K-pop stans have a fearsome reputation online, able to mobilize in vast numbers in support of their chosen cause. Usually that just means spreading the gospel of K-pop, but as protests have erupted across America in response to the police killing of George Floyd, and President Trump has threatened to send in the military against those on the streets, fans have found a new cause: flooding right-wing hashtags like #MAGA and #BlueLivesMatter with memes, GIFs, and videos of their favorite K-pop artists.
This recent political activation seems to have started after the Dallas Police Department asked the public on Sunday to submit videos of “illegal activity from the protests” via a dedicated app. Stans responded by submitting K-pop content including fancams (short, fan-recorded clips of artists) and Dallas PD were eventually forced to take down the app.
Now it seems the stans are turning their attention on right-wing hashtags more generally. Browsing Twitter or Instagram for hashtags like #MAGA and #BlueLivesMatter shows that the most recent posts are full of K-pop fancams and memes that mock these causes. Other stan groups like the Barbz, who support Nicki Minaj, are also getting involved. (Although the top posts, those that are most engaged with, still usually come from sincere supporters.)
Some of the hashtags being targeted are specifically related to recent protests. On Monday, for example, the Twitter account of the Kirkland, WA police force asked followers to use the hashtag #calminkirkland to pass on information about “rioting or looting” in the city. Browsing the hashtag on Twitter now just reveals endless clips of K-pop groups like BTS, (usually accompanied by requests that police arrest the men for “stealing my heart”).
These types of coordinated actions may only be in effect for a short period until the stans’ attention moves on. But such temporary struggles for the “control” of popular hashtags can still be significant. Earlier this week, for example, activists noted that the Blackout Tuesday initiative, where users shared black squares on social media in solidarity with the protests, had unintended negative consequences, drowning out vital information about bail funds and protest locations being shared under the #BLM and #BlackLivesMatter hashtags.
Although police in the US have responded to protests with curfews and violence, demonstrations continue across America, with tens of thousands continuing to march.