Opinion: Forcing K-Pop stars and other celebrities to support your cause is hardly democratic and counterproductive

Hundreds of thousands of Thai netizens on Tuesday used the hashtag #แบนไอดอลคนไทยในเกาหลี (ban Thai idols in South Korea) to boycott the famous Thai k-pop idols in Thailand for not speaking up about the pro-democracy movement happening in their home country.

The hashtag, which amassed over 500k retweets overnight, called out Thai idols – from the likes of Lisa BLACKPINK, BamBam GOT7, Nichkhun of 2PM, Ten of NCT, and Sorn of CLC – vowing to no longer support their careers and accusing them of being privileged and not caring about what is going on in Thailand.

“I agree with #แบนไอดอลคนไทยในเกาหลี,” one user wrote. “In this situation, they shouldn’t be silent. We really need their voice because this is not a political issue, it’s about human rights.”

A tweet by BamBam, which paid tribute to the late Hollywood actor Chadwick Boseman captioned “Forever My Hero” was attacked.

“So you’re not gonna say anything about #whatshappeninginthailand right?” one user responded, “and this is my choice to #แบนไอดอลคนไทยในเกาหลี”

Many netizens have compared their silence and lack of participation to the late PDRC protests in 2014, where hundreds of Thai celebrities came out in support of the movement against the government of Yingluck Shinawatra which ultimately brought in the junta.

Many have also linked it to the #BLM protests, where the world – including K-pop stans – came together to shed light and support the movement, online and offline.

A Thai user even went as far as comparing celebrity participation with John Boyega’s rousing Black Lives Matter speech. Back in June, the Star Wars actor took to the streets demanding justice for black lives, saying black lives have always been important, and, in tears, exclaiming “Look, I don’t know if I’m going to have a career after this, but fuck that.”

“Remember when John Boyega took to the streets?” the user wrote. “his career and life was on the line, but he cared more about humanity. He also saw that his fans were in trouble, and not just blindly waiting for support from his fans.”

But here is the difference between what the current protesters are demanding versus PDRC, BLM, John Boyega and K-pop stans during the BLM protests – those were all voluntary.

According to American political scientist Larry Diamond, democracy consists of four key elements – a political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections; the active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; protection of the human rights of all citizens; a rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.

The very act of forcing other citizens alone already breaks the two key elements of democracy – active political participation and protection of human rights.

Democracy is based on the idea that everyone has their own, independent, individual voice that they can choose to or not to express.

If you want to have a democratic society, you also have to respect other people’s choice to not voice their opinion.

That’s how a democratic society works.

Democracy is different from a dictatorship for a reason – in dictatorships, a dictator has the power to do whatever they want. You have a leader, who solely controls everything that goes on in society, while the individuals’ rights are suppressed. People, in dictatorships, do not have the freedom to do what or say what they want, living in a controlled environment of fear and intimidation.

Isn’t #แบนไอดอลคนไทยในเกาหลี quite similar to that?

Demanding these celebrities to come out and talk about a cause that matters to you – or only a certain group of people – is undemocratic and crosses the line. Calling out these idols and threatening their careers is simply an infringement of rights.

Even if one may think it is the right thing to do — in a democratic society, one would also respect the opinion and rights of others even if they interfere with one’s own, think or act differently, or are uncommitted to do the same.

Not to mention the fact that these idols who live abroad probably have fewer experiences and insight as to what is happening right now in Thailand, and are usually under strict contract and rules under their labels.

“In conclusion – no one can have a different opinion,” one Twitter user responded. “We can’t be still, we can’t not talk. Before one calls out for freedom, please respect the voices of others. We all have different duties and lives – you can say anything in the Twitter chamber. Too many demands will only bring more divisiveness, throwing all logic and rationality out to sea.”

Calling out these world-famous idols might actually bring adverse results and gain less support from others when you need it most.

Which is an entirely different story and outcome to the active participants of BLM, where everyone came together in support of one another.

Calling people out, according to many studies and reviews, is hardly ever effective.

Calling people in, in contrast, lifts you and the participant on a higher plane of “service and an open heart.”

It allows for a constructive, positive space for collaboration and debate. By trying to understand where they are coming from, you are building on each other’s strengths, rather than calling on their weaknesses and shortcomings as being the cause of the problem and tearing them down.

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