Legions of K-pop fans and TikTok users are taking credit for upending Donald Trump’s weekend rally after block-reserving tickets with no intention to attend an event that was beset by an embarrassingly low turnout.
Prior to the event in Tulsa, Oklahoma — hyped as a major relaunch ahead of the November election — Trump’s campaign chairman tweeted that more than a million tickets had been requested.
But according to the local fire department, just 6,200 people attended.
Viral posts on TikTok and Twitter revealed that plans to reserve tickets en masse had been circulating for days, racking up hundreds of thousands of views.
One video urged fans of the South Korean “K-pop” sensation BTS — one of the world’s most popular bands, with more than 21 million Twitter followers — to participate in the plot.
“Oh no, I signed up for a Trump rally, and I can’t go,” said one woman who coughed sarcastically in a separate TikTok video.
Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, blamed “radical protestors” for “interfering” with the rally.
But Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 30-year-old leftist congresswoman from New York, clapped back: “You just got ROCKED by teens on TikTok.”
“KPop allies, we see and appreciate your contributions in the fight for justice too,” she added.
‘SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS FANS’
Though ascertaining the viral campaign’s concrete impact on the rally’s attendance is near impossible, the action spotlighted K-pop’s tradition as a politically engaged fandom.
Just in the past month, fans of the globally dominant pop genre — which was born approximately 25 years ago in South Korea — co-opted the hashtag #WhiteLivesMatter by flooding it with K-pop-related imagery to drown out racist tweets.
“K-pop has a culture of being responsible,” said CedarBough Saeji, an academic expert of the genre based out of Indiana University. “K-pop fans in general are outward-looking, socially conscious people and K-pop in the United States is very heavily supported by people of color, by people who identify as being LGBTQ,” she said.
K-pop superstars, known as idols, are expected to be role models, Saeji explained, and often inspire ardent fandoms.
Though adorers would often send gifts to their favorite performers, many stars ask support be sent to charities instead.
After BTS dropped US$1 million behind the Black Lives Matter movement, a fan collective charity — known as One in An ARMY — raised another million to match.
“BTS songs have played a role in motivating us to be confident with ourselves, to be kind to others and to be there for one another,” said Dawnica Nadora, a 27-year-old volunteer for the charity’s US arm.
In 2018, the powerhouse boy band addressed the UN, urging young people to engage their own convictions.
Saeji pointed to a “messaging of positivity” behind the current activism from fans.
“K-pop attracts people who like this kind of music but also who want to make the world a better place.”
That socially conscious attitude, coupled with internet savvy, makes the K-pop fandom a mighty force.
“Fans are online all the time... K-pop organizers are primarily on Twitter,” said Saeji, who said fans’ understanding of internet algorithms makes them a powerful group when it comes to online organizing.
According to the social media platform, #KpopTwitter posted a record 6.1 billion tweets in 2019.
“We are very lucky that ARMYs support one another, despite often being thousands of miles away from each other,” volunteer and BTS fan Nadora said, using the nickname for fans of the group.
“Most of us have never met each other in person, but what makes us work as a unit is that we respect each other, and help each other to improve.”
And though some political analysts cast the viral effort to rain on Trump’s parade as just a prank, a number of commentators including Saeji said it amounts to much more.
“They corrupted all of this data that the Trump campaign was trying to collect,” she said. “They basically showed the campaign, you’re not going to be able to trust any of your numbers in the future.”
“That is a powerful flex.”
Saeji also said the action gave youth online evidence of their own agency to provoke change.
“If they believe they can make a difference, they’re also going to believe that voting is worthwhile.”
Sept. 21 to Sept. 27 If word got out that you were planning a wedding during the Martial Law era, the “Committee for the improvement of Folk Customs” (改善民俗實踐會) might knock on your door. Each borough in Taipei had at least one “agent” who kept a pulse on community happenings. They would visit the family planning the wedding with a letter from the mayor, touting the benefits of being frugal and not wasting money on lavish ceremonies, even encouraging the families to donate money for scholarships. The authorities also discouraged them from hiring musicians and dancers, who were often loud and
Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is a way urban households can obtain healthy produce, while helping to build a more sustainable farming sector in Taiwan. King Hsin-i’s (金欣儀) transformation from advertising copywriter to social entrepreneur began in 2008, when she visited a rice farmer who practiced pesticide-free agriculture. “He explained that we have to leave space for other species. At the same time, I realized that while big companies have budgets to spread their messages, farmers have few chances to tell the public about their beautiful concepts,” she recalls. Inspired, she quit her job and traveled throughout rural Taiwan for a year. King went
Every day before she starts her shift at a government hospital in Singapore, Farah removes her hijab — the Islamic veil she has worn since a teenager. Although minority Muslim women can freely wear the hijab in most settings in Singapore, some professions bar the headscarf — and a recent case has triggered fresh debate on diversity and discrimination in the workplace. Now Farah has joined a growing number of Muslims — who account for about 15 percent of Singapore’s 4 million resident population — calling for the ban to end, with an online petition gathering more than 50,000 signatures. “They told me
If ever there was a reason to be inside on Mid-Autumn Festival, even for just an hour or so, while still celebrating the natural world, Cheng Tsung-lung (鄭宗龍) has provided one with his first full-length work for Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集) as artistic director, Sounding Light (定光). Judging by the excerpt performed for the press last week, Cheng shows he can be just as minimalistic as his mentor, troupe founder Lin Hwai-min (林懷民), while still forging his own unique path. Just as he did with last year’s Lunar Halo (毛月亮), his final work as director of Cloud Gate 2 (雲門2), Cheng