x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Their wrath has to be seen to be Beliebed

While his ego might be growing in size and strength every day, behind Bieber lurks even an even more terrifying force.

Justin Bieber has an army of dedicated followers in the palm of his hand. Reuters / Tami Chappell
Justin Bieber has an army of dedicated followers in the palm of his hand. Reuters / Tami Chappell

With all their fancy statistics, figures and graphs, experts have often claimed that the most powerful military in the world belongs to the United States.

True, the US might have aircraft carriers patrolling all corners of the globe and almost as many nukes as everyone else combined, but over the past few years, a far more frightening power has emerged, made up of tens of millions of unwavering disciples who can be summoned into action at a moment's notice with devastating results. And the man with his finger on the big red button: a somewhat self-absorbed 19-year-old from the small town of Stratford in Ontario, Canada.

To provoke the Beliebers is a dangerous game. Few who have dared test their wrath - even jokingly - have been left unscathed. Sure, they might be mostly prepubescent girls unleashing their firepower via social media, but as a collective unit they're a terrifying and unpredictable force.

On Twitter alone, Justin Bieber commands the biggest army, with some 38 million followers to his name. Of course, several of these are likely to be journalists or rubberneckers waiting for his next explosive bout of self-destruction. But the vast majority are devotees hanging on to his every word, praising any utterance from their slick-haired idol no matter how inane (a recent post that simply said "i see" has had more than 66,000 retweets) and ready to staunchly defend him from anybody who should criticise his omnipotent rule. And by "defend", I mean "brutally attack en masse".

The mere mention of Bieber's name in a less-than-praiseworthy manner is enough to unleash the fury of Beliebers worldwide, but the most vicious assaults are directed against those who dare to suggest they have been anywhere near the great man himself. When Mariah Yeater falsely claimed to be carrying his child in 2011, she probably assumed she'd be getting calls from a few rubbish magazines, daytime TV shows and, perhaps, the odd lawyer. But hell hath no fury like several million obsessed teenage fans with internet access - and the death threats came rolling in. Even today, a Facebook page titled Beliebers Hate Mariah Yeater has more than 10,000 fans.

Even other celebrities aren't safe. Online hate campaigns have been waged against Kim Kardashian for simply appearing in a photo alongside Bieber, who eventually managed to simmer things down by saying she was just a friend. News of a relationship with Selena Gomez, his off-again, on-again girlfriend, led to suggestions that she "jump off a cliff", was "dangerously close to a long, slow, painful death" and, as she is more than a year older, was a "paedophile".

The internet has clearly done many wonders for the world, but when it comes to fanatical, fantasising teenagers it's a dangerous tool to wield. The Beatles, Duran Duran, even Cliff Richard all had their share of devoted, OMG-let's-scream-really-loudly groupies, but it's unlikely they sat in their bedrooms writing countless messages threatening to smash the faces of their girlfriends. And, if they did, the letter would invariably only be read by whichever poor record label intern had been handed the daunting task of opening the fan mail.

Our only real hope is self-implosion, either from Bieber himself - which, unless it's a cynically crafted marketing campaign (come, now!), could be landing any day now - or from the Beliebers. With a bit of sneaky infiltration, surely this reactionary militia can be cleverly coerced into an internal hate-fuelled civil war that leaves few online survivors.

In the meantime, as Bieber descends towards possible meltdown, let's just remain alert for any madness-inspired finger-on-the-nuke attempts to bring the world down with him. Sure, he may be tweeting "i see" one minute, but it's not even worth contemplating the consequences should this become "invade china" the next.

Other fanatics

Directioners

Probably the closest relative of the Belieber, One Direction’s often-psychotic fan base can be deadly when cornered and regularly unleashes its typo-laden venom on anyone who dares knock Harry Styles and the other four. Like the Beliebers, this group is riddled with internal strife, with anyone who should display less-than-perfect knowledge of the band subject to humiliation and banishment.

Swifties

It must be hard work hating on Taylor Swift’s growing list of ex-boyfriends. But with Swift, of course, it’s all about the music (although exes do have a habit of cropping up in there, too). However, it’s likely a few Swifties ditched the country queen when news that fan mail to Swift had recently been found in the bin.

Little ­Monsters

There once was a time when Lady Gaga and her “Little Monsters” ruled the Twittersphere but, thanks to a targeted campaign by Bieber’s online army titled #operation­unfollowgaga, they were knocked off the top follower spot last year. Less knee-jerk than Beliebers, Little Monsters are more about happiness and friendship than OMG I HATE YOU.

Bieber news in brief

Bieber’s DJ to play SPiN Dubai

SPiN Dubai – the new ping-pong social club opening this week in Wafi – will be hosting DJ Tay James, Justin Bieber’s official tour DJ, on Friday. The American DJ, who’s been working with Bieber since 2009, will be on the decks playing R&B and hip-hop hits at the new venue. Doors open at 6pm. For table bookings, contact 04 370 7707 or email reservations@spindubai.com.

Peek at new Bieber movie

The Los Angeles Times has provided Beliebers a peek at the singer’s new docu-movie, Justin Bieber: Believe. “It started as just a concert movie but we’ve got so many other things now,” said the film’s director Jon Chu. “We have footage of him writing the first song for his next album on a piece of paper with a pencil. You get to see the creative process of making songs under pressure.”

Fatone’s advice for Bieber

The Huffington Post asked the former ‘N Sync star Joey Fatone what advice he would give to Bieber. “Don’t be a douche. That’s plain and simple,” Fatone said. “You get this bug from the celebrity thing, where you’re very on top of the world and everyone’s ‘yessing’ you to death, so you’re like, ‘I can get away with this. I can do that’.”

aritman@thenational.ae

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