Across the US, millions of 'Generation Z' believe that evil ol' Donald Trump is about to take away their favorite new toy - TikTok - after a brave cadre of courageous young people took to their keyboards and sabotaged his big campaign comeback event.
For the past few days, gen x influencers purportedly worried about the blowback to the influencer economy from the collapse of TikTok have been whining to reporters at the New York Times and Bloomberg, and those reporters have been publishing the choicest bits with nary an eye to accuracy.
Bloomberg reports that there's been a "mass migration" to Instagram, where the veteran TikTokers have been sharing a funereal procession of their greatest hits from the app...as if a sale to Microsoft would somehow end the freewheeling atmosphere allowed by the Communist Party. One such user described TikTok as "fundamentally an escape for a generation right now in isolation, especially, that needs it."
Late last week, the president said he planned to shut down Facebook's most formidable challenger: Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok. That threat sparked a panic among users that their digital clubhouse would soon be taken away or sold to Microsoft Corp. - and sent many popular TikTokers racing to move their creative endeavors to Instagram, the rival mobile app owned by Facebook. But shifting to Instagram is an unsatisfying solution, said Max Beaumont, who built a following on TikTok documenting his journey of self-improvement with videos about diet and skin care. TikTok has become "fundamentally an escape for a generation right now in isolation, especially, that needs it," he said. "Just because you can have a massive following on something like TikTok doesn't necessarily translate over to YouTube or to Instagram or to some of these others."
Another source, 25-year-old Brooklynnn Shrum, from Nashville, Tennessee, claims the app was a "safe and welcoming place for people in the LGBTQ community" (the implication is, Twitter, Facebook and other US-based social media platforms aren't).
"TikTok gave an entire generation a voice, a platform, and power and that terrifies a lot of people, including President Trump," said Brooklynn Shrum, 25, who downloaded TikTok earlier this year. "If you're banning it because of a cyber security risk is one thing, but if you don't let an American company buy it, that's pure politics."
Shrum lives outside of Nashville, Tennessee, and said TikTok provided a safe and welcoming place for people in the LGBTQ community like herself "to be themselves, without judgement." It also gave young people a platform for activism, even though some of them can't vote.
Shrum, who goes by @brooklyn322 on TikTok, posted an online tribute to the app last month and directed her followers to Instragram. "Follow me there in case the app goes down," she said. "It's been real."
But the real gems were found in the NYT story, written by ace millennial reporter Taylor Lorenz, a social media star who has amassed a sizable social media following (which apparently qualified her to write about the topic for the NYT).
One of Lorenz's sources, a 21-year-old named "Hootie Hurley", complained that TikTok has helped "put food on the table"...and now mean old President Trump is going to cast them adrift in the middle of an election.
“If TikTok did shut down, it would be like losing a bunch of really close friends I made, losing all the progress and work I did to get a big following,” said Ashleigh Hunniford, 17, who has more than 400,000 followers on the app. “It’s a big part of who I’ve become as a teenager. Losing it would be like losing a little bit of me."
There are also those for whom TikTok is their livelihood. “It has put food on our table,” said Hootie Hurley, 21, who has more than 1.1 million followers on the app. He said that a TikTok ban would be particularly devastating right now.
Even more ridiculous, Lorenz helped peddle a narrative that TikTok was an important source of pro-BLM content, helping to mobilize an army of teenage "activists", and implying that this might be another reason Trump wants it shut down.
In addition to giving young people a place to meet and entertain each other, TikTok has also been a platform for political and social justice issues.
“I think this will drastically affect political commentary among teenagers,” Ms. Hunniford said. “TikTok is an outlet for a lot of protest and activism and people talking about their political beliefs. Banning that would not carry well among people my age."
Lorenz's reporting also suggested that hopping from one platform to another would be nearly impossible. While that's true for some, any TikToker making good money on their following is probably already well diversified across platforms. A whole generation of social media influencers has endured the death of Vine.
Influencers who watched the fall of Vine, another popular short-form video app, in 2016 learned the importance of diversifying one’s audience across platforms. But even for TikTok’s biggest stars, moving an audience from one platform to another is a huge undertaking.
“I have 7 million followers on TikTok, but it doesn’t translate to every platform,” said Nick Austin, 20. “I only have 3 million on Instagram and 500,000 on YouTube. No matter what it’s going to be hard to transfer all the people I have on TikTok.”
So why have both Bloomberg and the NYT so willingly parroted these adolescent narratives about TikTok, lending credibility to the notion that the Trump Administration is targeting the app in retaliation for the Trump's Tulsa rally. As we reported at the time, reports of teens actually using the app to interfere with the event were overblown by a mainstream press willing to boost these ridiculous narratives for the sake of traffic.
To be clear: the notion that the Trump administration is barring TikTok in retaliation for Tulsa is as much of a 'whimsical conspiracy' as anything readers might find on Zero Hedge, if not more.