Picture credits: @sadbadbee, @Tempestt_02, @allboutliz
Artillery Row

The callousness of the virtue signallers

The response to a young singer’s death exposed the cruelty of the self-consciously virtuous

The progressive folk of TikTok have once again sought to prove that they are on the Right Side of History, by viciously dogpiling a woman as she was dying of cancer. Her crime? Following the Instagram account of the Israeli Defence Force. Fortunately, the mob-push for cancellation did not really succeed. But this sad case nonetheless reveals a lack of humanity from those who claim to be ultra-enlightened. 

The woman in question, forced to read reams of hate comments from her hospice bed, is American singer and TikTok creator Cat Janice — who died recently, on 28 February, at the age of 31. 

In Spring 2022, Cat’s blossoming musical career came to an abrupt halt when she was diagnosed with a sarcoma in her neck. After a long period of treatment and remission, all of which she chronicled online, Cat announced in June 2023 that her cancer had recurred. By the New Year, she knew that she was dying. In order to generate royalties for her seven-year-old son, Cat released a final song, which she asked her 1.9 million TikTok followers to stream and use in their own TikTok videos. 

Millions answered Cat’s appeal. Her song, “Dance You Outta My Head”,  topped the TikTok Viral 50 chart, and has been streamed almost 14.5 million times on Spotify. Then came the revelation that Cat followed the Israeli Government (@stateofisrael) and the IDF (@idf) on Instagram, and had liked some posts from the latter. These posts included tributes to dead IDF soldiers, celebrations of Hanukkah, evidence that Hamas uses ambulances to transport weapons, and the claim that Hamas receives $100,000,000 from Iran per year. 

One TikTok video, with over 540,000 likes, accuses Cat of taking “glee in the death of … children”

In response, many of her nominally progressive audience turned against her. They called her a Zionist (intended as a slur), and spam-commented “free Palestine” under her videos. One TikTok video, with over 540,000 likes, accuses Cat of taking “glee in the death of … children” and suggests she deserves an even worse fate than cancer. The creator behind that video, a “celebrity spiritual consultant” from Florida named Jasmine, does not consider it a double standard to accuse Cat of enjoying the suffering of others while herself apparently deriving pleasure from Cat’s pain. Rather, she treats this selective empathy (or empathy with “discernment” in her words) as a virtue. This is the “paradox of tolerance” at the heart of extreme progressive ideology; it teaches that it is a moral good not to show basic humanity to those believed to have the “wrong” opinions. 

Jasmine is not the only person to use this “progressive” logic to reassure themselves of the moral probity of their cruelty towards Cat (or indeed towards her son, who is the beneficiary of the income from Cat’s work and therefore is the real victim of any campaign against her). One TikTok account with a Palestinian flag as their profile picture appeared to relish the prospect of Cat burning in hell: “not long to go before she ends up in a very [hot] climate … can’t wait” they commented, using a fire emoji in place of the word “hot.” Other TikTok creators have accused Cat of “supporting genocide,” being in favour of “millions of people being wiped off the earth,” and denying Palestinian children’s “right to life.” It was not enough for these people simply to stop listening to her music — Cat also had to be “held accountable” (read: publicly smeared) for her supposed wrongs. 

In fact, until she felt had to defend herself against this defamation, Cat had not publicly discussed the conflict in Gaza; her critics inferred her political beliefs merely on the basis of her Instagram “following” list. Cat responded by unfollowing Israel and the IDF and by removing her likes from the IDF’s posts. She also wished the Palestinian journalist Bisan Owda “God bless in her fight” in a recent Tik Tok comment. It is notable that Cat’s response to this controversy has been very muted; perhaps she was too weak to put together a statement, or felt unable to comment for fear of further  jeopardising her son’s future funds. In either event, this reveals the hypocrisy of these so-called humanitarians, who maliciously picked a target that they knew was unable fully to defend herself. 

Some Tik Tokers who continued using Cat’s music in their own videos also faced opprobrium for “sympathising” with a suspected “Zionist,” with particular vitriol reserved for Jewish creators who defended Cat. This is unsurprising, given the callousness which many supporters of Palestine showed towards the Jewish Israeli victims of the October 7th atrocities, using the “paradox of tolerance” principle as a cover for their antisemitism. 

Such attempts to silence legitimate discourse through aggression are always inexcusable, but particularly so in the case of Cat

Clearly, then, it is not just Cat who has suffered from the inhumanity of the “anti-Zionist” crowd — this is a much wider-reaching phenomenon than that. Jewish comedian Amy Schumer has received endless abuse for arguing for Israel’s right to self-determination and its right to defend itself against Hamas. TikTok creator Delaney Rowe dared to like two of Amy’s Instagram posts on this subject, and so the pro-Palestine mob came after her next; they spammed her comments with the Palestinian flag, and even called her a “Zionazi”. 

Such attempts to silence legitimate discourse through aggression are always inexcusable, but particularly so in the case of Cat. These ideologues have bought into the delusion that bringing additional pain and stress to a dying woman’s final weeks is the morally correct position. It is true, though, that these extremists remain a minority — albeit a vocal one. Cat still became a chart-topping social media phenomenon, and created a fund for her son’s future. In Cat’s final days, as she became visibly sicker and her posts became more sporadic, her TikTok page was overwhelmed with comments expressing love and care for her. 

While we can take comfort in the fact that empathy and reason prevailed over a hateful minority on this occasion, let us not be complacent. The mob that hounded Cat had an alarming amount of support, and she still had to die in the knowledge that she was being defamed. Why? What has any of this achieved, for the civilians of Gaza or indeed anyone else?

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