Donald Trump’s first campaign rally in three months was controversial for weeks. Not only because of his divisive messaging, but because his rally was expecting a crowd of 19,000 people; completely disregarding COVID social-distancing requirements. To add fuel to the fire the rally was originally scheduled to take place on Junteenth – a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States. Millions of teens took to TikTok to make sure the rally didn’t happen.
Here’s how it went down. Supporters were asked to register for free tickets using their phones on June 11. High profile teens on TikTok, including influential K-Pop music fans who recently made headlines for their online activism supporting the Black Lives Matter protests, began sharing the information with followers, encouraging them to register for the rally — and then ghost it. In other words, not show up. The original instigator was not young, but the very many who mobilised the action were. Teens spread the trend on TikTok, where multiple videos with millions of views were posted instructing viewers to do the same. One TikTok video spreading the message received over 600,000 likes. Many users deleted their post after 24 to 48 hours in order to conceal their plan from the mainstream media.
Even though Trump’s rally fielded more than a million ticket requests, the number of actual attendees was surprisingly low. Of the 19,000 seat stadium, only a third of the stadium was full. Twelve thousand registered seated participants, plus the large overfill planned for outside were no shows.
The action may also have messed up the Trump campaign’s data, flooding it with voters who appear to be good prospects to cast a vote for the President – engaged enough to put their hands up for a rally – but who are in fact far from fervent supporters.