Pop singer-songwriter Taylor Swift has notably made a few enemies along the course of her career, but we are far beyond the tabloid spats… it becomes a whole different ballgame when you threaten a blogger with defamation claims. And, quite frankly, Swift can probably use all the friends she can get because her defensive strategy has only made matters worse.
Just a few days before the release of her sixth studio album, Reputation, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) responded to a threatening letter sent by Swift’s attorney on the artist’s behalf, accusing PopFront editor Meghan Herning of ad hominem for her September 9th blog post, “Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets ‘the lower case kkk’ in formation.”
“Intimidation tactics like these are unacceptable,” said ACLU attorney Matt Cagle. “Not in her ‘wildest dreams’ can Ms. Swift use copyright law to suppress this exposure of a threat to constitutionally protected speech.”
Yeah, sure, Herning’s story is a bit of ridiculous [somewhat callous] blog post, but it calls on an informed mix of political and pop cultural commentary, the resurgence of white supremacy, and how Swift’s music, lyric’s and videos seem to be embraced and even idolized by the alt-right.
The lead single from her forthcoming album, “Look What You Made Me Do,” is a major focus of the piece. Saying this song is influential to neo-fascists is an utterly ridiculous argument when you consider it was co-written by Jewish music producer Jack Antonoff and features a sample of the LGBT anthem “I’m Too Sexy” by ‘80s new wave group Right Said Fred.
The fact that neither side even makes mention of these two major factors is what makes the claim bunk, to begin with. However, she does have a right to say it and back it up with evidence. Using mostly lyrics, drawing a comparison from imagery in her music videos, and the reaction from the alt-right, she makes a very insightful argument.
To make matters worse… this isn’t the first time Taylor Swift has been accused of catering to white supremacists. In a similar story, from Vice published last year, it breaks down how white supremacists claim Swift basically “red pilled” America into believing a conservative, racist agenda.
The story quotes Andre Anglin, the editor of the white supremacist blog, The Daily Stormer, who states, “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.”
Perhaps it is something about her blonde hair and digitally-enhanced blue eyes that make her what these Neo-Nazis believe is an Aryan icon, but a threatening letter sent by Swift’s attorney, William J. Briggs II, caught the attention of the ACLU and mainstream media for invalid accusations and threats to the reporter.
Naturally, the ACLU chose to be creative in its response: “Criticism is never pleasant, but a celebrity has to ‘shake it off,’ even if the critique may damage her reputation,” the letter suggests cracking wise about the artists hit song.
In the editorial, Herning calls on Swift to publically denounce the support of neo-nazis and white supremacists, saying that “silence in the face of injustice means support for the oppressor.”
Briggs continues to make matters worse in the letter by stating how, “even if Ms. Swift had remained silent on the issue of white supremacy (which, as you will see below, she absolutely has not), silence does not mean support.”
ACLU points out that if the letter was actually to be protected under copyright, as Briggs repeatedly remarks in his defamation claim, the denunciation of the accusations would only be known by Herning… not the public.
Swift could have publically denied ties and chastised white supremacists at any time. She still can. The fact that she decided to not only defend herself but to make further accusations against Herning only perpetuates the notion that the prominent celebrity is trying to avoid the topic entirely.
Sure, silence doesn’t mean support… but it also doesn’t mean “she has not remained silent on the issue.” In fact, Swift is not quoted anywhere in the attorney’s complaint, which shows no examples of her denouncement, even though it repeatedly says otherwise.
Fellow-bloggers who realize that this only further perpetuates rumors have also responded, calling on the pop songstress to address things without the unnecessary defensiveness. Lindsey Weedston of the blog, Not Sorry Feminism, demands Swift denounce white supremacy.
“Why haven’t you done it yet? Are you a white supremacist? Or do you just love their money? Or both? If you remain silent you’re just telling us that you’re on the side of Nazis. And it’s becoming clear that you know that.”
Herning responded to the accusations made in Briggs’ defamation claim, reiterating that her opinion piece is protected by the First Amendment.
“The press should not be bullied by high-paid lawyers or frightened into submission by legal jargon,” said Herning. “These scare tactics may have worked for Taylor in the past, but I am not backing down.”
Swift could easily have made things right, but instead blew up and filed defamation claims. In response, the ACLU has requested a response from Swift and her attorney by Nov. 13, confirming that they will not pursue a lawsuit.