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Let’s be careful with how we respond to 15-year-old TikTok star and resistance icon Claudia Conway

Adults should be wary about the specific ways they are egging on a minor at this moment.

Let’s be careful with how we respond to 15-year-old TikTok star and resistance icon Claudia Conway
[Photo: rawpixel]

Claudia Conway announced on Sunday that she has tested positive for coronavirus. It might be the least of her worries.

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Due to the volatility of the virus, the diagnosis might obviously end up being way worse than that, but due to the volatility that comes with overnight notoriety, the way adults respond to the 15-year-old TikTok star might exacerbate matters even further.

Conway came to public attention earlier this summer as the daughter of infamous Carville-and-Matalin-style political theater duo Kellyanne and George Conway, after already establishing herself, according to New York Times tech culture reporter Taylor Lorenz, as “an outspoken Leftist TikToker.” Since anyone already opposed to “alternative facts” peddler Kellyanne and Lincoln Project grifter George could not resist the juicy prospect of a rebellious teenage daughter making their home life hell, adults glommed on to the narrative and started adulating Claudia.

As the teenager’s fame increased, however—propelling her to 560,000 Twitter followers, over one million TikTok followers, and 150,000 more on Instagram—the bigger picture began to cohere. Claudia Conway asked Twitter for recommendations on an emancipation lawyer to free her from the home situation in which she’d incurred “years of childhood trauma and abuse.” For adults following along, the story had moved from being a playful bit of schadenfreude and closer to a sad private family matter—even before Kellyanne and George both abruptly quit their jobs to tend to their family.

Or at least it should have.

By this point, Claudia Conway had become accustomed to her rising fame and leaned all the ways into it. Who can blame her? When you’re a teenager, it feels amazing to know that people are thinking about you and rooting for you and can’t wait to find out what you’ll do next. (It’s no secret that most adults feel this way as well.) Nobody should begrudge Claudia the right to pursue TikTok stardom on the road to figuring out how to parlay it into whatever creative end or business pursuit she chooses. This is the world we live in now, and any moralist critiques around teens and social media fame should be leveled at the system, not the individual.

However, adults should be wary about the specific ways they are encouraging Claudia Conway on social media at this moment. If this past week is any indication, that encouragement is headed to a dark place.

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Last Friday, Claudia Conway was credited with forcing Kellyanne to reveal her positive diagnosis for coronavirus, by making TikToks about her alleged incessant coughing. Grown adults celebrated Claudia for her social media posting the same way they did when Jennifer Jacobs, a reporter for Bloomberg, broke the story last week that Hope Hicks had tested positive for coronavirus. If Jacobs hadn’t informed the public, the White House might have tried to downplay, or sweep under the rug entirely, everything we’ve learned about Supreme Court Justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s super-spreader event; and so, the thinking went, Claudia Conway’s TikTok similarly exposed the truth.

The only problem is that we have no way of knowing if that’s the case at all. Maybe it did indeed happen that way. Maybe Kellyanne would have revealed her diagnosis the next day anyway. Or maybe the daughter of two political puppet masters learned to work together with them as of late. (Doubtful, but possible.)

Either way, since Claudia’s supposed outing of her mother’s diagnosis on Friday, a common trope among Resistance tweeters has been that Claudia Conway is now the most reliable source for news in Washington, D.C.

This status is far different from that of a “Leftist, anti-Trump TikToker.” It’s also a long walk from the popular misfit daughter providing insight into the reality of the Conway house. Designating Claudia as a trusted news source will only give her incentive to break more news, while giving her audience new urgency in believing it. Claudia Conway’s posts on Monday about Donald Trump contradicted the president’s official statements about his condition. For some reason, many on Twitter accepted this news with the gravity of a Bob Woodward report from Deep Throat.

It’s fun to imagine Claudia Conway being in a position to get the real scoop from D.C. insiders and share it with an adoring public. However, what she’s reporting in posts like the one above is the same thing that most people probably have inferred from context clues. Whether she’s inferring right alongside us—or cryptically suggesting she has the real dirt—is in the eye of the beholder.

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All we can do is speculate. But for Claudia’s own sake, I would suggest that in the future, let’s maybe do less of that.

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