Online trolls and far-right conspiracy theorists learned a valuable lesson this week: Do not upset Korean pop music superfans.
On Sunday, K-pop stan Twitter rallied in support of the Black Lives Matter movement by spamming a request from the Dallas Police Department for “video of illegal activity from the protests” with videos known as “fancams,” or short clips of K-pop performers. The Dallas PD shut down its iWatch Dallas app soon after.
Following the success of “#BlackLivesMatter” and “#BlackoutTuesday” hashtags on Twitter, 4chan users set out to get their own hashtags -- “#WhiteLivesMatter” and “#WhiteoutWednesday” -- trending on Twitter the following morning to spread white supremacist propaganda and cause confusion about protests over the police killing of George Floyd. While those hashtags did trend, people who clicked on them were more likely to end up with a screen full of K-pop videos than racist tweets about “replacement migration.”
After taking on the police and 4chan, K-pop Twitter turned its focus on an unexpected target: the QAnon conspiracy theory.
QAnon is an absolutely batshit conspiracy theory that’s caught on in right-wing media. At least 50 current or former congressional candidates have embraced the conspiracy theory, which centers around a secret plan involving President Donald Trump, a cabal of his “deep state” enemies, upcoming mass arrests, and a mysterious entity known as “Q” who shares insider information with people on internet message boards. In May 2019, an FBI field office issued a memo listing QAnon as a potential domestic terrorist threat, and the conspiracy theory has been linked to multiple crimes and threats of violence. Trump himself has inexplicably boosted QAnon supporter Twitter accounts at least 131 times.
For some reason, K-Pop fans decided to start tweeting popular QAnon hashtags like “#QAnon” and “#WWG1WGA,” shorthand for the conspiracy theory’s slogan “Where we go one, we go all.” Understandably, this was more than a little frustrating for the Q-obsessed conspiracy theorists. Hilariously, this resulted in even more conspiracy theories involving George Soros and antifa to explain the surge in K-pop tweets including the QAnon hashtags.
Writer Mike Rothschild documented some of the more amusing and unhinged responses from QAnon believers.
There’s actually an important lesson in all of this, even if everything written above reads like total gibberish: “Meme warfare” is real, and it’s not going away any time soon.
Between the 4channers, the K-pop stans, and the QAnon supporters, this is a case study in coordinated social media platform manipulation. Earlier in the week, a Twitter account claiming to belong to a national “antifa” organization was outed as being actually run by a white supremacist group, and a coordinated plan to sow chaos by falsely claiming the existence of a social media blackout in Washington, D.C., was uncovered.
It’s important that all of us -- especially those working in the media -- understand how easy it is to manipulate social media for political gains. And while manipulation isn’t always necessarily used for evil -- few people will shed tears over conspiracy theorists being temporarily frustrated online -- you can't believe everything you see trending on Twitter.