“In its second minute the Hate rose to a frenzy. People were leaping up and down in their places and shouting at the tops of their voices in an effort to drown the maddening bleating voice that came from the screen.…The dark-haired girl behind Winston had begun crying out ‘Swine! Swine! Swine!’ and suddenly she picked up a heavy Newspeak dictionary and flung it at the screen.…In a lucid moment Winston found that he was shouting with the others and kicking his heel violently against the rung of his chair. The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretense was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp.” — George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four
Libs of TikTok is a right-wing social media account that Joe Rogan has called “one of the greatest fucking accounts of all time.” Matt Walsh has called its creator “probably the top journalist in the country right now.” The account’s creator, Chaya Raichik, has dined with Donald Trump, and the account has over 2.6 million followers on Twitter (“X”). Last year, the Washington Post reported that this “social media” phenomenon had become a core part of the right-wing media ecosystem.
Libs of TikTok promises viewers “news you won’t see anywhere else.” In practice, it mostly seems to offer a constant supply of new people to hate. For instance, earlier this month Raichik posted a picture of a staff member of the Department of the Interior named Tyler Cherry. To my mind, Cherry looks stylish and fun:
I love that jacket. I want that jacket. But Raichik did not post the picture so that people would admire Tyler’s jacket. She posted it so they would viciously mock him. “This is the Communications Director for the Secretary of Interior,” she said, followed by, “Biden admin try not to hire total weirdos challenge = impossible.” She then posted various pictures of Cherry wearing dresses and social media posts he had made about systemic racism, intersectionality, etc. The comments on the post were, predictably, full of people attacking Cherry’s appearance and sexuality.
Tyler Cherry is, at least, a reasonably high-ranking public official, albeit one most people probably hadn’t heard of until Raichik’s post. But many of her targets are ordinary people with no public profile. They are the so-called “Libs of TikTok,” people who posted videos to their personal accounts, thinking they’re just speaking to a small group of people. Raichik finds their videos and promotes them to an audience of millions, viewers who despise the subjects’ liberal or leftist politics.
A couple of examples just from the last few weeks. Here Raichik posts a video of a transgender person who records an on-camera confession, in their car, that they’re frustrated about being constantly misgendered at work:
The video in question, if you’re a person with a conscience, is actually quite moving, because the person says that their coworker asked them “What are you going to do about it?” in response to their request to use the correct pronouns, and they could only reply that they would be hurt and sad. The person in the video reports their dismay that their boss took the side of the misgendering colleague. Raichik’s reaction is to mock someone for being a “grown adult” and who has a “breakdown over being misgendered.”
This one is a charming video of a teacher talking about how she has a “Support Queer Kids” sticker on her mug, and one of her 10th graders talked to her about it, and she talked to them about coming out. The video ends with a message of love and support to queer kids and a reminder that there are people who care about them. “You are valid and loved,” she says.
Raichik’s reaction? “These are the people teaching your kids.” Raichik pushes the conservative moral panic about LGBTQ people being “groomers” trying to have sex with children and tells her viewers constantly that they need to pull their children out of public schools because of all the terrible gay and trans stuff there. It’s all openly bigoted, because it’s based on the premise that there is something inherently wrong with being openly gay. Raichik treats queer people as freaks who should not exist in public life. For instance, take this one:
This teacher’s video features him doing a little dance and seeming really happy. His “crime” is that he is waving a pride flag, wearing pink, and just being very proudly gay. That is enough for Raichik to sic her followers on him.
Those who follow and comment on Libs of TikTok are some of the most unpleasant people on the internet, and when Raichik posts someone like the teacher with the mug, hundreds of comments like this appear:
Raichik encourages the hate, asking questions like this:
The responses are predictable:
Note that everyone has blue checks, because Elon Musk (a fan of Libs of TikTok) has altered Twitter so that people can buy blue checkmarks and make their replies more visible.
This version of a “What’s your reaction?” post admittedly baffled me, as I struggled to spot what was objectionable:
“All are welcome here.” “Every child matters.” “You rock!” “Love yourself!” The problem here appears to be that LGBTQ acceptance is promoted.
Raichik might deny that she’s trying to whip up hate. When VICE published a story this month showing that after schools appeared on Libs of TikTok, they soon started receiving bomb threats, Raichik insisted there was no proof that the people who called in the bomb threats actually followed her account. The most vile commentary comes from the replies, not the account itself, which presents itself as “journalism” merely telling people about things that are happening in the world. But it’s clear that Raichik thinks there is something inherently wrong with having a pride flag in a school, or being a drag queen. Raichik recently introduced her viewers to a school counselor who had pride-themed (and anti-Nazi!) messages on her social media accounts, and who had sent an email to her school relaying an inquiry from the school nurse on what inclusive language to use when discussing health:
For this offense, the counselor was publicly shamed by Raichik. I imagine it’s an extremely unpleasant experience to find yourself highlighted on Libs of TikTok, since the hateful messages and even death threats start flooding in soon after. I’ve been subjected to flurries of nastiness online before, and it’s really not fun, and what I’ve had pales next to the kind of extreme vitriol directed at Libs of TikTok’s targets.
Sometimes Raichik’s choices of targets are very revealing in showing us aspects of her ideology beyond a fanatical loathing for LGBTQ people. Take this recent item:
The video in question shows a woman talking about how because she can’t afford to live in the city, she has to do a long commute in order to work her 9 to 5 job, which means that she comes home every day exhausted. She’s frustrated because she doesn’t have time for anything in her life other than work, and her video records her talking about how miserable she finds herself as she seems to do nothing but sleep, eat, go to work, work, come back from work, and be tired. Raichik, of course, characterizes the video (again, a moving one, to a person with a conscience) as showing a “breakdown.” To their credit, some of the respondents to Raichik suggested she’d picked the wrong target this time:
Libs of TikTok has been written about plenty already, but I want to draw attention to the way in which it usefully illustrates how much of right-wing politics is just based on loathing of people who are perceived as different, such as those who challenge traditional social norms. We, the Good People, are in battle against the Evil People who are coming to destroy our civilization. (Raichik posted a meme that said “it’s not rocket science, they’re just evil and want to diddle kids.”)
The disturbing thing to me is the total lack of empathy for other people. Raichik sees a teacher telling of bonding with a 10th grader over being gay, and reassuring that student they are valid. For Raichik, this teacher is some kind of pervert doing harm. Raichik sees a woman having a rough day at work, and thinks stop complaining, life’s supposed to be hard, seeing it as a sign that Young People Today are spoiled rotten. There’s so much bitterness, so much contempt that comes through in these posts. I wanted to take a shower after looking through just a few weeks’ worth of its content.
Raichik posts constantly, finding new people to hate every day, and I can’t imagine anything more poisonous to the possibility of solidarity in civic life than this kind of behavior. She is encouraging Americans to look at others who are slightly different from them and wish for their firing, laugh at their tears, and mock them as ugly and disgusting. Libs of TikTok is the embodiment of everything that makes right-wing politics so repellent to me and reminds me why I believe in a politics of empathy, joy, and tolerance. I see this and I think: please, let me never be like that. And I hope that even if there are several million people who look at a drag queen and recoil with horror, there are plenty of others whose natural reaction is: “Who cares? Let people live their lives.” Sadly, this toxic stuff has wide reach, and I’m sure that Raichik is going to make a lot more random TikTokers miserable by elevating them in front of millions of vicious right-wingers.
One of George Orwell’s more memorable dystopian inventions in Nineteen Eighty-Four is the “Two Minutes Hate,” in which an image of a public enemy is projected onto the screen and an audience erupts in frenzied anger at it. They become totally irrational, consumed by their loathing. Orwell’s vision is alarming because we don’t need to imagine what people become capable of doing when their rationality has been replaced entirely with rage. We know from the hideous atrocities of the 20th century that dehumanization can lead to gas chambers and saturation bombing. Anyone who looks at images such as those Raichik posts and viscerally erupts in disgust at a person they’ve never met needs to reread Orwell’s warning.