Culture

Influencers Are Getting Dragged For Turning Black Lives Matter Protests Into Instagram Content

"Influencers are the top five worst type of people in the world."

influencers exploiting protests for content

We missed you too. Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter, so you always know where to find us.

As protests and looting continues across the US, influencers have started to use the opportunity to create content for their social pages.

The peaceful protests for justice begun after police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on, and ultimately murdered, innocent black man, George Floyd. These protests then turned violent after clashes with police, which has resulted in widespread rioting and looting across the country.

While genuine protesters try to keep their marches peaceful, others have hopped onto the bandwagon to just create as much destruction as possible. This was the case in Arizona, where a bunch of white people ransacked Scottsdale Mall in Arizona despite the actual peaceful protest for George Floyd happening in downtown Phoenix.

But one group of people benefitting from these protests turning violent are influencers, who are finding new photo opportunities as the riots make for ~quirky~ backdrops.

We saw this earlier this week when YouTuber Jake Paul was criticised for joining looters in Arizona. While he denies actually partaking in any looting or rioting, footage shows Jake Paul filming at the scene for what was likely going to be a monetised vlog for his 20 million subscribers.

In his statement on Twitter, Jake Paul shared that he simply joined the looters while “doing our part to peacefully protest one of the most horrific injustices our country has ever seen.”

Spending the day gathering footage, Jake explained that he and his team were simply there to “film everything we saw in an effort to share our experience and bring more attention to the anger felt in every neighbourhood we travelled through”.

However, people weren’t happy with Jake Paul’s response that showed he was essentially just using the Black Lives Matter movement as a way to film and share a video to generate revenue.

But after the Jake Paul drama went down, more footage of other influencers exploiting the protests made its way online. Two white influencers, for example, both landed in hot water after one of them posted a text exchange to Close Friends on Instagram.

In the text, @tamella_k told her friend @serafina.0 that they should go to the protest — perhaps even drunk. In response, Serafina proudly shared that she would need to “find a riot outfit”.

The next day, Tamella uploaded a photo from the protest as the pair wore their planned “riot outfits”. After the exchange was shared online, Temalla faced so much backlash that she deactivated her account, while Serafina put hers on private.

However, as people begun to direct message Serafina for answers, she took the opportunity to apologise for her actions. She called the backlash “eye opening” and said that she was “deeply sorry for using this horrible situation for social media” and hopes that she can “do better from now on”.

But this running theme of influencers using the Black Lives Matter movement for personal gain is becoming a continued issue. Videos of white women using destroyed storefronts as an opportunity to take pictures for their social accounts have begun to make their way online in recent days.

In one viral video, an unidentified white woman wearing activewear asks her boyfriend to take a photo of her in front of a destroyed T-Mobile in Santa Monica. Using the current events as a ~cool~ backdrop for her photo, people quickly criticised the woman for her total lack of self-awareness and total detachment from the reason these protests are happening.

Even When They See Us director Ava DuVernay weighed in on the video to point out the performative nature of the unidentified woman’s “support”.

To all the white people doing this #BlackOutTuesday thing, talk about this amongst yourselves,” DuVernay tweeted. “Pinpoint why and how you perform empathy rather than actually act on empathy.” 

People online also shared this sentiment, calling for the decision to take a photo in front of a destroyed store front “the whitest of white privilege” and “completely detached from reality“.

But even worse, a similar video went viral when conservative Washington Examiner journalist, Fiona Moriarty-McLaughlin, borrowed a drill from a worker boarding up a store front to pose for a picture.

In the viral video, Fiona is seen holding a drill up to a Santa Monica storefront that’s currently being worked on. After the man she’s with snaps the picture, Fiona pulls down her mask and thanks the construction worker before hopping into her black Mercedes and driving away.

The video is another perfect example of performative activism in real-time — all done just so her followers could think she was doing something, instead of actually taking time to make a real difference. Also deciding to get a photo protecting stores instead of calling for justice for George Floyd speaks volumes about Fiona’s mindset.

After the video went viral and people started to attack her, Fiona deleted her Twitter account and made her Instagram page private. As celebrities like Ava DuVernay and Lebron James voiced their disappointment in Fiona’s actions, people begun tagging the Washington Examiner to try and have the journalist fired from her job.

But these continued instances of performative activism — from taking photos in front of destroyed store fronts to posting a #BlackoutTuesday Instagram photo without doing anything else to actually support Black Lives Matter movement — are just proof that influencer culture is broken.

Being opportunistic and only supporting causes when they can provide content for you isn’t anything to be proud of. Influencers have the power to use their privilege for good, yet continue to try and profit from it as innocent black people die for simply existing.

Black Lives Matter isn’t an opportunity to post a photo on Instagram. Black Lives Matter is your chance to actually take a stand and make a difference.

Fiona Moriarty-McLaughlin did not immediately respond to Junkee’s request for comment.