In 2024, right-wingers are facing a doddery, often incoherent Democratic president, an even more incoherent VP (who doesn’t have the excuse of being eighty-one) and a host of oil-leaking charlatans like Gavin Newsom. Why, in this target-rich environment, are some conservatives focusing their ire on Taylor Swift?
Don’t get me wrong — America is a free country. You can criticize who you like. Me, I happen to think that Ms. Swift’s music is annoying and tedious. But to see the most popular singer in the world as an avatar for everything you hate politically seems misguided from a tactical perspective, no?
Sure, it might be annoying to see her on TV at NFL games. It might vex you that she opposes Donald Trump. But she isn’t neglecting the border and propping up a failing war in Ukraine. There’s some wisdom in the phrase “pick your battles.”
Yet some conservatives are not content to merely criticize her. They think something darker is going on. This week, “End Wokeness” (which boasts 2.2 million followers on Twitter) posted:
Every now and then, people on the right — who should, perhaps, be expected to be more familiar with the dynamics of business than their friends on the left — discover the existence of something called “marketing.” Yes, there is a phenomenon called “public relations,” which ensures that products and public figures might not be promoted in completely authentic ways. (Have I blown your mind yet? Sheeple.)
So, is Taylor Swift really passionate about football? Perhaps not. Is there an element of career-mindedness in the relationship between Swift and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce? Perhaps. But that doesn’t make it an “op,” That’s how celebrity culture has always worked.
Somehow, Swift-based suspicions grew more elaborate. “Thinking about when Taylor Swift called out the Soros family in 2019 for buying the rights to her music,” Jack Posobiec, senior editor at Human Events tweeted, “And then how she came out a super liberal in 2020.” I’m not sure how Taylor Swift criticizing the Soros family is evidence that she is now cooperating with the Soros family. There is a lot to criticize about George Soros but his name is not some sort of ancient curse that taints anyone who happens to say it.
A minute of Googling illustrated to me that Ms. Swift had been supporting liberal causes like LGBT rights and pro-choice advocacy before then. She became more vocal in 2020, to be sure, but it was 2020. What celebrity didn’t? Now, you could make an interesting argument about how mainstream culture prods celebrities towards progressivism (Swift continues to face criticism in left-leaning outlets for not being an active enough “ally.”) But you don’t have to pull a conspiracy theory out of your ear.
Too late: Vivek Ramaswamy took the baton from Posobiec and ran with it. “I wonder who’s going to win the Super Bowl next month,” he posted: “And I wonder if there’s a major presidential endorsement coming from an artificially culturally propped-up couple this fall. Just some wild speculation over here, let’s see how it ages over the next eight months.”
Now, Mr. Ramaswamy self-identifies as a smart guy, and he knows what he’s doing. There’s nothing inherently preposterous about this post. He’s not saying the Super Bowl has been rigged to help Joe Biden, he’s just asking questions! (A practice sometimes called “JAQing off.”)
But the implication is that the Super Bowl has been rigged to help Joe Biden. Claiming otherwise is like claiming that a mafioso who says “lovely restaurant you’ve got here, would be a shame if something happened to it” is expressing sincere concern for the restaurateur. I don’t think that Ramaswamy thinks the Super Bowl is rigged any more than I think a car salesman really feels that you need rust-proofing. But it’s very cynical to leave that silly implication hanging in the air.
Later, Ramaswamy posted: “What the MSM calls a ‘conspiracy theory’ is often nothing more than an amalgam of incentives hiding in plain sight. Once you see that, the rest becomes pretty obvious.”
There’s something to this. It isn’t wrong to observe that celebrity culture creates unhealthy, quasi-religious attachments to artists and personalities, or that this has been cynically exploited by political interests. When Joe Biden “mulls attending Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour” it isn’t because he wants to sing along to “Anti-Hero” (perhaps he should — “I’m the problem, it’s me…”).
You can criticize the culture that enables this but mumbling darkly about George Soros and the Super Bowl makes you look rather odd — especially when compared to the bubbly, good-looking pop star and her grinning athlete beau. Hell, perhaps the theories about Taylor Swift are the real psyop.