Stan culture is something that is easily recognisable on the internet, obsessive fans that coordinate and communicate express their love for their beloved idol.Many have collective names for example BTS have their “ARMY” and Beyonce has the “ BeyHive''. These groups have been around for years but in recent years stan culture has moved towards politicians. “Stans'' hold great power on the internet and collectively promote various causes, celebrities and now politicians, but what influence does this have on our political climate?
The word “stan” emerges from a song released by Eminem in the early 2000’s. The song describes a fan that commits suicide after not recieving a reply to fanmail from their hero. This new word emerges from a combination of “stalker” and “fan”. Since the release of this song “stanning” “stan culture” and “stans'' have become a part of society.
The key element to understanding stan culture is to recognise the deep loyalty and dedication that these fans have for a particular celebrity. They are quick to defend them and often will attack the critic or opponent on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms. This can create a buzz around a candidate by attracting the attention of large media companies.
This really came to prominence during the 2020 US presidential election. The internet quickly divided into different groups based on the candidate they supported. They each analysed photos, debates and speeches to find ammunition to promote their candidate. This led to an endless stream of memes and satirical videos surrounding all candidates both Democratic and Republican.
The Stan culture around politicians really began with Bernie Sanders. The US senator from Vermont garnered support from many young people during his run for the democratic nomination. Millenials were attracted to Sanders by his socialist principles, motivational attitude and passionate rhetoric. Even Pete Buttigieg, one of Sanders' challengers in 2020 stated that even he was “ into Bernie before it was cool'' showing that Sanders' fan base began long before he ran for president.
While Sanders has many supporters, one particular subset of this group the “Bernie Bros” have taken a negative approach to their support. “Bernie Bros'' can be broadly described as white,male,college educated Bernie supporters. They have a great deal of support online and have used it to pressure and attack unions, groups and people who express their support for other candidates. Bernie has distanced himself from these groups but their support and protection of him continues.
This has negatively impacted politics as people are often silenced and harassed for expressing their views. Supporting your preferred political candidates should be respected but engagement with other political groups and views should also be encouraged. This uncritical blind support of politicians is very dangerous and could seriously damage our political system. The new administration in Washington promotes greater inclusivity and bi-partisanship that may increase political questioning and discourse in a positive way.