Influencers Who Spoke Out Against the MAGA Mob Discuss the Others Who Stayed Silent
In the midst of doomscrolling Twitter for news about the attack on the United States Capitol on Wednesday, I was interrupted by an automated tweet from a mommy blogger announcing she had just posted an Instagram photo. I had to laugh. While a mob was attempting a coup, an influencer was shared a photo of herself twirling in a dress, with a caption about deep dish pizza and new year’s resolutions. And there were more just like her.
On Reddit, some people began to unfollowing any influencer who was pretending as if nothing was happening in the Capitol. If they continued to post swipe-ups and chat about their home renovations, in other words, they were swiftly eliminated.
While certain Redditors defended the influencers, who they felt shouldn’t be expected to comment on world events, the majority seemed to think that any influencer who would not use their platform to at least acknowledge a grave threat to democracy was not someone worth following. Some influencers themselves agree.
“I can't lie—I'm confused by” the lack of response from other influencers, Cameron Rogers of FreckledFoodie, says over email. Yesterday Rogers posted a meme on her page about the difference in how police responded to Wednesday’s extremists versus this summer’s Black Lives Matter protesters, and it spread far beyond her 48,000 followers. “I realize that you are not signing up to be a news outlet when you decide to be an influencer,” she says. “But you also cannot deny that you have a following and an influence over people. It is the reason you have a job.”
Influencers faced a similar dilemma during the Black Lives Matter protests. For many, the desire to maintain a “positive space” was outweighed by the necessity to condemn police violence against Black Americans. But for those who tried to have it both ways—speak out without alienating anyone—their gestures were, to many, meaningless.
For Rogers, the choice is easy. If you’re inevitably going to make some followers mad, you might as well be on the right side of history.
“I have always promised myself that I would stay true to my voice with my platform and that speaking out on human rights and what I find important will always be more important than something as superficial as a follower count,” she says.
Aubry Bennion, the creator behind Hello Maypole, takes a more neutral stance. She strongly condemned the attack in D.C. on an Instagram Story to her over 12,000 followers, but had a message for those who thanked her for being one of the few to speak out: find new influencers to follow.
“My feed was full of tweets and shares and slides full of commentary,” she says over email. “I'm happy to use my platform to speak up about what's important to me, but I wouldn't tell my followers to hold other people accountable to my values in other spheres. I think it's up to the follower to curate their online environment and if an influencer doesn't or no longer resonates, it's a follower's choice to come or go—either forever or for a time-out breather.”
Danielle Jones, an OBGYN with almost 200,000 followers who posted a caption referring to the attack as “terrorism,” feels her particular role comes with a special responsibility.
“I absolutely think speaking on important topics is in the realm of influencers, but even more so I believe calling out threats to public health (like racism) is important for me as a doctor who is a public figure,” she says over email. “It’s hard for me to dictate that all influencers MUST speak on something, because I find it ridiculous that others think they have a right to police what I share myself—but I do think it is RIGHT for people with a platform to push for justice.”
Rogers says that any backlash she’s experiencing is worth it both for the positive responses she has received, and the opportunity to express her own values:“Every time there is a blind eye turned, silence is chosen, or someone decides not to call out this type of behavior, they play a role in encouraging the type of behavior that happened in D.C. yesterday.”