One In An ARMY is releasing this statement because as a team and as ARMY, we have a list of concerns with the recently published article on Bloomberg Businessweek.
When we collectively decided to give a pause to any media interviews some time back, the reason was the possible direction this and other articles were taking when we were interviewed a few months back (around the height of the BLM activity and the Trump rally incident). As we sat for several interview calls, it became a bit clear that the intention of publications was not to learn about ARMY or BTS charity endeavors (our area of specialization as a fan account) but to find a justification to the argument that ARMY or the overly generalized category of “K-pop fans” are threatening political forces. So, it only made sense to steer clear of any interviews that did not want to talk to us but instead for us, and have since declined many requests for interviews, especially those that were clearly intending to do that. But when this author contacted us again this week, she stated that her intention was to fact-check the information we had given her months before, and so we agreed to do it.
During this ‘fact-checking’ call, we discovered that some of the statements given by Erika were not only misquoted and erroneous, they were also added to the piece out of context. We provided the corrected information, but while the earlier misquoted statements have not been included in the final piece, the ones that did make the cut are not correct either.
We would like to draw attention to one of the quotes by one of our founders, Erika, that have been used in the article.
The statement which claimed that Erika believes “ARMY should steer clear of politics to make sure the actions of some overzealous fan don’t backfire onto BTS” is incorrect. What Erika said in that instance was that OIAA is known to be a fanbase of BTS, so the things we do and say publicly can easily be attached to them. Therefore, we do not believe it is our place to make political statements on topics that BTS themselves have not spoken on, and inadvertently bring their names into topics or conflicts that do not concern them. We believe every ARMY individually should speak out as they wish on any topics that they feel strongly about. We are passionate and socially aware individuals. As a fanbase though, however unofficial, we exercise caution in what we post out of a sense of responsibility to our artists, as we are publicly associated with them more than an individual person would be. We are a charity fanbase, and we cannot be fully informed of every country’s political nuances, and that fact makes it more irresponsible of us to take up political positions on our platform.
In our last call with this article’s writer, we tried to share context to the points which in our opinion needed rectification. This includes the history behind the founding of OIAA, the parallels drawn between stan culture and push for views, the attempt to posit bullying as a defining characteristic of the fandom, the over-emphasis on imposing one kind of political belief on the fandom that has time and again refused to define itself as a monolith, and several others. While we completely understand that it’s up to the writer to choose the narrative they wish to put forth in their articles, we are quite saddened that not a single piece of feedback was taken into consideration, and was brushed off under the rationale that ‘it can’t all be sunshine’ and ‘the article must be balanced.’ The complete article seems to have been structured to not derive insights from the interviews but to use them as plausible justification to the writer’s own ideas about BTS and ARMY.
The writer in her article focused on events in the United States that did initiate conversation globally but to ignore that the fandom is comprised of people from different cultures and backgrounds and to assume that everyone will prioritise US elections only showcases entitlement and limited understanding of the fandom. As a team, we come from different parts of the world and each member understands politics in their own way. Therefore, we do not consider it right to take it upon ourselves to speak for fandom’s political views as a ‘collective’. We acknowledge that there is much more than we know as individuals and therefore, as a fanbase account, we count every fan as One In An ARMY, taking in all kinds of experiences and focusing on what we can do best — finding tangible solutions to issues affecting people around the world.
Now, comes our concern as ARMY — we feel misrepresented by this piece. Not only did the writer stereotype and infantilize BTS, but she also did not miss any attempt to delegitimize our interest in BTS’ work. Introducing BTS as “ridiculous figures” and ARMY as some cult followers takes away the voice from us to explain the value these seven musicians have offered musically, culturally, and socially. This is not the first time that this has happened but it doesn’t make us any less annoyed, especially when writers with a well of available resources fail to make use of them. It’s their privilege that allows them and a lot of writers in the past to discount the hardships faced by a POC artist.
There are also some factually incorrect details on BTS members, details that could have been gathered from a bare minimum of research. For instance, both Jungkook and Jimin have tattoos, and Big Hit, from what we have understood the company to be, does not police the group. BTS, on several occasions, have spoken openly about how they control their own social media accounts and speak freely about issues that are important to them. In terms of music too, BTS since the beginning of their journey with Big Hit have been motivated to pursue music projects on their own, the reason why we have an exhaustive discography. But we will not delve further into what should be obvious.
Instead, we will just conclude by saying that the gross misrepresentation of ARMY’s and BTS’s relationship has only further cemented our belief that there is a difference of both an unbiased mindset and a simple online search between a journalist who genuinely wants to explore a subject matter and a journalist who wants to make use of resources to fit their bias. This piece shows us the latter.
Also, presenting ARMY to the general public as some kind of political foil to QAnon can have real-world implications with damages far more severe than just online debate, putting a lot of members of the fandom at the receiving end of the commentary they did not sign up for and making them vulnerable to political hatred.
Every piece of historical fact has been used structurally to back up the assumptions instead of drawing any valuable insights, a prime example of journalistic malpractice.
Our initial intention in agreeing to the interview was to shed light on the world of ARMY and the wonderful things we all do together in BTS’ name. We find the narrative in this article frustrating, and will try to be more discerning with who we allow to use our voices and stories.