The candidate for vice president of the United States for the Democratic Party is one of the politicians with the most faithful online fan base. They call themselves KHive and emulate Beyonce fans
The reasons why Joe Biden has chosen Kamala Harris as second in command for the November US elections have already been more than analyzed. Barely hours have passed since Biden announced his decision, but there are already hundreds of articles analyzing the keys to this movement, most of them related to gender, skin color or political background. But there is one that has gone unnoticed in the mainstream and that in such special elections and in which an arduous battle for propaganda on the internet is presupposed, it can be quite significant. Harris keeps a secret weapon in her cell phone: a coordinated army of loyal fans who will now fight for her candidacy.
Against which, everything points, will be the most digital elections in history, Harris leaves with an ace up her sleeve turned into an irreducible ‘fandom’ that has followed in her footsteps for more than two years and is now ready to work hard machine in the months until the elections. So important is this letter that Biden himself already asked Harris for the help of her army before inviting her to be his vice president.
Known as ‘KHive’ (the translation would be something like Kamala’s hive) they took the name emulating Beyoncé’s fan clubs and with the passage of time they have gone from mere followers of the former US senator to a very interesting potential face to fill the networks with their propaganda and viralize their messages when they are most needed. Well, that and much more, because something that differentiates these fans from other activists of previous occasions is also in their way of using the network.
According to American media such as Vox or Buzzfeed News, this group was born spontaneously like its name back in 2018, copying the term of Beyoncé’s army, but it was definitively extended from June 2019 when in the middle of a fight for the Harris’ Democratic primary stood out in several debates. At that time dozens of accounts began to appear, especially on Twitter but also on Instagram, in which following ‘fandoms’ of movements such as K-Pop, fans of this candidate launched themselves to campaign for her and, somewhat most innovative in this field, to defend it at all costs with all kinds of ideas and against any criticism.
— Lynn V 😷 (@lynnv378) August 11, 2020
I FUCKING LOVE YOU #KHIVE!!!!!
— critical thinking is a cop (@criticalthotcop) August 11, 2020
— ⚖️Schmoopy in the sky with Biden💛Kamala VP💛🐝⚖️ (@Sarah_Yael_Gold) August 11, 2020
For communication experts consulted by Wired, Harris is the best-positioned candidate of all those that Biden was considering to fight in the digital environment, despite the fact that other candidates also have their own ‘fandoms’, they assure that their group is very well organized, that use all kinds of tools to coordinate (they have taken over symbols such as yellow or the bee emoticon to show that they are part of #KHive) and that can be a key piece to combat misinformation both about it and about the candidacy. Their role may be very important in the elections, but all that glitters is not gold.
As Daily Beast points out, behind these passionate ‘fans’ a toxic way of understanding politics, as is already the matter with music, can be hidden with continuous clashes between fans of each other candidates simply because they are loyal to their star and the zero capacity for self-criticism. Getting to that point has already taken a toll on other candidates who during the Democratic primary suffered scandals with accusations to Bernie Sanders or Beto O’Rourke fans by their own leaders considering they crossed the line. Her own fans had gone beyond what the stars they idolized wanted. It’s the big dilemma of what some already call the politicization of Stan culture.
Does Stan culture take over politics?
In case this concept of Stan culture or neologisms like ‘stanear’ does not sound familiar to you, you should know that it is something that comes from the first decade of the 2000s as a result of Eminem’s song ‘Stan’, based on the story of a passionate fan of the singer who ends up losing control after trying to contact Eminem on several occasions. As a result of that song, the name was taken to speak of those fans who go out of their way for their idols in such a fanatical way that they can even end up going crazy for it.
Over the years that culture has conquered the internet as a place where it is much easier to contact and interact with stars and other fans. Now, as they recall in Buzzfeed News, the concept has jumped into politics and it is not yet known if it is to stay or it is just a passing fad.
In the US this was more than palpable during the Democratic primaries, as we have already mentioned, and the case of Harris and his followers is mentioned as the most striking or, at least, the one that has endured the most and has remained faithful to its star. Despite having dropped out of the presidential race many months ago, her fans continued to support her both to be elected vice president and to defend her against any attack. They also helped in something as important in American politics as fundraising and Harris’s team even hired a person as a liaison to coordinate with these fans.
I just saw a tweet calling Kamala Harris supporters the KHive and I’m thinking that’s not how ANY of this works. Stan culture is never a good thing- especially not in politics.
— Candice Marie Benbow (@CandiceBenbow) June 28, 2019
KHive genuinely terrifies me. Name a more toxic political stan culture. Bernie Bros are weak sauce in comparison
— Syihan 🏳️🌈 (@ThatsWatSyiSaid) July 10, 2020
All this has allowed them to gain weight in everything related to Kamala Harris’s political career since even Biden has asked about them, but there are also many critical voices around this way of understanding the electoral struggle. The fanaticization of ideas and unconditional support for a single candidate, whatever happens, can further extreme positions and that is why there is talk of the danger of ‘stanizing’ politics and creating a very toxic climate both online and offline.
At the moment it is not known how Biden will use this ‘army’ on the internet or how the relationship will end up between political teams and fans who go free, but just as they can be a great help to try to win over Donald Trump, this gift Harris’s can also become a poisoned present if not dealt with in proper detail. Whether this will be the union of a new political fan phenomenon or simply a temporary fashion will have to be seen.