It's not really news to say that Taylor Swift
can't seem to catch a break from controversy; she is after all the queen of penning passive-aggressive songs and beefing with seemingly anything that has a pulse. But T. Swift is back in the news again today, and the controversy goes a little deeper than a typical celebrity feud.
Back in September, a blog called PopFront, which had a whopping total of 76 Twitter followers before this all began, posted an article
titled "Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation". In the article, the author Meghan Herning draws parallels between Swift's recently released single and music video "Look What You Made Me Do" and historical and contemporary states of Nazism.
This might sound like it's coming way out of nowhere, but this is not the first time that Swift has gotten wrapped up in this conversation. In 2016, Broadly interviewed
several alt-right and purported neo-nazi figures who claimed Swift, in all her blonde, all-American style, is a sleeper neo-nazi and an icon of Aryan and white-supremacist ideals. While there's absolutely no validity to any of these assertions, Swift has come under fire in the past for her reluctance to state her political stances, a sign which some have taken as an admission to being conservative or perhaps even further along the right. Additionally, many have critiqued her "brand" of white feminism, which is seen as self-serving and ignorant of the intersection of gender and race.
None of this is helped when websites such as Breitbart and The Daily Stormer regularly post articles analyzing her lyrics for subtexts hinting at connections to white supremacy.
Guilty or not, it does seem that Swift has become a bit of a pop-icon for white nationalists, a position which until now she has been oddly quiet about denying.
Much of this and more is discussed in Herning's article, which closes by stating, "And while pop musicians are not respected world leaders, they have a huge audience and their music often reflects their values. So Taylor's silence is not innocent, it is calculated. And if that is not true, she needs to state her beliefs out loud for the world — no matter what fan base she might lose, because in America 2017, silence in the face of injustice means support for the oppressor."
Essentially, there is not much new said in Herning's article, much of this has been said in the past by other outlets, though there is some more vitriol to the PopFront post. But what makes this situation stand out all the more now is that Swift and her lawyers recently sent a cease-and-desist letter to PopFront, with the threat of legal action if the article was not pulled or if Herning and PopFront discussed the matter publicly.
The letter from Swift's lawyer, William J. Briggs, II states:
"The story is replete with demonstrable and offensive falsehoods which bear no relation to reality or the truth about Ms. Swift. It appears to be a malicious attack against Ms. Swift that goes to great lengths to portray Ms. Swift as some sort of white supremacist figurehead, which is a baseless fiction masquerading as fact and completely misrepresents Ms. Swift."
This, of course, has led to Herning and company lawyering up, and contacting the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU responded to Briggs in turn, calling Swift's letter an attack against "constitutionally protected speech". Herning additionally penned another article
, in which she criticizes Swift for taking legal action by stating, "This tactic can set a dangerous precedent because it would mean any public figure could chill any criticism levied at them. At a time when the press is under constant attack from the highest branches of government, this cease and desist letter is far more insidious than Swift and her lawyer may understand. The press should not be bullied by legal action nor frightened into submission from covering any subject it chooses."
Swift and Briggs have yet to issue a public statement toward the ACLU's letter or the prospect of a lawsuit with Herning and PopFront.
While I don't think anyone can fault Taylor for wishing to distance herself from neo-nazis and the alt-right, one does have to wonder if she's going about this in the right way. In fact, it seems that by taking legal action, she is only setting herself up to suffer from the Barbra Streisand effect
, and make what could been a small, one-off article and controversy a much larger issue. In the end though, I think all of us, Swift especially, are longing for the days when Swift's latest breakup song was the hot-button issue of the day.