Blockout 2024: what should we realistically expect from celebrity activism?

In early May, audiences watched as stars descended on New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art for the 2024 Met Gala, all while bombs rained down on Rafah. In the days that followed the event, posts abounded on social media of pictures of celebrities cavorting in designer gowns juxtaposed next to the damage inflicted on Rafah. The gala has always been subject to criticism and controversy, but this year’s in particular was especially difficult to stomach – so much so that it sparked an entire online movement to divest not only from Israel but celebrity as a whole: the blockout 2024 movement, or the ‘digital guillotine’.

The idea is simple: you block notable celebrities who have either not said anything about Gaza or those who have attempted a ‘both sides’ approach to the issue. Instead of debating what a celebrity has said or hasn’t, you remove them from your online ecosystem entirely.

The concept of blocking celebrities isn’t new – I have done it for several years. It not only helps curate my online space, but allows me to avoid asinine discourse about the latest celebrity drama. I’m not the only one, either: student journalist Thuyu, 20, explains that she had started blocking celebrities before the new trend emerged. As she tells Dazed, “I’ve had Beyoncé blocked since 2019, but a friend of mine blocked her after the Superbowl this year. We both realised that the less I saw them [celebrities] on my screen, the less I talked about them, the less I gave them energy, the less I gave them my money.”


This Week’s Block List of Celebrities for the Blockout 2024 – who are YOURS?🙌🏾

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Some might argue that it’s weird to expect celebrities to make political statements, but it’s not as if it’s unusual for celebrities to take up a cause. In 2022, many expressed solidarity with Ukraine, and before that, it was finger-wagging about Trump, and vague platitudes about BLM and #MeToo. Though important, these are all much more ‘palatable’, less contentious mantles to take up when compared with Palestine. It’s a specific form of liberal politics that takes advantage of their unique class standing to promote viewpoints that make them appear progressive, while never calling for – or making – tangible change.

In reality, though, celebrity exists as what Communications Studies scholar P David Marshall sees as a marketable commodity. By thinking of celebrities in this way – not as artists, musicians or actors but as walking, talking commodities – their lack of care towards Gaza shouldn’t surprise us. For writer Haja Marie Kanu, it’s clear that we often expect celebrities to make political statements — not only because community leaders and politicians with a backbone are so far and few in between — but because we’ll feel betrayed if our parasocial besties don’t share our views. “It’s all very misplaced. We’re looking through the lens of celebrity and popular culture so we can understand a situation like genocide, which fundamentally, we don’t understand,” she says. “I don’t think anyone really understands it, because none of us has been within it. It’s mind-boggling, and it’s terrifying to witness.” 

For writer and grad student Leen, these anti-celebrity sentiments are actually bolstering celebrity culture. “Even with this idea of the blockout, you’re still really engaging in celebrity culture,” she says. “Of course, anybody with a platform and hundreds of thousands to millions of people following them has the space to create change. But forcing them to talk about it isn’t making any change — it just makes you feel better.” 

The celebrities piling up in blocklists aren’t just right-wing Zionists, either. Names on these lists include the likes of Bella Hadid, who has consistently put up with harassment from Zionists as a result of speaking out about Palestine, and Billie Eilish, who has been seen sporting an Artists4Ceasefire pin. With this in mind, is there any hope that the blockout movement will prove effective when its aims and targets seem unclear?


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“I find that people mask their punitive desires in this cloak of justice and this cloak of morality when, realistically, they’re just trying to take out that carceral impulse on other people,” Leen says. “Again, it’s good to disengage with celebrity culture, but it’s probably not great to base your activism around a celebrity. I don’t care about what Lizzo posted [on Tiktok] because I know that she doesn’t actually give a shit. We can’t teach them [celebrities] how to care about other people let alone social movements.”

It probably isn’t healthy to revere these people, or to give their words so much weight. But the fact still exists that celebrity voices hold weight to not just their fans but also, in Taylor Swift’s case, the American government. There are many questions to be asked, not only about celebrities’ role in social movements but about us as a culture and what we value. Detangling ourselves from the web of consumerism, fan culture, and unadulterated belief in our political systems is difficult and uncomfortable, but not impossible.

“A lot of us are trying to feel good about the art we’re consuming and being like, ‘I’m not a bad person because I’m listening to the song or supporting said celebrity’. They want absolution, and of course, you want to absolve yourself of the complicity,” Kanu surmises. “This is horrible, it’s one of the worst things we’ve seen in our lifetime. But the unfortunate truth is that everything is tied up and connected, including politics, art and famous people we value. I’m probably paraphrasing but there’s a quote by [Theodore] Adorno where he states, ‘You should live unpretentiously and unobtrusively for the shame of still having air to breathe in hell.’ And that is how it feels when you encounter horror like this.”

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  • Source of information and images “dazeddigital

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