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#Blockout2024: Campaign to deplatform celebs who kept mum on Gaza genocide

By Maryam Qarehgozlou

In reaction to the Met Gala 2024, an extravagant display of opulence, social media users worldwide are exercising their digital powers to “de-platform celebrities” who have been silent over the Israeli genocide in Gaza.

Pointing to its immediate impact, according to some reports, prominent American socialite and media personality Kim Kardashian lost over 3 million followers overnight after the movement kicked off.

Met Gala, a fundraiser dedicated to New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute held annually on the first Monday in May, is most often likened to The Hunger Games book franchise by Suzanne Collins, portraying a dystopian capital, where affluent people in fantastical outfits wine and dine while watching the suffering of the impoverished, oppressed people for entertainment.

This year, social media users called out this ironically charitable event for its crude display of wealth which they said was in stark contrast to the humanitarian crises unfolding across the world and most conspicuously the ongoing Israeli genocidal war on the Gaza Strip, which has already killed nearly 35,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children.

The opulence on the gala’s red carpet enraged netizens, particularly as it coincided with Israel’s announcement of a military offensive on Gaza’s southern city of Rafah, the so-called “last refuge” for Palestinians who have been running helter-skelter for cover since October 7, 2023.

Some 1.5 million Palestinians are in Rafah seeking refuge from Israeli aggression in the rest of Gaza.

While thousands of people have already evacuated the area, the planned offensive has also resulted in the closure of routes for aid into the besieged territory with aid agencies warning that the assault on Rafah could cause a “bloodbath” and famine. 

About the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, the tone-deaf Met Gala prompted thousands of activists and observers to start a campaign called “Operation Blockout” which rallied global netizens to block celebrities who failed to leverage their extensive reach and platforms for advocacy and change.

‘A digital guillotine’

“It’s time to block all celebrities, influencers and wealthy socialites who are not using their resources to help those in dire need,” said TikTok creator Rae on Thursday, posting under the handle ‘ladyfromtheoutside’.

“It’s time for the people to conduct what I want to call a ‘digital guillotine,’ a ‘digittine’ if you will.

“We gave them their platforms. It’s time to take it back, take our views away, our likes, our comments, our money by blocking them on all social media and digital platforms,” she continued.

Rae’s first suggestion for the “digitine” was TikTok star Haley Kalil, also known as HaleyyBaylee, who boasted 10 million followers on the app and served as a pre-Met Gala host for E! News.

She posted a video of herself lip-syncing the well-known phrase “Let them eat cake” from Sophia Coppola’s 2006 film “Marie Antoinette” while wearing an elaborate floral headdress and gown in a Marie Antoinette-inspired look.

It is said that French Queen Marie Antoinette, a symbol of royal extravagance, uttered these words in response to the peasants’ bread shortage, showing how disconnected she was from the suffering of starving peasants in this depiction. She was sent to the guillotine during the French Revolution.

Kalil later released an eight-minute apology video explaining her now-deleted TikTok video.

However, when she said she does not speak about Gaza because she is “not informed enough to talk about it in a meaningful and educational way,” she drew more backlash.

Spearheaded by TikTok creators, the collective effort is now giving rise to popular hashtags such as #letthemeatcake, #celebrityblocklist, and #blockout.

Through these hashtags, internet users are publicly criticizing high-profile social and cinema figures for their silence over the genocidal war and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Users are now blocking a wide range of stars including those who attended the Met Gala like Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Kylie Jenner, Zendaya, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Khloe Kardashian, Ariana Grande, Doja Cat, Demi Lovato, Lizzo, Nicki Minaj, Travis Scott, Kanye West, Katy Perry, Zac Efron, Joe Jonas, Nick Jonas, Kevin Jonas, Justin Timberlake and many others.

How ‘Operation Blockout’ will affect celebs?

Media outlets shared a video capturing the dropping number of these celebrities’ online followers in real time. Kim Kardashian lost more than 3 million followers overnight.

According to metrics from the social media analytics company Social Blade, many of the celebrities on widely circulated block lists have also lost net averages of tens or hundreds of thousands of followers per day since the “digitine” began.

The campaigners suggest blocking celebrities will impact their digital influence and revenue.

In one video that Tiktoker Blockout2024 posted, which has since accumulated over a million views, he said that followers have “full control of celebrities’ money and lives.”

“When we hate on them, they make money. When we praise them, they make money. But when we block their social media accounts and completely forget their names, they lose it all,” Blockout2024 said.

“The amount of attention we give them and the amount of engagement we give them is their direct currency. Take it from them,” he added.

How did celebrities react to it?

Following the backlash, some celebrities started posting about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, fearing loss of followers on social media platforms.

American influencer Chris Olson, who is also mentioned in many block lists, posted a TikTok video discussing his involvement in ‘Operation Olive Branch’- an online solidarity campaign for Gaza to aid displaced Palestinian families.

Pop singer Lizzo shared a GoFundMe campaign on TikTok for a Palestinian family raising money to flee Gaza in under 72 hours since the trend started.

While some accepted the gestures arguing that the videos are proving that the movement is working, others dismissed these as “performative acts of solidarity” to let them off the hook.

Some users underlined that celebrities like Lizzo have the means to sponsor entire families’ escape from the war-ravaged territory, yet have only donated partially to such campaigns.

“I think to a point in the future when the divestment keeps on going, other celebrities would realize they couldn’t get people’s support anymore if they just run their careers to remain in their privilege bubble while staying indifferent and tone-deaf about the sufferings and injustice of people around the world,” TikTok user Jenny said.

Solidarity with Palestine comes at a cost

While pressure is mounting on big and famous names that have chosen to remain silent, or have not spoken much about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza engineered by the Israeli regime with the backing of Western countries, a few major celebrities stand in solidarity with the Palestinians and paid a heavy price for criticizing Israel.

In October 2023, days after Israel began its onslaught on Gaza, Maha Dakhil, one of Hollywood’s most important agents, was demoted from her post as co-chief of Creative Artists Agency LLC (CAA), an American talent and sports agency based in Los Angeles.

She had shared an Instagram post calling Israel’s bombardment of Gaza “genocide.”

“What’s more heartbreaking than witnessing genocide? Witnessing the denial that genocide is happening,” her post stated.

Dakhil, who represents multiple A-list stars like Tom Cruise, Reese Witherspoon, and Natalie Portman, had to tender an apology and delete the post.

Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon was dropped by her talent agency UTA over comments she made at a pro-Palestinian rally on November 17 in New York City.

“There are a lot of people that are afraid, that are afraid of being Jewish at this time, and are getting a taste of what it feels like to be a Muslim in this country, so often subjected to violence,” Sarandon said.

Actress Melissa Barrera was also fired from the cast of the thriller ‘Scream VII’ in November, in which she was slated to reprise her leading role in the franchise.

Since the war began in Gaza on October 7, Barrera, 33, has used her social media platform frequently to showcase her support for the Palestinian cause and to share information about the situation in Gaza, including re-sharing Instagram posts and articles describing Israeli forces’ attacks as “genocide and ethnic cleansing” and referring to Israel as a “colonized land.”

Spyglass Media Group, the production company behind Scream VII, said in a statement that they “have zero tolerance for antisemitism” claiming that Barrera was making “false references” to genocide and ethnic cleansing.

After her dismissal, Barrera continued to share information on Gaza on her social media platform, reposting on her Instagram stories a photo that reads:

“At the end of the day, I’d rather be excluded for who I include, than be included for who I exclude.”

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