Stars Slammed for Silence on Orlando Shooting
By Itay Hod on June 22, 2016
â€œWhy is it OK to tweet something about National Yoga Day but not about this?â€ prominent gay activist tells TheWrap
Some gay activists feel slightedÂ by stars who offered their love and support on Twitter afterÂ massÂ killings in Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Paris and Brussels â€” but notÂ after the Orlando shooting.
â€œSilence speaks volumes,â€ gay advocate Danielle Moodie-Mills, who consulted for GLAAD, told TheWrap. â€œWhy is it OK to tweet something about National Yoga Day but not about this?â€
Blogger Perez Hilton named names, calling out celebrities like Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Drake â€” none of whom responded fast enough, he says. The issue is whether stars were less demonstrative with their support because the victims were LGBT.
â€œFâ€“k that bullshit!â€ Hilton said during aÂ recent podcast. â€œI am judging them.â€
Many find it distasteful to make an issue of celebrity tweets as the country fights over gun control and mourns the loss of 49 people killed by Omar Mateen.
Asked about criticism thatÂ Rihanna hasÂ tweeted about her upcoming tour, but has yet to mention the Orlando shooting on any of her social media platforms,Â a publicist for the star told TheWrap: â€œI am honestly hoping that youâ€™re NOT trying to take this tragedy and write a story about how Rihanna hasnâ€™t tweetedâ€Ž about it. Iâ€™m honestly going to pretend you didnâ€™t write this email.â€
And AIDS activist Peter Staley, who was featured in the 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary â€œHow to Survive a Plague,â€ told TheWrap he has bigger things to worry about than what starsÂ say online.
â€œI donâ€™t really follow the celebrity world. itâ€™s not my thing,â€ he said. â€œThe activism that has been pouring out since the massacre has been substantial and real, andÂ Iâ€™m not sure I careÂ thatÂ much whatÂ various celebritiesÂ tweet or donâ€™t tweet.â€
But tweets matter, says Chad Kawalec, aÂ social media marketing expert and founder of the Los Angeles-based Brand Identity Center.
â€œAnyone wondering if celebrities really wield any true influence should ask why major brands continuously pay them upwards of $10,000 for a single tweet,â€ Kawalec told TheWrap. â€œTheir millions of fans â€˜followâ€™ them â€” both literally and figuratively.They are referred to as â€˜influencersâ€™ in the marketing world for a reason.â€
Kawalec, who is gay, said he didnâ€™t understand why someone wouldnâ€™t tweet messages of Orlando support. â€œI donâ€™t mean this as a dig, butÂ itâ€™s hard to justify saying nothing when it costs nothing to say something,â€ he said.
Hilton said in an email to TheWrap: â€œIt was glaring as the days went on who DIDNâ€™T say something. I think EVERYONE â€” celebrity or civilian â€” has a responsibility to speak on events that shift the cultural landscape in such a massive and awful way, like the tragedy in Orlando. ESPECIALLY if youâ€™re a celebrity who is often on social media and even more often trying to promote themselves and their products. If you donâ€™t speak out, youâ€™re siding with the culprits! Silence is deafening! Sadly, a lot of celebrities are cowards. But, what happened last week is not about politics or sexuality. Itâ€™s about humanity! And not speaking on it shows a great lack of humanity.â€
In some cases, stars who were silent on Orlando nonetheless tweeted about their products and projects.Â Adding to the activistsâ€™ frustration is that so many celebrities who didnâ€™t comment on Orlando did express support after previous mass killings.
For example, whenÂ gunmen stormed the Bataclan concert hall in Paris in November, killing 130 people, Hollywoodâ€™s biggest names took to social media to show their solidarity and send their prayers to the French capital.
SwiftÂ posted a picture of herself standing on a bridge with the caption: â€œPraying for Paris. Our hearts are breaking for and with you.â€ The Instagram post got more than 2 million likes and 24,000 comments. DrakeÂ postedÂ a picture of the Eiffel Tower to his more than 22 million followers. And Justin Beiber posted a heartfelt message to his more than 80 million Twitter fans, saying, â€œThoughts and prayers with everyoneÂ #PrayForParis.â€
Rihanna alsoÂ tweeted her support to the victims of the Brussels bombing, telling her more than 60 million fans, â€œPraying for all those whoâ€™ve been affected by acts of terror across the globe, most recent being in Brusselsâ€¦ Heart breaking!â€
But none of the above stars spoke out about Orlando immediately after the shooting. When Swift eventually did offer support, theÂ Huffington Post noted that she honored OrlandoÂ â€œafter nearly a week of silence.â€
BieberÂ tweeted aboutÂ Orlando four days after the attack â€” after Perez HiltonÂ and fans complained about his lack of a response.
Some activistsÂ say they donâ€™t want to nit-pick who tweets what, but do want those with great platforms to use them for good.
â€œThere are two things that move society: pop culture and politics,â€ said Moodie-Mills. â€œAnd pop culture can reach people in a way that politics canâ€™t. When a star says, â€˜This is important to me,â€™ it matters.â€
ManyÂ Hollywood celebrities responded to Orlando quickly and wholeheartedly. Bette Midler tweeted no less than 23 messages related to Orlando and changed her cover picture to a rainbow flag. Lady Gaga followed her tweets with a heartfelt speechÂ demanding justice for LGBT people. Beyonce closed the first leg of her â€œFormation World Tourâ€ by dedicating her hit song, â€œHalo,â€ to the Orlando victims.
And Broadwayâ€™s biggest names sang,Â â€œWhat The World Needs Now Is Love,â€ in honor of the victims. The performersÂ includedÂ Whoopi Goldberg, Kristen Bell, Matthew Broderick, Gloria Estefan, Idina Menzel, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Rosie Oâ€™Donnell and Sarah Jessica Parker.
One reason the issue is so difficult, saysÂ prominent gay activist Cleve Jones, is that the Orlando shooting â€œdidnâ€™t fit into a simple convenient narrative.â€
It isnâ€™t about one issue, but rather a perfect storm of many extremely complexÂ ones. The growing list of issues the Orlando attackÂ evokesÂ includesÂ homophobia, race, terrorism, gun control and mental illness. Some celebrities may be understandably hesitant to stake out positions that may change as more facts emerge.
The issues areÂ so sensitiveÂ that even one celebrity who tried to show support for victims was criticized. After Nick Jonas turned up at a New York CityÂ vigil for the Orlando victims, a gay Huffington Post writer said he seemed a little too eager in anÂ article titled: â€œDearÂ Nick Jonas, Thereâ€™s a Way To Be A Straight Ally. That Wasnâ€™t It.â€
The article criticized the singer for taking â€œup spaceâ€ and infringing on the gay communityâ€™s moment of grief. Many readers disagreed with it.
Kawalec says social media teams that work for A-listÂ stars will have to take a hard look at their practices afterÂ Orlando. The first lesson is not to try to move units during a national tragedy.
â€œWhenever there was any kind of negative world event, we immediately stopped any advertising for any of our major brands,â€ Kawalec said. â€œThe last thing you want is to seem likeÂ youâ€™re still busy trying to make a buckÂ while people are crying.â€