Fan-run accounts on Twitter, Instagram and other platforms provide live updates, a global community and advocacy ideas to free Britney Spears from her conservatorship.
For a certain subset of Britney Spears fans, who call themselves her “Army,” there is no cause greater than emancipating Spears from the conservatorship that controls her life and finances.
Thirteen years into the legal arrangement, which Spears recently described as “abusive,” her devotees are watching a movement that was once on the fringes of pop culture turn into one of the year’s biggest news stories. Even politicians are paying attention: “I am squarely and unequivocally in the camp of FreeBritney,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said on his podcast this month.
The growing support for Spears speaks to the power of fan devotion, unleashed in the modern age through social media. The celebrity may be the famous one, but her followers, or stans (see: Nicki Minaj’s Barbz, Beyoncé’s BeyHive, Rihanna’s Navy), have the power to mobilize thousands of people online to support a cause.
Some of Spears’ most visible supporters have shown up for protests in Los Angeles, but plenty more have been following the pop star’s legal case from home. For them, fan-run accounts on Twitter, Instagram and other platforms have provided live updates, a global community and advocacy ideas. (For example, the Free Britney website suggests filing complaints against Spears’ former lawyer and writing letters to representatives.)
“People from all different backgrounds are involved and know what’s happening and feel that this is abusive and feel that it’s an injustice,” said Angela Rojas, a 30-year-old lawyer who is one of the five people behind the account @BritneyLawArmy. Rojas, who is Peruvian American, leads the account’s engagement efforts with Spanish speakers.
The other account administrators, all of whom live in and around Louisville, Kentucky, are Samuel Nicholson, 30, and Marilyn Shrewsbury, 32, who are lawyers who focus on civil rights cases; their assistant, Raven Koontz, 23; and Emily Lagarenne, a 34-year-old recruiting consultant.
Although Spears is the focus of the account and the administrators are her fans, they see her fight for emancipation as one that anyone should be able to sympathise with. “This is about the human condition,” Rojas said. “It’s a human rights issue. It’s a disability rights issue. It’s a civil rights issue.”
Nicholson, who created the Twitter account in January, has notifications on the LA Superior Court’s e-filing site that alert him every time a document is filed. He and the others comb through those filings in search of new details, which they translate from legalese into easy-to-understand takeaways.
In June, when Spears spoke before a judge for the first time about her desire for the conservatorship to end, the administrators of @BritneyLawArmy tweeted transcribed sections of the audio from her testimony.
The group also works with other social media accounts, like @FreeBritneyLA. “There are group chats, and FaceTime calls, and a very organized effort for everybody to be getting as much information out as fast as possible on all of the pages,” said Shrewsbury (who also goes by her middle name, Linsey).
Megan Radford, 34, described @BritneyLawArmy as “a really reliable source of information” about the court proceedings. “They explain court documents for people who aren’t lawyers,” said Radford, who helps manage the @FreeBritneyLA account and has organized some of the #FreeBritney rallies in LA from her home in Oklahoma City.
Radford, a marketing director, flies to LA regularly for protests. “This movement was founded by people sharing information on social media,” she said. “We’re not just fan accounts. We’re definitely activists.”
The tweets that @BritneyLawArmy posts are not purely informational; their purpose is also to cheer the Army forward, to channel the frustrations and hopes of Spears’ supporters.
Sometimes the messages take the tone of a fiercely loyal friend who is mad on a BFF’s behalf. That ire may be directed at the judge in Spears’ case (Brenda Penny), at Spears’ court-appointed lawyer (Samuel D. Ingham III, who resigned from that role this month) or at her father’s lawyer (Vivian Thoreen).
Nonetheless, there is a gravity to the Law Army’s tweets, especially those that report directly the words of Spears or highlight court documents.
The group believes that the conservatorship is on its last legs. “The game is over,” Nicholson said. “They’re not going to be able to just throw Britney Spears back up onstage like nothing ever happened.”
But they acknowledge that the process of releasing Spears to live independently will likely take many months, if not years.
“We talk a lot about what we hope for her when she’s free,” Shrewsbury said. “We just really want to see her happy.”
Valeriya Safronova c.2021 The New York Times Company