calls them) are potential threats to be feared.
48. They want to know what these women are hiding because they can’t use any of their usual cues to assess suspiciousness. This fear is informed but their cultural & religious backgrounds—black is often associated with death and evil.
49. But even if it were about maturity, what message does it send to young non-Muslims who are fearful of women in niqabs?

That their fear doesn’t matter—that it is something to be mocked. Education of young people cannot be accomplished via mockery.
50. Mocking adults for ignorance of a country’s customs and laws does nothing to depolarize.
51. Here’s a model of fear from UCLA political science professor Daniel Treisman’s 2011 NBER Working Paper “The Geography of Fear”. p. 6
52. The UK numbers for how worried people are about “ethnic conflict” and “terrorism” are not the highest in Europe but interesting.

“The Geography of Fear” Table 1, p. 10
53. Treisman’s conclusion was that there is a correlation between higher levels of fear in a country and the number of citizens who believe in Heaven (fewer) and Hell (more).
54. So far, the WSJ has issued one correction to Ngo’s piece.
55. The version I read included this sentence, which many people have called out as having nothing to do with Islamic dietary law, but British laws dating back to 1988.

“A sign was posted on a pole: “Alcohol restricted zone.””……
56. Certain areas may be designated as alcohol-free zones in an attempt to curb antisocial behavior that results from drinking.………
57. Ngo had the error corrected and tweeted an apology on Sunday 9/1/18, 3 days after the piece was published online (8/29/18) and two days after the story ran in the print edition (8/30/18).
58. I’ve witnessed backlash against Ngo and his reporting before but it seems worse this time than when it surrounded his past reporting on events in the US.
59. Also, not only is hate being directed at MrAndyNgo, but the wrong Andy Ngo has been tagged in many abusive tweets. He’s very much not happy about it. This is part of the problem with online mobs. Sometimes they go after the wrong person.
60. I thought it was interesting that the other Andy Ngo called MrAndyNgo “racist”, but then I saw that he lives in Asia so probably doesn’t subscribe to the power + prejudice = racism formula.
61. I’ve thought for a while that it’s time to abandon the term “identity politics” because it doesn’t accurately describe what happens when someone like Ngo goes “rogue” from what is expected of him because of his intersecting identities.
62. Contrary to what is said by people who weaponize identity politics, the identities they are protecting are not race/gender/sexuality/religion/class-based. They’re engaging in tribalism where only the “woke” will be protected.
63. Other than being a cis male, Ngo checks off a lot of diversity bingo boxes:
- Asian American
- child of Vietnamese refugees
- raised working class
- gay…
66. Among some POC, it is not possible for Ngo to be racist—prejudiced or bigoted, perhaps, but never racist, because POC cannot be racist as they are lacking institutional power.
67. This defense was used just a few weeks ago by people defending Sarah Jeong’s long and prolific history of anti-white(ness) tweets.…
68. There’s a thread making the rounds about the lack of socioeconomic diversity among foreign correspondents due to low pay.
69. Some people are expanding that to journalists in general, but the original author was speaking only from her experience as a foreign correspondent from a financially privileged family.
70. Journalists are liking and sharing the thread and calling for more class diversity in journalism. Are these people showing up for Ngo? My guess is that they’re not.
71. It’s assumed that someone from a working class background will bring a certain level of sensitivity and empathy to telling the stories of all marginalized people.
72. But Ngo is not part of their tribe, so the protection of identity politics is stripped from him because he has the wrong sociopolitical views. They say they want more diversity in journalism, but he is seen as the wrong kind of minority to increase diversity in journalism.
73. For all the talk of the importance of intersectionality, Ngo's identities as a gay Vietnamese Am child of working class boat people is erased & all that matters is that he writes for outlets perceived as right-leaning & talks about issues deemed conservative talking points.
74. If Ngo had the correct opinions, he would be celebrated by this group and if anyone were to dare to suggest he should lose work, they would rally to his side, calling his detractors racist, homophobic bigots.
75. Some readers have assumed that Ngo is pushing an agenda with the piece but I haven’t seen tweets asking him about his intentions. Most people are just talking past Ngo.
76. If Ngo wildly misunderstood or misrepresented the England of today then educating him would be more productive than suggesting someone should “airdrop [him] into a KKK rally”.
77. If Ngo’s motives have been misunderstood then he should have an opportunity to explain.
78. But taking the time, energy, and compassion to listen to someone & educate is not as satisfying in the short term as tweeting insults & incitement to violence for likes.
79. I’ll end with this quote from the prologue of “The Gift of Our Wounds: A Sikh and a Former White Supremacist Find Forgiveness After Hate” by Arno Michaelis and Pardeep Singh Kaleka……

p. xvi
80 … and with this May TED talk from Zachary Wood, a liberal Democrat who understands the power and grace of talking to people you disagree with.
81. Adding this thoughtful piece from Cathy Young examining Ngo’s piece. I should note that although I follow Young, I saw this on a retweet from Ngo.
82. Young makes an important point that I meant to make but forgot to dig up links for—Ngo has written sensitively about Muslims in the past. She calls the WSJ piece " regrettably below his usual standards.”
83. Young goes into more depth than I did on the specifics of issues and debates that European countries are having around integration, culture clash, and Muslim communities.
84. Young also fact checks and explains some of the sloppy errors and misleading statements that Ngo included in the piece but also pushes back against the people laughing at Ngo for fearing women in niqab.
85. She includes discussion of what a feminist British writer Yasmin Alihai-Brown had to say about covering in her book “Refusing the Veil."…
86. I endorse this:

“Andy Ngo will, I hope, learn from his mistakes. But his detractors need to do some hard thinking, too.”
87. I just realized I should have said “heavily Muslim” not "Muslim majority” in my first tweet. Not going to delete at this point and this thread is too long to redo. 😂
88. To clarify, Tower Hamlet, London was 34.5% Muslim per 2011 census. 27.1% Christian. Wikipedia says they have “the highest proportion of Muslims in England.”…
89. Leyton, London was 30.2% Muslim in 2011. 45.5% Christians.…
90. Couldn’t find numbers for Bury Park but Luton was 25.6% Muslim in 2011. 46.4% Christian.…

Based on news reports, I expect all of these numbers have likely shifted towards increased Muslim population over the past 7 years.
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