Thirty-two year old American pop star Rihanna posted a Tweet yesterday (2 February) sharing a news article by CNN on the internet shutdown in several districts of Delhi's neighbouring state Haryana after the farmer tractor rally on 26 January in the national capital turned violent.
She wrote, “why aren’t we talking about this!?” as the caption.
Reportedly, the tweet caused the singer to trend on Twitter. With over 241,000 tweets, Rihanna was trending at the number one spot in India on the site. Till 11:10 pm (IST), her tweet garnered 144,000 likes and over 70,000 retweets.
Canadian YouTuber and actress Lily Singh tweeted in Rihanna’s support, "Yes! Thank you so much Rihanna. This is a humanity issue! #IStandWithFarmers”.
The same evening, Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg shared the same CNN article as Rihanna.
Actress Kangana Ranaut responded to Rihanna’s tweet. She said that “no one is talking about it [farmers’ protests] because they are not farmers they are terrorists who are trying to divide India”.
Ranaut pointed at China’s hand behind the protests, and said that it was trying to "take over” India and make it a “Chinese colony much like USA”.
Apart from Rihanna and Thunberg, adult film actress Mia Khalifa also came out in the support of farmers.
Khalifa, in another tweet, took a jibe on those calling the protesters ‘ paid actors’ and said, “I stand with the farmers”.
While the Tweets of support by western celebrities is being hailed as a score for the farmers’ protests, the 'celebritisation' of serious issues comes with its own challenges.
The show business industry is itself an interest group which hides its internal crimes assiduously, from sexual abuse to money laundering. The lack of trustworthiness of the industry can rub off on the social movements.
Also, most celebrities, when speaking on issues, don’t add to sincere, inclusive public discourse, instead, contribute to social media tribalism and polarisation.
One sided celebrity activism can also lead to a travesty of justice, as seen in the Kathua case. The photo of one of the accused Vishal went viral on social media, while he was later found innocent by the court.
The celebrity stance on social issues is not only questionable due to their apparent lack of knowledge of the complexity and continuous engagement, but also due to shifting loyalties based on private gains. By now, people know how support can be and is brought by different groups via PR companies.
The latest trend of western celebrities jumping into complex domestic matters of a Third World country, and Bollywood celebrities joining the attention bandwagon might have more disadvantages than benefits.
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