Why are celebrities being blocked en masse after the Met Gala?

Noor El-Terk

The glitzy and glamorous Met Gala is one of the most anticipated events in the fashion world, where style-lovers soak up the latest red-carpet fashion look celebrities usher in.

This year, however, celebrities found themselves at the centre of a mass social media blocking campaign.

Between a cost of living crisis, heavy-handed police dispersal of pro-Palestine student protests and ahead of Israel’s promised military assault on Rafah, where nearly 1.5 million displaced Palestinians have fled to, the opulence on display at the Met Gala was the last straw for thousands of activists and observers.

Social media users began compiling and sharing lists of celebrities and influencers they believe have not utilised their platforms to shed light on what is happening in Gaza, Sudan and beyond, labelling it, “Operation Blockout”.

“They [celebrities] live off of our attention,” posted one user on X, formerly Twitter. “If they don’t have any, they cease to exert their influence.”

“These people have all the opportunity to make change in this world,” said on user on TikTok. “And instead of using their platform to talk about shit that matters, they use it to make themselves money. That’s it. Fuck ’em. Block ’em.”

Operation Blockout

It started when Tiktoker @Haleyybaylee, whose real name is Haley Kalil, posted a video to her millions of followers of her decked out in an elaborate floral headdress and gown in a Marie Antoinette-inspired look at the Met Gala, lip-syncing, “let them eat cake”, a trending sound from Sofia Coppola’s 2006 movie Marie Antoinette.

While there is no evidence of the sentence having been said by the late queen, it is often used to capture the idea of the elite being out of touch with the struggles of the common people, and is symbolic of the perceived callousness of the French monarchy towards the suffering of people during a time of economic hardship and social unrest.

The irony it would seem, was lost on Haley.

“The sound choice that you’re using on this day is WILD. We are truly living in a dystopian world,” commented one user on her video.

“Girl, read the room,” another wrote.

Social media users were quick to stitch the video, many calling out the “tone-deaf” video at a time when Israel is ramping up its military assault in Gaza, which has already left over 34,900 Palestinians dead, the majority civilians.

“I do think that using a ‘let them eat cake’ sound at the literal hunger games capital party while Rafah is being bombed is kinda fucking weird actually, but hey it’s not like this creator has even bothered to speak about Palestine in the first place,” posted one user on X.

In response, social media users announced a “digitine” – a digital guillotine.

“It’s time to block all the celebrities, influencers and wealthy socialites who are not using their resources to help those in dire need,” one user declared in a French revolution themed video, complete with a scroll and illustration of a guillotine.

“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,” the Tiktokker declared in the video, which has now been viewed more than 1.7 million times.

“We sentence you to the digitine.”

Soon after, hundreds of comments called for the video to become a series and , social media users began compiling and sharing the celebrities and influencers. One TikTok user even prepared a spreadsheet of various online figures for people to reference as part of “Operation Blockout”.

Some users are calling for musicians to be blocked on social media platforms as well as streaming services like Spotify.

“Hip-Hop is supposed to RESIST the forces of white supremacy, capitalism, and oppression,” shared another user. “Instead of resisting, these popular rap artists have sold our culture for their own profit. They need to be blocked and boycotted as well.”

The call for blocking celebrities and social media influencers has extended beyond TikTok, with X users sharing videos and posts with the hashtag #Blockout2024.

‘Performative solidarity’
As many celebrities find themselves on the list of Operation Blockout, some have started posting about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and Sudan.

“Social pressure has worked so far on Lizzo and Hank Green in the past day or so, as well as a lot of creators that had yet to speak out,” responded one user to a question about the effectiveness of the campaign.

In an eight-minute video, Haley apologised for the choice of the sound, explaining that she was not actually attending the Met Gala. She added that things happening in the world are weighing heavily on everyone’s hearts: “Innocent men, women and children are dying, people don’t have access to food and water, people are being kicked out of their homes.”

American pop star Lizzo shared a GoFundMe campaign for a Palestinian family raising money to try and flee Gaza, and another for humanitarian relief for Sudan. She said she donated and shared the link to the campagins on her TikTok account.

While some have accepted the gestures, others have dismissed these as performative acts of solidarity to keep them off the blocking list.

“Celebrities such as Lizzo and more are now coming out to ‘support’ Palestine after the #blackout2024 trend where Palestine supporters block celebrities who have supported Israel or been silent on Palestine,” a user posted, adding: “Lizzo have supported Biden and Israel in the past”

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

Other users have argued that the focus should not be on celebrities and that this energy is better focused on politicians.

“We’re doing what we did with the BLM: focusing all our energy into celebrity shaming instead of actively pressuring our politicians,” wrote one user in a Reddit discussion, referencing the Black Lives Movement.

“I saw people trying to cancel Gigi Hadid for not speaking up and questioning her ethnicity, willfully forgetting that her family was doxxed and publicly threatened on official Israel government pages.”

(Source: MEE)