Last month, far-right provocateur Andy Ngo led a disinformation and harassment campaign against me after I was invited to speak at the Asian American Journalist's Association (AAJA). The far-right threatened AAJA, called for my death, endangered over 1,500 journalists, and tried to come to my home.
On May 2, I was invited to be a speaker at the AAJA 2022 convention in Los Angeles for a panel titled "The Habits of Successful Freelancers." I graciously accepted. Over the next month or so, I got to know my fellow panelists as we discussed how to format our panel.
Things remained normal until July 19. Andy Ngo retweeted a promotional tweet about our panel and tagged AAJA's president, Michelle Ye Hee Lee. Ngo included a misleadingly edited clip of a violent assault against me by far-right extremists while I was reporting (that left me hospitalized).
The disinformation from Andy Ngo received thousands of engagements. Ngo argued that I was a violent extremist and not a journalist— while citing an incident in which I was targeted with violence for being a journalist. Ngo has a history of lying about that assault against me.
Following this, AAJA reached out to me to see if I was okay. They offered me consultation on digital safety and suggested I try to avoid the social media frenzy that was targeting us. I replied how saddened I was that the convention was now being harassed by Ngo and his fans.
By July 20, there were threats targeting me, AAJA, and my fellow panelists. Andy Ngo's fans called for violence against me, others said that I should be killed, and one alluded to using bullets against our panel. The convention's private security was briefed on the situation.
On July 21, a press freedom advocate reached out to AAJA to express solidarity with me, to defend me from Andy Ngo's disinformation, and to inform AAJA about the police investigation into the violent assault against me that was referenced by Ngo's misleadingly edited video.
On July 22, right-wing provocateur Jeremy Lee Quinn reached out to AAJA to submit a panel question. Quinn had previously been a part of the disinformation/harassment campaign against me led by Andy Ngo. AAJA heard that I was receiving death threats and checked in with me again.
I shared multiple links of tweets with AAJA which included threats and used languages that suggested violence. One of the tweets was a comment under AAJA’s main account that promoted the session. It included an image of bullets in a magazine and tagged my fellow panelists.
It was at this point that the overwhelming amount of violent threats against AAJA and me from Andy Ngo's supporters triggered action by the event's private security. They internally expressed concern that they couldn't protect all 1,500+ journalists and guests at the event.
According to an internal memo for the convention: "AAJA team was concerned that the hotel security wouldn’t be able to handle the situation and the private security team couldn’t cover the whole Sheraton ground and protect over 1,500 conference attendees."
After the security situation increasingly escalated, AAJA contacted LAPD multiple times about the threats. The tweets from Andy Ngo's fans, including death threats and possible gun violence threats, were archived and turned over to the police.
At this point, I stopped talking publicly about the situation in a vein hope that my silence would cause the campaign die down (it didn't). I expressed grave concern for the physical safety of the entire AAJA 2022 convention. Mentally, I was heavily impacted by this fallout.
On July 23, the AAJA board was briefed on the entire situation threatening the convention.
On July 24, I informed AAJA that I would no longer be attending the 2022 convention and that I would no longer speak on the panel due to the threats of violence and murder from Andy Ngo's far-right base. The safety of the convention attendees was my number one priority.
I was replaced on the panel after our mutual agreement. However, the security concerns for the convention (and me) had not subsided.
During the convention, stickers defaming me were placed in the hotel. Here is the never-before-seen image, taken by an LA Times journalist. LAPD was notified and the security for the AAJA 2022 convention responded. Even though I never showed up, the campaign continued.
Thankfully, the AAJA 2022 convention ended without any violent incident. But the sticker/flyer campaign went well beyond the hotel. I was informed that the far-right attempted to come to my home— and that they placed similar defamatory posters about me outside my old apartment.
Similar stickers were seen in other parts of Los Angeles, too. They repeatedly referenced the assault against me that Andy Ngo used to defame me in his campaign. They even used my bloodied up face (with broken bones in my eye sockets and nose and face) to suggest I was violent.
After learning that the far-right went to the convention and tried to show up to my home, I came to the conclusion that not attending the AAJA 2022 convention was the smartest thing I could do to ensure I was not targeted in-person with harassment, violence, or assassination. However, I am disturbed by what this incident means for press freedoms and for journalist safety. If the far-right doesn't want a journalist to speak on a panel, they can now mount a similar violent harassment campaign to endanger more journalists. The template has been minted.