Part 1 of a series by Claira Janover on viral #BlackLivesMatter TikTok(s), corporate virtue-signaling, and the consequences of campaigns of misinformation, intimidation, and doxxing.
On the night of Wednesday, July 1, the hashtags “Deloitte” and “Harvard” were trending on Twitter in the United States. The day prior, my name #ClairaJanover was trending on Twitter. My virality permitted people to decide who I was. I had been completely disassociated from my actual identity and reassembled into the sum of different group membership attributes I possessed: Deloitte consultant, Harvard student, Black Lives Matter activist. There is not a single article about me that discusses what happened in the absence of these characteristics — characteristics that strangers decided completely determined who I am and what I stand for. My humanity and credibility were stripped from the taglines as I watched my photograph morph into delusional, melodramatic variations of: “Harvard Grad Who Violently Threatened to Stab Anyone Who Says ‘All Lives Matter’” and “Harvard Grad Cries and Blames Trump Supporters For Getting Fired From Deloitte, a Job She Never Had.” Anyone who knew the real me would know the truth: that I had a job offer from Deloitte, that I was using hyperbole.
On Tuesday June 30th, Jack Posobiec tweeted a TikTok of mine addressing the racist implications of voting for Trump. In less than an hour, right-wing “troll” Twitter took to my account (@cjanover) and dug up my #BlackLivesMatter videos. A video posted almost a month prior struck the exact chord All Lives Matter supporters needed. In 72 hours, I received 30,000+ messages; 5,000+ social media posts were made about me; gained 100,000+ new followers on TikTok; 8,000+ on Instagram; and became a scapegoat and poster-child of liberal elitism to all those invested.
Over the course of the next few days, right-wing news outlets and tabloids — Fox News, the New York Post, the Daily Mail, and dozens more — capitalized on the opportunity to condemn “Harvard student Claira Janover.” Testament to their poor and unethical reporting, the authors of these articles based their stories entirely off of tweets. None contacted me for comment.
The delusional response contradicted itself. Those who sought to discredit every aspect of my interconnected identities (job, college, race, gender, background, age etc.) were simultaneously trying to claim that I also embodied everything wrong with them.
I am not writing this piece to get my job back, I am writing to reclaim my identity. To my detractors, I exist at the convenient four-way intersection of their disposition to see the BLM movement as inherently violent, their desire to seek revenge for cancel culture, their distaste for liberal elites, and their simultaneous hatred and hypersexualization of women and Asians. The complex and dynamic reaction to a TikTok deconstructed and rebuilt #ClairaJanover into a pawn that people from every side jumped at the opportunity to vilify and tokenize. I became a canvas upon which people projected existing attitudes towards my identity markers.
This is my story.
Part 1: The Analogy
In my infamous TikTok, I presented a first-person rhetorical argument which drew an analogy between All Lives Matter arguments undercutting the severity of others’ suffering by drawing attention to their smaller-scale struggles. I stated, “The next person who has the sheer nerve, the sheer entitled caucasity to say ‘All Lives Matter:’ Imma stab you. Imma stab you, and while you’re struggling and bleeding out, Imma show you my papercut and say: ‘my cut matters too.’”
When I first read comments on my TikTok (a video-sharing social media app used predominantly for “dance, lip-sync, comedy, and talent videos,”) I laughed. I had posted a 15-second video on a comedic platform. My initial reaction was of such disbelief that someone’s natural reaction would be to take the TikTok seriously that I even posted one laughing at the ridiculous tweets circulating in response. However, in under an hour, the momentum of the claim that I was an “angry” and “militant” threat escalated rapidly. In no time I, #ClairaJanover, became a danger, a menace who threatened to kill any All Lives Matter supporters.
Yet the hypocrisy of All Lives Matter supporters who responded to “Defund the Police” with “I’ll run over protesters with a car to protect blue lives,” went unaddressed.
The problem was not the use of violence, or the implication of any threat. Ultimately, it was a problem with my opinion. It became abundantly clear that nothing I did mattered to those who wanted to see my TikTok as a legitimate threat. People began calling for the FBI, Boston Police Department, and the Department of Homeland Security to arrest me for my 15-second TikTok video.
Those who claim I should be criminalized in any capacity know this is a legally unfounded claim. The first result of googling “rhetorical hyperbole” is a comprehensive list of Supreme Court decisions protecting rhetorical hyperbole, both in and out of political context, under the First Amendment. Watts v. The United States (1969) established that even the content of a potential threat being used as a “crude political hyperbole” was not considered a true threat and was therefore protected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court’s per curiam ruling stated, “the language of the political arena…is often vituperative, abusive, and inexact.” However, I am not here in protection of free speech. I fully acknowledge promoting violence in any literal capacity is never a productive strategy.
Not all those who were outraged believed my TikTok was both serious and a threat, but most claimed that I needed to be held responsible for inciting violence. Like most college students, the description in my social media bios almost all contain my school affiliation, so the story quickly evolved into “Harvard Student Claira Janover Threatens Violence.” As the number of tweets tagging me continued to grow, people began investigating my name beyond Twitter. This, as I became quickly familiar with, is a phenomenon known as “doxxing,” which often accompanies “cancel culture.”
Aggression was initially taken towards miscellaneous inboxes — commonly including threats or desires for physical and sexual violence against me. Harassers then reached friends, my extended relatives, people unrelated to me with the surname Janover, and filled their profiles with hatred.
I had to log into my dead mother’s Facebook and delete 200+ negative comments and messages.
Less than an hour after Posobiec’s first tweet, public photos of my LinkedIn profile circulated rapidly (which mentioned my future employer: Deloitte) and people began calling on both Deloitte and Harvard to terminate and expel me respectively.
The belief that I was dangerous spread through countless prominent right-wing Twitter accounts by midafternoon. Charlie Kirk, Allie Stuckey, Mark Dice, Ian Miles Cheong, and James Woods were among the many Twitter-verified users perpetrating the notion that my threat was both real and dangerous over the following days. Even Ann Coulter retweeted Szypula’s original tweet, captioning it, “Asian Karen.”
The massive backlash and shaming was an opportunity, implicitly driven, by an excitement to make an example out of a non-Black, Asian, female, Harvard-educated, liberal, Black Lives Matter activist; and to therefore criticize these groups and their significance as well.
Part 2: The Job
At first, I tried to get ahead. I immediately changed the privacy settings on my Facebook, removed all public photos with others, notified my friends and family of the massive campaign that was just beginning, and emailed Deloitte a comprehensive apology and statement outlining what was happening. I asked for the opportunity to speak with HR when they were available.
I did not hear back until the following afternoon when I received an email at 4:26 PM requesting a meeting for 4:45 PM. In a phone call lasting less than 5 minutes, I was told that due to public pressure to address my situation, as well as the company’s strict intolerance towards invoking violence, the company would be rescinding my summer internship and full-time job offer. When I asked if there was room for me to defend myself, the woman on the phone responded with “Our decision is final.”
I made the intentionally vulnerable decision to post two TikTok videos visibly crying and disappointed by Deloitte’s decision to terminate my job. My intention behind posting the emotionally raw and unfiltered video was to force people to reckon with how visceral the issue of racism is, and how much more it is than an abstract concept.
This video struck a chord. Millions of viewers on all sides were taken aback with the uncomfortable video of a young woman crying. No matter how resilient the content of my message, many chose to see weakness, fed by an internalized sexist dogma centering fragile whiteness and masculinity. There seemed to be a physiological unwillingness to confront the uncomfortable image of a crying woman.
But you can cry and fight at the same time. The exclusive definition of strength and courage do not solely exist via masculinity and emotional repression.
On twitter, I juxtaposed the hypocrisy of Deloitte’s public statement “against systemic bias, racism, and unequal treatment” with its decision to fire me for my social justice activism. The combination of my tweet and my TikToks and the massive traffic directed at both accounts blew up the news that I had been fired.
The fact that I blamed Trump Supporters instead of All Lives Matter supporters (a semantic difference I truthfully am not interested in engaging with here) when I began my video “blaming all Trump Supporters” stirred the pot further. Immediately, Trump supporters who were not actively invested in the Black versus All Lives Matter debate also joined in.
Right wing Twitter jumped at the opportunity to repost photos of me crying, declaring me a broken, whiny brat who could not accept responsibility for the loss of her job. I was a mentally insane, “homicidal Asian.” It was unsurprising that headlines giddily plastered pictures of me were cropped for violent effect and memefied, accompanied by “Harvard Student Cries About Lost Job and Blames Everyone Else.” People loved calling me an entitled “SJW social media attention whore.” The underlying sexism and racism went unnoticed, secondary to the world’s desire to see me burn.
Then there were the people who begrudgingly understood that I was not making a legitimate threat, but who continued to bemoan just how foolish Gen-Z is on social media. These people flooded my comments with “you deserved to be fired,” “stop whining,” or “how could you not have expected this?” Firstly, I never said Deloitte’s decision to rescind my job was unjustified or irrelevant, though I found the company’s actions spineless, cowardly, and driven by the desire to save face by sweeping my name under the rug. And I do not consider any of my TikToks or public statements to be immune from judgement or controversy. I am not denying my role in contributing to the contentious public perception of my values or responsibility. But comments claiming that I could have worded my TikTok more politely, or that my response depicts me as entitled whiny brat who is butthurt about her lost job and fixating on Deloitte, are missing the point. Again, I am not writing this statement to present a legal case for my job back or my freedom of speech. Rather, I am critiquing Deloitte’s handling of the situation because I find its hypocrisy worthy of public dissection.
The focus must be redirected to the consistent spinelessness of corporations that publicly claim to stand against racism and inequality. Making a statement against racism and inequality does not absolve one from being complicit in racism.
Progress cannot be achieved without concrete action. It is easy — even trendy — for a corporation like Deloitte to release a statement saying it “stands against the legacy of systemic bias, racism, and unequal treatment.” But actionable and controversial change cannot be disentangled from an abstract commitment towards social justice. If a company is going to stray away from uncomfortable public discussions and actions that exist in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, it cannot publicly claim to prioritize equal treatment.
This is not to say that Black Live Matter supporters, influences, and activists did not jump to defend and protect me. Thousands of tweets and TikToks were posted in solidarity. A classmate even started a GoFundMe in my name, urging others to support me as “a statement of solidarity towards a young woman of color whose life has been irreversibly ruined by people who are willfully ignorant and cruel.”
I engaged mostly with Twitter and TikTok (content), duetting and retweeting users who understood that I was doxxed and misrepresented, and who came to my support publicly. My intention behind the decision to duet and retweet versus produce my own original content was to display both my support and spread valuable and digestible information. Users explained the situation: I had a TikTok taken out of context, read literally, spread around various conservative social media circles, and had a slander campaign levied against me.
The night my full-time job offer was rescinded, TikToker, Caleb King, who was also scheduled to begin full time with Deloitte, reached out immediately. Caleb declared, “If getting fired for advocating for Black Lives Matter is a fireable offense, then #FireMeToo.” Many others were quick to speak out to virtue-signaling, quoting Dwayne Reed at corporations who cower against meaningful actions in solidarity against injustice: “White Supremacy won’t die until White people see it as a White issue they need to solve rather than a Black issue they need to empathize with.”
After this long day, I assumed that the criticism was behind me. Instead of providing my own defense, I had solely re-shared the content of supporters. I believed that I had the time to release a comprehensive statement later. I wanted it to be good. I knew there was a chance whatever I said could and would be weaponized against the greater, more important, Black Lives Matter movement.
Part 3: The Gaslighting
On July 3rd, the Daily Mail published an article titled, “Harvard grad who blamed Trump supporters for getting her fired from ‘dream job’ at Deloitte after ‘All Lives Matter’ TikTok Stab Video Did NOT Work For Accountancy firm.” This was based on an incomplete statement made by Deloitte, intentionally misleading many to believe that I had lied for attention.
According to the Daily Mail I had lied to everyone about my job at Deloitte, supported by a statement by Jonathan Gandal, managing director at the firm, stating that I “[had] never been an employee of [Deloitte].” While this statement was technically not incorrect — given that my full-time job was not scheduled to begin until later as I am not a college graduate, it purposefully excluded key information motivating why I stated I lost my job on TikTok.
Though discrediting and humiliating an individual is a common prosecution tactic, the one-sided way information is transmitted in the press and media gave me no opportunity to defend myself. And even when news outlets had the opportunity to contact me for my side of the story, they chose not to.
I was originally hired by Deloitte as an incoming Business Analyst for a 10-week summer internship. On April 20th, this internship was canceled due to COVID-19 circumstances, and replaced with an optional “two-week summer virtual experience” (which Gandal retitled an ‘internship’ in his statement), a $4,000 payment, and a full-time job offer contingent upon graduation.
These offers were signed and documented on May 11th, and I was formally welcomed as a “New Hire” on May 20th.
Gandal clearly had no intention of clarifying that the optional internship was merely a formality automatically accompanied with a full-time contract. Gandal’s statement, the articles it prompted, and the persona it fabricated was a successful strategy to gaslight and discredit my activism. An easy conclusion to draw from the spreading disinformation was that I was a liar who “never even worked [at Deloitte],” which proliferated the animosity towards my character, credibility, and intent from all sides of the debate.
Hundreds of TikToks and Tweets claimed that I made a GoFundMe monetizing Black Lives Matter. People began calling me a fraudulent and opportunistic activist who intentionally victimized myself for financial gain, demanding that I return the money. Many ongoing supporters and prominent TikTokers and activists who had spoken to my defense were quick to reach out or call me out publicly, in disbelief that I had “played” my audience for attention, sympathy, or money. Not only did I not make the GoFundMe, I did not have access to withdraw from the donations because it was under review for being reported thousands of times.
I reached out to the organizer immediately, explaining that I did not have access to the funds and providing photographic evidence that was later added to the description, clearly showing that I had been both offered and confirmed as a full-time hire by Deloitte, contingent on the completion of my degree.
I struggled with the idea of wanting to prove my innocence. People called me a fraud because I was not a current full-time employee at Deloitte, another example of their tendency to see the story they wanted even when it directly contradicted the information I provided. In truth, I had never claimed to be a full-time employee.
Through the power of social media, I was gaslighted across the world. I had to think responsibly about how I wanted to correct this misinformation, knowing the unfortunate reality that I could not undo the damage to the public perception of my sincerity.
I posted screenshots and sent concerned supporters individual emails and receipts proving my hire confirmation, duetted a TikTok from distinguished BLM activist Jackie James with receipts, and began also sharing videos correcting the disinformation circulating.
But no matter how many comments, videos, stories, or tweets I made clarifying and providing context and photo evidence to correct the misunderstandings or intentional misinformation being weaponized against me — about my hire status, graduation status, family status, income status, GoFundMe and donation status etc. — the optics had already manifested beyond my control.
Again, my focus is not specifically on Deloitte. I condemn Deloitte’s decisions because it is the one I experienced firsthand. They are just one of many players in the bigger picture necessary to consider when dismantling racial injustice and the power systems have over activists to maintain their silence. As I reminded in my interview with Nick Cannon, my frustration from this experience is directed towards corporations, which virtue-signal without being held accountable.
Corporations gaslight, humiliate, terrify, and intimidate employees who retaliate or push back in an attempt to silence and subordinate them. This is exactly what Deloitte and the media provided in response to right-wing aggression against me.
Part 4: The Conclusion
In the past week, I have been reduced to an abstract concept, a dismembered face and headline that people often do not see past.
Still, my experience with unfairness is insignificant in comparison to the ongoing injustices faced by Black Americans enduring a systemically racist government, society, and economy.
I am writing about my experience publicly because it speaks so clearly to how white supremacy crucifies any who dare to speak out. For the sake of argumentation, white supremacy has always attached conditions to its recognition of others’ humanity, demanding unattainable things in exchange as if they are actually interested in justice. The fact that this demand is always absolute perfection shows they are not.
It is absurd that people think a legitimate death threat exists in the gray area of satire between the usage of passive and active voice. I said “fired” when it may have been better to say “rescinded.” I said “Imma stab you” when it may have been better to say “imagine if you were stabbed.” These differences are semantically and intellectually negligible. But ultimately there is absolutely nothing I can say to make people recognize my humanity when they actively refuse to. People did not have a problem with potential violence; they make that clear by supporting a president who condones and encourages justifying the endless murders of Black Americans, beating and hanging Black Lives Matter leaders, and aiming guns at POC for existing. The same people who are so quick to justify their own violence had a problem with my opinion, and no matter what the delivery of that opinion was, it would have displeased them.
How differently would things have unfolded if my TikToks were not initially reposted by Twitter-verified right wing activists?
Online harassment is easy and unfathomably prolific because users can act anonymously on platforms used by millions around the world. The network effects of social media dissociate public figures from their true characters and allow cruelty to be amplified on an unprecedented scale.
White supremacy maintains itself by instigating fear in the hearts of people who dare to question its violent authority. Consequently, people are pressured into adopting stances of moral neutrality. Outspoken women and minorities are constantly threatened, undermined, and intimidated because their voices are not expected and their identities are most vulnerable.
To All Lives Matters supporters, me being #canceled became a fun “taste of your own medicine.” The way people selectively split hairs and fixated on semantic differences, out-of-context TikToks, and biased news articles illustrates how these supporters actively tried not to play fair. Their goal was never to reach consensus with me; it was to attack, discredit, and cancel me. No matter how much “information” I disproved, it would never be good enough for the impossible standard of perfection I was being held up to.
The very people who claimed that “All Lives Matter” — who allegedly “didn’t see race” and hated identity politics — were the ones who made the choice to see me exclusively through the lens of the preexisting connotations and stereotypes of my composite identities.
I will address this in my second statement tomorrow.
End of Part I.
I would like to extend the largest of thanks to those who have supported, defended, and stood by me throughout this experience. I am especially to those who actively worked to share my story and its truth across the media landscape; spoke openly and constructively with me on the issues at hand; and continue to use their platforms for justice.
Caleb King — @alaskan.boii
Mia — @garfieldsfatbussyy
TNathan — @the_savage_lokius
Anthony Hyland — @ispeak1906
Chishazed — @chishazed
Jax — @ fatraco0n
Holly — @razzle.holly
Victoria Hammett — @victoriahammett
Joanne — @yuanjoanne
Chris Jimmy — @redmonkey21
Kaysi — @chickenkaysidilla
Gorda — @gordacorajuda
Sidney — @sjiady
Nani — @naniwootwoot7
Alicia — @theluncheonlawyer
Maximus — @maximusisoutthere
Shane — @shanemeyers1