By: Jessy Edwards and Tramane Harris
If you’ve noticed a copy of The Epoch Times on your stoop in the last few weeks, you’re not alone.
Dozens of Brooklyn residents across Brownsville, Crown Heights, East New York and Bushwick have received unsolicited copies of the right-wing newspaper and are asking–why now?
“In all my years in Bed-Stuy, I never once saw it. Last weekend there was a copy on my stoop,” Cypress Hills resident Ro Johnson said. Many in Bed-Stuy are now reporting getting the paper, too.
The mysterious mass-mail drop has some Brooklyn residents wondering if the upcoming election is involved, with some saying they’ve seen the conservative paper before, but not in such quantity.
“First time I’ve ever seen them delivered via direct mail like a drugstore circular,” one Bed-Stuy resident said on Facebook. “Definitely seems like a new tactic, and I don’t think their distribution to gentrifying Black neighborhoods is a mere coincidence.”
The Epoch Times is a New York-based publication with strong ties to the persecuted Chinese spiritual group Falun Gong. Its editorial policy is fiercely opposed to the Chinese Communist Party, and it’s known for its right-wing content.
In February, the New York Times called it “one of the most mysterious fixtures of the pro-Trump media universe,” and the publication was recently accused of getting special treatment at the president’s press briefings.
Last year, NBC News published an investigation revealing the publication spent more than $1.5 million on pro-Trump ads on Facebook in 2019, second only to the Trump campaign itself. However not much is known about The Epoch Times’ finances and organizational structure.
Now, copies of the publication’s “special report” on China are appearing at homes all over Brooklyn and beyond.
In Bushwick, Amanda Yee noticed three copies of The Epoch Times on her neighbor’s doorstep. She took pictures of the paper and posted it to Twitter, where dozens of people from Brooklyn, Queens, and even further afield in California and Canada commented they, too, had received it.
“I posted it because there’s a lot of anti-Chinese sentiment right now,” Yee told the BK Reader. “A lot of it is driven by The Epoch Times, which is affiliated with the Falun Gong.”
While he wasn’t in a position to independently verify whether The Epoch Times was increasing distribution to certain neighborhoods–or traditionally Black neighborhoods–ahead of the election, it wouldn’t be surprising, A.J. Bauer, a visiting professor of media, culture and communication at New York University, said.
“This would fit within a broader GOP strategy to cut into Biden’s presumably high margins of support within the Black community,” he said, pointing to the Republican National Convention’s focus last week on Trump’s “supposed” record of racial uplift.
It was unclear whether the influx into Brooklyn amounts to an increase in real circulation, or whether the paper was just shifting its distribution patterns nationally, he said. The Epoch Times did not respond to BK Reader questions on distribution directed to its editor, newsroom and media team. Journalists in Australia have also reported a large newspaper drop campaign in Brisbane recently.
However, Bauer said the apparent distribution push raises questions over whether the paper is working in active coordination with the Trump campaign, or just providing independent material support to Trump. He added there were curious parallels between the distribution strategy and the GOP’s recent attempts to weaken Biden’s support among Black voters.
According to its website, The Epoch Times’s “mission is to bring you a truthful view of the world free from the influence of any government, corporation, or political party.”
However, in August 2019, Facebook barred the newspaper from taking out more ads, saying it evaded its advertising transparency rules. In turn, the publication moved its spending to YouTube.
The Epoch Times denies its Facebook ads were intended to be political.
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