Taylor Swift threatened to sue a blogger over an article blaming her for contributing to the rise of the ‘alt-right’ movement by failing to be more openly critical of white supremacists who co-opt her music.
According to NPR, the letter sent by the singer’s attorney, William J. Briggs II, demanded that the website PopFront retract and delete an article titled “Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation.” Briggs called it defamatory, according to a copy of it made public by the American Civil Liberties Union.
PopFront‘s beef is with Swift’s song “Look What You Made Me Do”, which came out earlier this year. On the face of it, the song references a number of personal slights endured by Swift over the years and boasts of her resilience to them (Billboard tried to decode the lyrics without complete success back in August), but PopFront is more concerned with the way that the alt-right has appropriated it.
“Many on the alt-right see the song as part of a ‘re-awakening,’ in line with Trump’s rise,” the blog claims. “At one point in the accompanying music video, Taylor lords over an army of models from a podium, akin to what Hitler had in Nazi Germany. The similarities are uncanny and unsettling.”
The blog skips over the obvious presence of women of color in that army, and over the fact that the video that borrows freely from any number of unrelated cultural memes. Still, it’s true that Breitbart was happy to jump on it when the song was first released. The alt-right news site borrowed a couplet from it to put on top of a tweet about a story about a loophole for buying AR-15s.
“But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time.
Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time.”
PopFront said these lines “speak to even more than just unnecessary gun glorification, but also to the white people who have been closeted racists for years.”
The ACLU accused Briggs Monday of trying to suppresses constitutionally protected speech, saying that the statements aren’t defamation “in your wildest dreams”.
“As your client knows all too well, celebrity is a double-edged sword,” the ACLU said. “It also may bring close scrutiny that can lead to adverse as well as favorable comment.” Because PopFront‘s piece remains firmly in the region of opinion without asserting facts, Swift and her attorney have no case, the ACLU argued.
The blog PopFront argued that Swift’s perceived silence on political issues “is not innocent, it is calculated.” The piece argued that Swift’s ‘failure’ failing to embrace progressive politics could well be construed as…lending support to the voices rising against embracing diversity and inclusion emblematic of Trump supporters.”
Swift has been here before, and not always because of her lyrics. In 2016, Andre Anglin, the man behind neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, called her a “pure Aryan goddess”, in a transparently projected sexual fantasy. NPR noted at the time that “Swift has no affiliation with any white supremacist groups. She has never publicly made any white supremacist remarks, nor has she ever been accused of making them in private.”