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relates to No One Fights QAnon Like the Global Army of K-Pop Superfans
Illustration: Miigo for Bloomberg Businessweek

No One Fights QAnon Like the Global Army of K-Pop Superfans

BTS stans built the trolling blueprint for 4chan types, and they’ve proven they can disrupt it.

Even by the standards of U.S. politics in the accursed year 2020, the wall of thrusting digital crotches was weird. One day in June, barely a week after a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd and ignited nationwide protests, people started tweeting #WhiteLivesMatter so frequently that it became one of Twitter’s most popular hashtags worldwide. The white supremacist phrase is a call to arms within QAnon, the militant sect that believes God sent President Trump to defeat a shadowy cabal of pedophiles and child traffickers. But the tweets weren’t what they seemed. Anyone who clicked the hashtag or typed it into Twitter’s search bar looking for fellow racists instead found a rolling stream of video clips featuring Korean boy bands, their pelvises gyrating below their smoldering eyes and perfect pastel hair.

More than 22,000 tweets bearing Korean pop stars flooded hashtags like #WhiteLivesMatter and #QAnon that evening, according to market researcher Zignal Labs. Some typical accompanying text: “Stan twitter RISE.” The barrage effectively commandeered the hashtag and rendered it all but unusable to white supremacists. QAnon devotees are familiar with this tactic, known as keyword squatting, because they use it all the time. “They got beaten at their own game by Korean pop fans,” says Mike Rothschild, a conspiracy theory researcher who’s writing a book about QAnon. “I’d never seen anything like it before.”