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Reality star Kim Kardashian has lost hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers in recent days, according to analytics site Social Blade Image: AFP

Celebrities face digital backlash over Gaza silence

By Issam Ahmed and Charlotte Causit

Celebrities who have remained silent on the crisis in Gaza are feeling the wrath of angry fans wielding the "digital guillotine" to block them on social media and streaming platforms.

Taylor Swift, Drake and many more have become targets of the "Block Out 2024" movement, which began on TikTok in response to the perceived disconnect between the high-profile Met Gala and the grim realities of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

For months, pro-Palestinian activists have flooded the comments sections of social media sites, urging stars to join calls for a ceasefire in Gaza's deadliest war.

But matters came to a head after last week's Met Gala, a glitzy fundraiser and the biggest night in fashion featuring A-list stars from screen, stage, sports and the world's runways.

Dressed in an extravagant gown, influencer Hailey Kalil posted on TikTok lip-synching "Let them eat cake" -- a phrase notoriously associated with Marie Antoinette that symbolizes the callous disregard of 18th century French aristocrats towards the poor.

Fellow TikToker ladyfromtheoutside, who started the movement, responded: "It's time for the people to conduct what I want to call a digital guillotine, a digitine, if you will," referring to the execution apparatus used during the French Revolution.

"Take our views away, our likes, our comments, our money," she urged.

Her message was taken up as a rallying cry for the pro-Palestinian movement, and early signs suggest the boycott may be having an impact.

Reality star Kim Kardashian -- who attended the ball in New York -- has lost hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers in recent days, according to analytics site Social Blade.

Global music superstar Taylor Swift, who opted to focus on her Eras Tour rather than appear at the event, has also seen a decline of more than 200,000 followers since last Thursday.

"This is about lives and justice -- if she can rally all of us to vote, she has the power to speak up about injustice," said a TikToker who described herself as a "Palestinian Swiftie" and said it was time to block, unfollow and stop streaming her idol.

It's uncertain whether the movement is directly responsible for the social media hits seen by some celebrities, or if other trends are at play.

Moreover, the losses could be short-lived, Natasha Lindstaedt, a University of Essex professor who has studied celebrity activism, told AFP.

"Sometimes people make a decision based on an emotional response to an issue and decide that if a celebrity isn't on the same side... they don't want to follow them anymore, but that takes a second," she says.

This phenomenon is known in academic circles as "slacktivism" -- substituting low-stakes online actions like posting memes or liking posts -- or choosing to unfollow a favorite star -- for meaningful political engagement.

Instead of responding, celebrities might find it wiser to wait out the backlash, especially given the sensitive nature of the Gaza conflict, which has proven perilous for many stars.

Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon was dropped by her talent agency UTA after speaking at a pro-Palestine rally in November.

More recently, comedian Jerry Seinfeld, long the model of an apolitical celebrity, has faced criticism for affiliating himself more closely with Israel.

That backlash against the Jewish comedian intensified after his wife Jessica donated to a group of pro-Israel counter-protesters at UCLA responsible for a violent altercation with pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

According to David Jackson, a professor at Bowling Green State University who has studied how the political positions taken by stars affect their approval ratings, told AFP "there's a history of celebrity involvement in politics that goes back a hundred years or more in the U.S."

But with the advent of social media, it's become easier for people to develop "parasocial" relationships with stars -- essentially one-way connections that feel reciprocal.

"You have your network of people you follow, and some of them are people you know, and some of them are celebrities, and the boundaries, I suppose, can be blurred," Jackson said.

That false sense of closeness makes the feeling of betrayal all the more acute when celebrities take a position you disapprove of, or don't take any position at all.

Even appearing to respond to fan demands can be risky.

When Rapper Lizzo promoted a fundraiser to aid a Gazan doctor and his family in leaving the besieged Palestinian territory, she was criticized by many for her for perceived opportunism.

© 2024 AFP

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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I’m sure that any performer who dared to support Israel would have their skin shredded by the backlash.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

Kpop fans must be aghast after thinking their idols were pro-muslim

0 ( +4 / -4 )

I respect celebs that do openly state their position even if i disagree with them. You have to remember though, that a lot of these celebs are under contract, and if they lose customers, they will likely have to pay the price.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

So what? Don't follow then. Followers are just followers. Who cares!

1 ( +6 / -5 )

More recently, comedian Jerry Seinfeld, long the model of an apolitical celebrity, has faced criticism for affiliating himself more closely with Israel.

Meh. He faced criticism from a loud, obnoxious ultra-minority.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Maybe some of them are more knowledgeable and aware about the details of the conflict and its history so choose not take sides on a very complicated issue with no clear right & wrong rather than be clued out SJWs who pretend that they know everything about a long, long conflict with deep sociopolitical, historic, and religious factors.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

MilesTeg, excellent post. Unfortunately, such rational approach to complex problems is becoming scarce the era of 2 minutes-learn-all on the net, followed by strong opinions in black or white, expressed as loudly as possible

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The Social Justice Warriors seem to be guilty of being extremists. Not much different from anti-Palestinian nation they're purporting to hate.

The TikTok mob shouldn't be trying to force or blackmail anyone into joining their political agenda.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It is very difficult for celebrities to publicly show support for the Palestinians or condemn Israeli brutality because the entertainment industry is largely owned and run by those with blood ties to Israel.

Susan Sarandon probably counted the cost and figured she had already accomplished enough in Hollywood so went ahead anyway despite the risk. Younger stars/aspiring stars dare not.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

most of these celebs are managed by folks who pretty much view them as a producr...sanitized for mass consumption...Susan Sarandon is a rare exception...she has bigger cajones than Harvey Weinstein

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The cult of celebrity, combined with the hollow shallow world of social media creates a mirage, an illusion, a society immersed in a cesspool of fakery.

Gaza demise, the rubble, the stench of death is purely a means of how celebrity PR teams can leverage a sound bite.

A momentary second in time to fain disgust, then move on.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This is stupid. Some things are best not talked about. Silence in public from influential people is not a crime. Their jobs are acting, singing, and all the arts and they should not be punished for remaining silent about such contentious issues. That doesn't mean they don't choose sides; it only means they don't publicly talk about it. There are many people who don't feel that they can knowledgeably choose a side, as well. These people are being punished for something they didn't do in their roles as artists but that in private might have a side. Pick on people on the other side, not someone whose views are not known.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Mr. Yrral -- Okay, I think was Hamas did was terrible and I think what Israel is doing is terrible. Which side should I take? I don't have a side. Which side is like the Holocaust? To me it's both sides. As well, why should I make my thoughts on the matter public? The Palestinians and Jews here in the states did nothing wrong. Of course each supports their people. Why, instead of protesting, don't these people go to Palestine or Israel and pick up a rifle and DO something about it? To punish someone who doesn't make public their views -- especially influencers like artists -- is just not intelligent. Pick on the other side, not the innocent bystanders.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Expecting a coherent statement from someone as vapid as Kardashian is like me expecting my idiot dog to learn calculus.

Besides, a statement on Gaza can’t be monetized so she’s not interested.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In the face of an injustice, sitting on the fence is siding with the oppressor

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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