K-pop fans take over ‘White Lives Matter’ hashtag to drown out racism

Jungkook, RM, Jimin and J-Hope of BTS arrive at the photo call for the 34th Golden Disc Awards on Jan. 5, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea. THE FACT/Imazins via Getty Images

Sometimes you have to fight hatred with love — and sometimes you have to fight it with BTS, Blackpink and Loona.

Fans of Korean popular music, or K-pop, are using their fandom to drown out racist criticism of the George Floyd protests on social media by flooding certain Twitter hashtags with videos of pop stars.

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Hashtags such as “White Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter,” which have often been used to criticize the Black Lives Matter movement, were overwhelmed on Wednesday with seemingly unrelated K-pop videos and gifs.

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Many of the posts were so-called “fan cams,” a popular K-pop trend in which users share live performance clips of their favourite artists.

The K-pop posts referred to the hashtags as racist — a criticism sometimes levelled against statements that try to deflect the “Black Lives Matter” slogan to highlight some other group, such as white people, police or all people.

Alicia Garza, one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, explained in 2016 that her group’s slogan is not meant to diminish others. It’s simply meant to highlight that the systems of  society don’t treat Black lives as though they’re worth the same as other lives.

“We do believe that all lives matter,” she said during a speech at Portland State University in 2016, as reported by local station KATU. “But we don’t live in a world where all lives matter, so that kind of response really puts on display the very issues we’re trying to address.”

“White Lives Matter” is a “white supremacist phrase” and a “racist response” to the Black Lives Matter movement, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The phrase has also inspired a white supremacist group to adopt the name, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Racist groups have been using the phrase as a slogan for at least five years.

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Many social media users applauded the K-pop community’s tongue-in-cheek effort to tackle racism on Wednesday, with thousands of users liking tweets about the takeover.

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Among those applauding the move was @YourAnonCentral, an account that has long claimed to represent the Anonymous movement on Twitter. The account is unverified but it has been active for years and currently has more than 5.8 million followers.

The account praised the “Anonymous K-Pop division” on Wednesday for a “major victory over online fascism’s messaging tools.” More than 57,000 people liked the tweet.

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The “MAGA” hashtag, a popular abbreviation for U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, was also partially flooded with K-pop clips on Wednesday afternoon, although those tweets failed to overwhelm that community.

Many allies of the Black community also pounced on a trend called “Whiteout Wednesday,” an apparent response to “Blackout Tuesday” during which the music industry halted its operations and many people shared black squares on social media to support the protests.

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Some took the hashtag more literally by sharing images of correction fluid.

The tweets appear to have largely drowned far-right white nationalists such as Katie Hopkins and Faith Goldy, who had also been trying to make “Whiteout Wednesday” a thing.

It’s unclear how the K-pop backlash started, although this is the second time in a week that K-pop fan cams have intervened to help the protests. On Sunday, fans reportedly flooded a Dallas Police Department app with videos after police asked for clips of “illegal activity” from the protests. Dozens of users also posted clips in response to a department tweet.

Police shut down the app “due to technical difficulties” later that day.

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