‘I Stand With Nicki’ and #BallGate Expose Fandoms As Cults of Personality
This week, Nicki Minaj’s anti-vaxx posts caused an international conflict. This is where fame, fake news and fandom converge.
It all started on Monday when Nicki Minaj tweeted that she wouldn’t be going to the Met Gala because she is unvaccinated. Though the rapper clarified that she is still doing some research about whether she should get the vaccine or not, most people understood this as an anti-vax position. And then, it got worse: when trying to defend herself, Minaj claimed that her cousin in Trinidad refuses to get the vaccine because his friend became impotent after being vaccinated.
Unceremoniously, Minaj tweeted to her 22.6 million Twitter followers: “His testicles became swollen. His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding.” Minaj’s tweet has resulted in officials of the United States, the United Kingdom and Trinidad and Tobago — where the rapper is originally from — to issue statements disproving that the COVID-19 vaccine causes male impotence.
"One of the reasons why we could not respond yesterday in real-time to Miss Minaj is that we had to check and make sure that what she was claiming was either true or false. Unfortunately, we wasted so much time yesterday running down this false claim,” Trinidad and Tobago Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said in a press conference held to disprove the tweet.
Though Minaj is free to do as much research as she wants before she decides whether she wants to get vaccinated or not, it’s impossible to defend her for spreading fake news to millions of followers. While it’s important to note that people of color have more than enough reasons not to trust Western medicine, it’s also essential to draw a line when an extremely famous person uses the medical marginalization of people of color to normalize fake news to her Twitter followers. There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine affects fertility, and tweeting out fake information that will fan the anti-vax fire when Black and Latinx people are more likely to get seriously ill and die from COVID-19 is a callous move.