It turns out that Taylor Swift has a huge alt-right fanbase
It's fair to say that Taylor Swift has a pretty huge and varied fanbase, comprising of millions of people from various demographics. It doesn't matter if you're black or white, Asian or Latino, gay or straight, rich or poor: you can still love her music. Recently, Taylor's reputation has taken a bit of a hit, with several well-publicised PR failures blemishing her otherwise spotlessly wholesome image as a sweet and innocent girl-next-door type. There was the beef she had with Katy Perry, the fiasco over song lyrics with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, and the debacle over her relationship with Avengers actor Tom Hiddleston (which some more vocal critics decried as staged). Yet despite these setbacks, she's managed to rise above it all, like a swan drifting smoothly over placid waters.
But lately, it seems that Taylor Swift has managed to acquire fans from a demographic that most artists would not be particularly proud of. Yes, it seems as though Taylor Swift has a large number of alt-right fans, and there are a number of white supremacists on the internet who have publicly held Tay-tay up as an Aryan ideal. Yes; far-right conspiracy theorists have even gone so far as to claim that Swift's lyrics contain coded messages and her music videos use Nazi imagery to "red pill" her fans.
Andre Anglin, a writer for white supremacist website The Daily Stormer even went so far as to claim: "Firstly, Taylor Swift is a pure Aryan goddess, like something out of classical Greek poetry. Athena reborn. That's the most important thing. We are certain that as soon as Nazis saw her, they were magnetically drawn to her sculpted Aryan form and angelic demeanour. ... The entire alt-right patiently awaits the day when we can lay down our swords and kneel before her throne as she commands us to go forth and slaughter the subhuman enemies of the Aryan race."
He adds: "It is also an established fact that Taylor Swift is secretly a Nazi and is simply waiting for the time when Donald Trump makes it safe for her to come out and announce her Aryan agenda to the world. Probably, she will be betrothed to Trump's son, and they will be crowned American royalty." Thus far, Anglin's wedding plans have not come to fruition, and Swift is no nearer to a matrimonial union with the Trump dynasty than she was a year ago. Big surprise. But the mere fact that Anglin has spoken of her in such glowing terms, and that Swift has offered no official rebuke to dispute his claim, is worrying in itself."
But it isn't just fascist websites claiming that Swift is secretly producing bigoted propaganda. Alt-right Swift fans have even spread to conventional social media. Just take the (now defunct) Facebook page Taylor Swift for Fascist Europe, which at one point boasted over 18,000 likes. In a recent interview, the group's anonymous community manager stated: "Being Aryan is not simply a matter of blood, but it is also a matter of spirit. Take Kim Kardashian or Miley Cyrus as examples of this: both began their lives with the same Nordic blood that Swift did, but what makes these two degenerates unfit for consideration as fascist icons? It is because, although Aryan in blood, the two are not Aryan in spirit. To be Aryan in spirit is what completes the fascist."
Meme culture has also been doing its part to promote Nazi undertones in Swift's oeuvre. Back in 2013, Pinterest user Emily Pattinson began ironically misattributing fascist quotes to Taylor Swift, by captioning images of the pop star with excerpts from the speeches of Adolf Hitler. Although Pattinson intended for these images to be satirical, she soon began spotting many others that she had not made herself. Other far-right YouTube commenters have gone so far as to claim that one scene from the music video for Tayor's new single "Look What You Made Me Do" featuring her making a speech to her many fans is an allusion to the German dictator's Nuremberg Rallies.
Now Swift has been defending herself from threats of complicity with legal action and it seems that she's become keen to distance herself from fascists (despite her notable lack of transparency regarding her own personal politics). Recently, blogger Meghan Herning wrote a post for Popfront entitled "Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation," in which she accused Swift of playing up to White Supremacists.
She wrote: "Taylor’s lyrics in 'Look What You Made Me Do' seem to play to the same subtle, quiet white support of a racial hierarchy. Many on the alt-right see the song as part of a 're-awakening,' in line with Trump’s rise. At one point in the accompanying music video, Taylor lords over an army of models from a podium, akin to what Hitler had in Nazis [sic] Germany. The similarities are uncanny and unsettling."
In a classic example of the Streisand effect, Swift soon drew far more attention to the post by attempting to censor it, than it ever would have received if ignored. In response, attorney William J. Briggs, II sent a cease and desist letter to PopFront and Herning on Swift's behalf which demanded that the blog post in question be removed. Briggs writes: "You are requiring Ms. Swift, but not any other celebrity or musician, to loudly denounce white supremacy and you do not accept her previous condemnations as good enough. Given your apparent animus and malice toward Ms. Swift, the intent to cause harm to Ms. Swift is clear."
In response, PopFront stated (with generous helpings of salt) that: "Ms. Swift, as a celebrity and household name, is a general public figure under the First Amendment... Thus, the statements on the blog are protected by the First Amendment unless they are demonstrably false and you can show that the author made them knowing that they were false or with reckless disregard as to whether they were false... Criticism is never pleasant, but a celebrity has to shake it off, even if the critique may damage her reputation."
The mere fact that Swift would target such a small media outlet seems to be indicative of her paranoia surrounding her association with the far-right. And yet, she could avoid a protracted and no doubt costly lawsuit by simply making her politics clear. A number of people have already speculated that her pointed silence regarding personal politics is less a matter of privacy and integrity and more to do with the fact that she risks alienating her more conservative audience. In an age where politics are more divided than ever, and where extremism is gathering around the world, artists can ill afford to be candid about their affiliations, especially if they profit from mass appeal.