Iran’s state sponsored media, the Islamic Republic News Agency, has turned their focus from state propaganda to U.S. icon Britney Spears. After Spears tweeted her support for the Iranian citizens currently protesting the country’s morality police, the IRNA shot back on Twitter by mentioning Spears’ years-long conservatorship. “American singer Britney Spears was placed under her father’s conservatorship in 2008 due to her mental health problems,” the organization tweeted. “That gave Britney’s father control over her finances and even her personal life aspects such as pregnancy, remarriage and visits to her teenage sons.” The IRNA’s tweet, and media response, is part of an ongoing (and failing) strategy to drown out widespread support for Iran’s nationwide protests.
The current protests center around the September death of 22-year-old activist Mahsa Amini. Amini was arrested by Iran’s morality police in Tehran under claims that she was not properly clothed in the required religious headscarf and modest dress. She died in police custody. Following news of her detainment and subsequent death, Amini’s family spoke out, claiming that the young girl was beaten to death by police. The IRNA has continued to deny the claim and assert the girl had a heart attack, even as Amini’s death has sparked some of the biggest nationwide protests in years.
Earlier this year, Spears married Iranian-American actor and model Sam Asghari. Since the protests began, the couple has been extremely vocal about their political beliefs, including her support for the Iranian protestors. “Me & my husband stand with the people of Iran fighting for freedom,” Spears tweeted on Sunday.
The IRNA didn’t even have the decency to quote-tweet the “Baby One More Time” singer, instead screenshotting the tweet to include a user’s response that read “Nice tweet. Can you manage your own money yet?”
The IRNA’s tweet was accompanied with the hashtag #MahsaAmini. The late activist’s name has been used as a rallying cry for the ongoing protests against the country’s morality police. In the past month, IRNA’s social media accounts have continued to use the hashtag to populate pro-protest online spaces with government narratives.
The organization seems to be taking some inspiration from the recent popularity of comedic government accounts. Since the start of the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, Ukraine’s official twitter account has taken a comfortable approach to social media, tweeting out memes and clapbacks in between serious videos and articles surrounding the conflict. And this isn’t the first time the IRNA have pushed back against big name support for the protestors. Last week, the organization posted a meme claiming that international superstar Shakira was ignoring police violence against women in the United States and Saudi Arabia, continuing to assert that Amini died of a heart attack instead of police brutality.
But their attempted comedic media response has been unable to break through a wave of celebrity support for the Iranian protests. Stars like Bella Hadid, Justin Bieber, Olivia Coleman, Angelina Jolie, and even Jake Paul have spoken out against accounts of police brutality against protestors and called for wider awareness of the Iranian movement. And in the country, Iran’s protests continue to grow. In the past week, hundreds of children have joined the protestors ranks and the cries of “Women, Life, Freedom,” have inspired potential sanctions from the European Union — demonstrating that even with the organization’s pithy comments about pop stars, international support and the voices of hundreds of thousand of Iranian protestors continue to ring out louder.