Inside K-Pop Stans' Social Media War Against White Supremacists

Justin Kirkland
Photo credit: Twitter

From Esquire

Update: In the time since originally reporting, fans of BTS (an astronomically popular K-Pop boy band) have raised over one million dollars for Black Lives Matter and additional civil rights organizations, proving again that no one stans harder than K-Pop fans.

This week, the #BlackoutTuesday campaign marked a grassroots Internet campaign to halt personal promotion during the Black Lives Matter protest in an effort to elevate voices of the movement fighting systemic racism and police violence in America. But, in response to that, white supremacists pushed back with their own movement called #WhiteoutWednesday, an organized attempt to flood the internet with racist propaganda and overwhelm the Black Lives Matter messaging. But, the racist efforts were thwarted by an unlikely Black Lives Matter ally: Fans of Korean pop entered the chat.

As Black Lives Matter protests continue to grow across the United States and beyond, fans of the Korean pop genre have consolidated their social media might to amplify Black Lives Matter voices and suppress the efforts of white supremacists. On Wednesday, the fandom banded together and overwhelmed the #WhiteoutWednesday hashtag, along with white supremacist hashtags like #WhiteLivesMatter, #MAGA, and #BlueLivesMatter—filling the feed with videos of performances from Korean pop stars with the hope of drowning anti-protest rhetoric and redirecting attention back to the protests.

That's not out of character for K-pop fandom. Late last month, fans of the group Blackpink made a consolidated effort to limit posts about the pop act's collaboration with Lady Gaga in an attempt to not overwhelm conversation about the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of George Floyd's murder.

The latest initiative by K-pop fans to support BLM and fight white supremacists emerged within hours of the creation of #WhiteoutWednesday, jamming it and a number of other hashtags. K-pop fans have emerged as an overwhelming force on social media. In 2019, the fans sent six billion tweets, which is approximately three percent of all tweets sent by everyone in the world. Account numbers are in the tens of thousands.

Half the power is in the size of the group. (A quick Twitter search for "Jungkook," a member of K-Pop band BTS, returns thousands of fan accounts.) The other half is its stunningly organized and connected community. Even small accounts are garnering hundreds of retweets, sending their posts up the algorithm and into right-wing feeds. More successful posts average retweets and likes well into the thousands.


Photo credit: Screenshot

As such, on Wednesday morning, both #WhiteLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter were trending in the top 10 Twitter hashtags in the U.S. However, the content was decidedly not the typical fare that accompanies the hashtag. Where right-wing accounts often link to conspiracy theories or political memes or despicable racist propaganda, K-Pop stans have flooded the tag with everything from criticisms of racism to fan cams—user made videos highlighting a favorite K-Pop soloist.

I reached out to one Twitter user and K-pop stan who has been active in fighting back against white supremacist hashtags. "I would like to be clear that we are doing this to support the Black Lives Matter movement, and we stand in solidarity with them," the user, who prefers to go by the name Beth, told me. The anonymity is necessary, as this type of anti-racist activism can result in Beth being bullied and receiving death threats.

Along with highjacking racist hashtags, K-pop fans are elevating the voices of Black Lives Matter by retweeting posts with petitions and important information about how to donate and support the movement. The K-pop effort, according to Beth, is to suppress white supremacist rhetoric, while also continuing to spread information helpful for the Black Lives Matter movement and protests.


Photo credit: Screenshot

"We have actually been using this method to varying degrees since the protests began to become more active," she tells me. As supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement aim to find the lanes where they can most effectively aid the larger protest initiative, K-Pop stans have certainly found a unique one. Meanwhile, videos on Twitter from activists in the street continue to show documented police brutality, the use of tear gas, and pushback against peaceful protesters.

The Verge reported that fans also helped derail an anti-protester initiative from Dallas police over the weekend. After asking residents to submit videos of illegal activity of protesters, fans flooded the system with the same types of videos seen on the hashtags today. Hashtag takeovers have been an information battle tactic in the past against brands, but now the move has been utilized for social justice and protection of protesters. Specifically during the recent Black Lives Matter protest, hashtags are utilized as a means of distributing information, be it about donation centers, protest meeting grounds, or legal help.

Keeping that initiative in mind is the priority. As Beth said at the end of our conversation, "I certainly wouldn't want our small way of helping the movement to detract from it, so to speak." The K-Pop fandom, a worldwide internet phenomenon, isn't trying to make a fuss. They're just trying to make sure that the loudest voice in the room is the necessary one. There's time to stan Jungkook later.

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