Tara Isabella Burton on the K-Pop Election

President Donald Trump speaks to a smaller than anticipated crowd during a campaign rally at the BOK Center on June 20, 2020, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

When you’re looking over your shoulder for skulduggery from Joe Biden and antifa, you may lose sight of mischief from Korean boy bands. The Trump campaign’s wild attendance predictions for its rally in a 19,000-seat stadium in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 20 may have been the result of a massive mobilization of K-pop fans, who later claimed to have reserved tickets on Twitter and video platform TikTok to reserve tickets with no intention of showing up.

The rally, which the campaign boasted got as many as a million sign-ups, had a final attendance of 6,200 people. An outdoor speech to an expected overflow crowd was canceled altogether.

Political organizers from both sides of the aisle later cast doubt on the TikTok Effect, which might be chalked up as another surreal stalking horse for truth in the increasingly bizarre annals of 2020: the political relevancy of K-pop stans falling somewhere between the president suggesting that people inject their lungs with bleach to cure the coronavirus and the proliferation of murder hornets.

But the melding of fan culture and political activism, if it didn’t determine the Trump no-shows this time, is only a matter of time. The cult of the extremely online, when merged with young people’s growing political awareness and the urgency of fandom, has the makings of a freewheeling anti-institutional force.

For young Americans, the internet is not just a disembodied space in which to gather, but a new way to think about gathering: one that rejects top-down, hierarchical modes of information transmission in favor of decentralized, creative autonomy. It’s equal parts social movement and new religion: offering participants at once the communal catharsis that sociologist Émile Durkheim called “collective effervescence,” and a sense of shared meaning that is increasingly rare in our fractured age.

It’s not for nothing that a full 36% of Americans born after 1985 say they belong to no organized religious tradition, compared with just 23% of Americans overall, although most still say they maintain faith in a higher power.

Fan culture typifies internet culture as a whole, reflecting broader shifts in how we think about — or reject — broader civic institutions. It allows members to transcend their physical bonds to seek out like-minded people across the country and create communities based on affinity, not geography. No less importantly, it allows people to think of themselves as engaged co-creators of content as much as the previous generations considered themselves passive consumers.

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Source: Religion News Service