#BlockOut2024 for Gaza: Digital Resistance to Celebrity Culture
May 28 2024
blog Series: 

Within hours of the Israeli ground invasion of Rafah on May 6, 2024, celebrities congregated in New York to parade their wealth and privilege at fashion’s infamously lavish, and disconnected, annual MET Gala. Harrowing images emerging from Rafah that morning were rapidly exchanged by Western media outlets for photos of celebrities touting brand sponsorships throughout the day, igniting outrage among the public. #AllEyesonRafah was quickly substituted for #METGala2024, inspiring the rise of #Blockout2024.

Amid such a violently detached dystopia, influencer Haley Kalil published a TikTok video in which she lip-synced the famous Marie Antoinette reference “Let them eat cake!” Reacting directly to Kalil’s ignorant, sadistically ironic reference to the French Revolution, the #Blockout2024 campaign was born. Following the theme, social media users on TikTok, Instagram, and X, declared that it was time to sharpen their “digital guillotines,” or “digitines,” and begin blocking celebrities who have been silent, dismissive, or even complicit in the genocide in Gaza. 

The Blockout campaign is employing the soft power of social media users not to simply demand change from celebrities, but to completely reject and dismantle their influence and wealth. As Israel continues to manufacture an apocalypse in Gaza, pressure is rising from every arena to create a social, political, and economic crisis in demand of an immediate, permanent ceasefire.

The particular sentiment of the Blockout social media campaign is not new. In a TikTok video published after the temporary ceasefire in November, Gazan content creator Salma Shawa proclaimed “We live in an attention-based economy,” demanding that social media users continue to mobilize through their platforms. Media action is not only accomplished by uplifting and engaging voices from Gaza but also by disrupting channels of revenue. Boycotts, divestment, and disruption are at the core of current digital movements, reinforcing the efficacy of the blockout campaign

By blocking celebrities rather than unfollowing them, the campaign intends to cut celebrities off from ad revenue — their content would be less likely to be shown to other users and thus discouraging advertisers from working with said celebrities. Initially targeting celebrities who ignorantly attended and publicized the MET Gala after months of silence, the campaign has spread to highlight Arab celebrities and influencers who have similarly ignored calls to boycott products or have remained silent about Gaza. Social media users organized lists, pages, and hashtags devoted to the campaign continue to emerge as Israel unleashes unending terror upon Gaza.

The movement is going beyond traditional cancel culture to ensure that there is a legitimate material consequence for complicity or silence surrounding the ongoing genocide. Although concrete numbers have not been published, primary celebrity targets such as Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian have been recorded losing millions of followers since the campaign began. 

Some celebrities suddenly began scrambling to avoid being blocked. Lizzo, for example, posted a video “thanking” activists for their voices and sharing that she has donated to a fundraising campaign for Gaza. Similarly, TikTok influencer Chris Olsen, whose name is on the block lists, posted a video encouraging followers to donate to a crowdfunding campaign to evacuate a family from Gaza. Unfortunately, those beginning to speak out from fear of revenue loss depoliticize the cause by framing the genocide as a ‘humanitarian crisis’ rather than acknowledging Israel’s crimes. 

As catastrophe heightens, accountability is a critical catalyst for change. The message of the Blockout campaign remains consistent: if celebrities and influencers will not use their wealth and influence to sincerely and consistently aid the people of Gaza, Sudan, or Congo, then social media users will cut it off.

About The Author: 

Marah Abdel Jaber is a Palestinian writer and researcher.

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