Taylor Swift Threatened to Sue a Blog That Compared Her to Hitler

The ACLU says her claims of defamation have no merit.

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Nov 6 2017, 8:29pm

The critical response towards the once-beloved Taylor Swift has shifted in recent months, but Swift (or at least her team) is keenly aware of this rising counter-wave. They're curiously pursuing legal action against a tiny, left-wing music blog, an act which now has the ACLU of Northern California involved. It's a whole long thing so let's start from the top.

In a story entitled "Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation," Meghan Herning, editor of the blog PopFront, argues that Swift's "Look What You Made Me Do" is "a defense of white privilege and white anger" at being "replaced" by other races. The piece also makes several connections between Swift's image and the "alt-right," culminating in juxtaposing a screencap of her next to Adolf Hitler.

Her lyrics are like an affirmation for everything the alt-right has been feeling for years: oppressed, afraid to come out, and made to look like a fool. And now that they feel empowered, it befits the movement to have a white, blonde, conservative pop star that has no doubt been "bullied" by people of color in the media, singing their feelings out loud.

The piece was published in September, but as the ACLU themselves report, Swift and her legal team sent a letter to PopFront on October 25 claiming that Herning's piece was defamatory for comparing Taylor to Hitler (among other reasons) and that it should be taken down. The ACLU is now directly involved, sending their own response letter to Swift's reps arguing that their threats have no merit and are "a completely unsupported attempt to suppress constitutionally protected speech."

For context, it's been a weird, confusing few months for Swift's public image. Her overall radio silence during her album rollout, apart from disconnected quasi-rap singles and confounding videos, hasn't helped her reclaim cultural cache or chart dominance from the many actual rappers running American popular music. That silence is also disheartening in the face of the USA's re-engagement to white supremacist and nationalist ideologies under Donald Trump, especially when Neo-Nazis are on the record as being big fans of Swift and her work. Swift's refusal to publicly denounce these groups is particularly frustrating after she adopted Tumblr-ish progressivism during her 1989 era. None of this is to say Taylor Swift is actually a Nazi or a Nazi sympathizer at all, though.

Herning's piece does admittedly make some pretty tall leaps of logic in order to paint Swift as a right-wing icon. But criticism that points out when fascistic and/or racist undertones may be present in a creator's work is useful when it's something that's potentially being consumed by millions. More importantly, it's still strange that someone of Taylor Swift's influence would go after a blog of this small stature. You can read the ACLU's statement here.