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Boycotts for celebs not using their voice to roar against Israel

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The roiling wall of glitz and glamour that is the Met Gala – or the “literal Hunger Games party” – has been the turning point for social media users crying out for justice in the Gaza Strip. The stark dichotomy between the world of the wealthy elite and the hell of the persecuted few has rarely been in a harsher light.

Now, amid the backdrop of a heavy police crackdown on pro-Palestinian student protesters and the ongoing Military assault on Rafah that will result in the deaths of millions of Palestinians, the display of extreme wealth has proven to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

To mark their staunch support for persecuted Palestinians, social media users are blocking en-masse celebrities who have not used their platforms to speak out against the atrocities being carried out in the Gaza Strip. According to Middle East Eye, the mass blocking even has a name: Operation Blockout.

"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 stated in a French Revolution-themed video complete with the illustration of a guillotine. In the video, which has now been viewed more than 1.7 million times, the TikTokker added, "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. We sentence you to the digitine.”

Operation Blockout is the only option that makes sense to social media users screaming for justice. “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."

The movement snowballed into existence after 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. The social media outrage was almost instantaneous.

"'Let them eat cake' while you passed people protesting against genocide and famine outside the Met Gala is the most out of touch thing that I have seen thus far,” tweeted one disgusted user. Another user added, "The sound choice that you're using on this day is WILD. We are truly living in a dystopian world." Yet another commenter penned, "Girl, read the room."

In the wake of the 'let them eat cake' debacle, one TikTok user prepared a spreadsheet of various online figures for people to reference as part of "Operation Blockout". As well as blocking celebrities on social media platforms, some users are also calling for musicians to be blocked on social streaming services like Spotify.

The call for blocking celebrities and social media iNFLuencers has extended beyond TikTok, with X users sharing videos and posts with the hashtag #Blockout2024. As a result, as many celebrities find themselves facing the prospect of being named in 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.

Meanwhile, in an eight-minute video, Haley apologised for her ‘let them eat cake’ sound choice and explained 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. While some have accepted the gestures, others have dismissed them as a desperate bid to stay off the blocking list. 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.

With Operation Blockout having only just begun, only time will reveal the full impact of the social media campaign.

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