/ 15 May 2024

Blockout a digital guillotine against pro-Israel celebrities

The Mark Hotel: 2024 Met Gala Departures
Haley Baylee wore a Marie Antoinette inspired outfit to the Met Gala and it was a post of hers that referenced the infamous "let them eat cake" phrase that sparked the celebrity blockout. (Photo by Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu via Getty Images)

I enjoy pop culture and keeping abreast of celebrities, movies, series, fashion and music. That means I have an affinity to certain celebrities, pop icons and moments in the celebrity world. 

Partaking in pop culture is a form of escape from the murkiness and desolate place the world can be. I need this dose of escapism to keep my mind fresh and not focused on the doom and gloom we’re bombarded with. 

Sometimes I — to use a woke phrase — cancel a celebrity when they do something despicable or stand for a cause that I don’t support. 

I often feel guilty. Why am I spending time on this nonsense when people all over are suffering, when children are starving and human rights are infringed upon? 

The recent Met Gala gave me a proper Hunger Games vibe. The rich and wealthy flaunted their wealth and fashion choices while in other places pamphlets and food were dropped where Palestinians were being killed by Israel Defence Forces.

It left me questioning why I should enjoy the sartorial choices of the wealthy at the Met Gala. I reminded myself that humans are complicated creatures; we can enjoy things yet still grieve and feel pain as innocents suffer. Those things are not mutually exclusive. 

The thing that sticks out is that while these obscenely rich people flaunt their style, air time is given to them, air time that can be given to highlight the plight of people living in a refugee camp that is being bombed.

What I tend to focus on are celebrities who use their voices for good. The likes of American actor Mark Ruffalo, American rapper Macklemore, Canadian singer-songwriter the Weeknd and the Hadid sisters — American models Gigi and Bella — to name a few.They are people who use their platforms of millions to speak out for Palestine. 

I scroll past people who support Israel. The likes of actor Jerry Seinfeld, Canadian singer Justin Bieber, the Kardashian family and DJ Black Coffee, who puts profits ahead of human rights, need to stay far away from my cell phone. 

One thing good about the Met Gala was that it sparked a movement I can get behind. It is called Blockout 2024. Al Jazeera reported that users are calling it a digital guillotine against celebrities’ silence about Gaza. 

So far, celebrities such as Taylor Swift have lost thousands of followers on various platforms. The idea behind Blockout is to stop celebrities from receiving money from social media platforms. 

One ingenious idea that people had was to go online to Skims, Kim Kardashian’s clothing brand, and add items to the cart for purchase. They then abandoned the items in the cart. This prompted emails and ads on social platforms reminding people to complete their purchases. Once these reminders popped up, the brand was subsequently blocked. 

The brand would have had to pay money for the reminders. By blocking Skims follower numbers would decline, leading to less ad revenue and more reluctance from other brands to work with Skims. I am on board with blocking these tone-deaf celebs. 

Look at the Weeknd and Mark Ruffalo; their solidarity with Palestine has seen scant decline in popularity or work opportunities. Rapper Macklemore has been particularly vocal in his support for Palestine, especially with his new track, Hind’s Hall

The Hadid sisters might lose modelling contracts but I’m pretty sure they’d prefer to not work with those collaborating with or supporting the genocide. Sometimes, movements and the cancel culture, well this form of it anyway, have a positive effect. 

My pop culture affinity has been doused a bit; I find myself having less time for it. Who knows what I’ll do when the next season of one of my favourite series, Stranger Things, comes out, especially since one of the actors was seen holding a sticker saying “Zionism is sexy”. 

Don’t get me started on the backlash faced by footballers who support Palestine and the indifference to players supporting Israel. I’m looking at you, Oleksandr Zinchenko, I hope Arsenal fails dismally when it tries to win a trophy.

Blockout and the protests on university campuses against Israel’s actions in Gaza leaves me feeling hopeful. I’ll end this piece off with admiration for the generation putting this into action. The name of a song by The Who comes to mind — The Kids Are Alright.