Taylor Swift is being embraced by the Alt-Right, but the singer is revolted by neo-Nazi frat boys, who apparently see her as as some kind of Aryan ideal. She’s calling out her lawyers to send a strong message–back off.
Swift is about to released her sixth studio album, Reputation and seems determined to squelch any connection with the radical right.
The thing is, she picked an odd place to draw a line in the sand.
The issue boiled over after PopFront, a small California pop-culture Web site, made the connection in a strongly worded article.
It claimed there were similarities between the lyrics in Swift’s song, “Look What You Made Me Do,” and white-supremacist chants at a violent Alt-Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., last August.
At least some of the lyrics were “dog whistles to white supremacy“, according to the article.
“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 Germany. The similarities are uncanny and unsettling,” the article asserts.
The Alt-Right infatuation appears to have more to do with her looks than her music. Swift is a tall, striking woman with blonde hair and blue eyes.
During the rise of the Third Reich in Germany, Hitler touted the racial superiority of Aryans and planned to create a master race of blonde, Nordic-looking people.
The Alt-Right, an amalgam of Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, southern Confederacy sympathizers and Trump supporters, promotes racial superiority.
Swift may have the look, but she wants nothing to do with hate politics.
The article called on Swift to speak out:
“While pop musicians are not respected world leaders, they have a huge audience and their music often reflects their values. So, Taylor’s silence is not innocent, it is calculated. And if that is not true, she needs to state her beliefs out loud for the world- no matter what fan base she might lose because in America 2017 silence in the face of injustice means support for the oppressor.”
That was enough for Swift to call out her lawyers. They demanded a retraction of the article, titled: “Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation.”
Swift attorney William J. Briggs, II charged the article was “provably false and defamatory.”
Author Megan Herning refused on First Amendment grounds.
“The press should not be bullied by high-paid lawyers or frightened into submission by legal jargon. These scare tactics may have worked for Taylor in the past, but I am not backing down,” she said in a statement.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California also got into the act on Herning’s behalf.
The organization said in a statement:
“This is a completely unsupported attempt to suppress constitutionally protected speech. Intimidation tactics like these are unacceptable. Not in her wildest dreams can Ms. Swift use copyright law to suppress this exposure of a threat to constitutionally protected speech.”
The First Amendment provides broad protection to journalists, especially when they are writing about pubic figures. Swift clearly falls in that category.
Typically, the celebrity must not only prove statements are false but also were made with malicious intent in reckless disregard for the truth. That’s almost an impossibly high legal hurdle.
But First Amendment case law also recognizes that some statements are so inflammatory they are “libelous on their face.”
The legal hurdle, known as “libel per se,” requires a much lower burden of proof.
Calling someone a “Nazi” or “Nazi sympathizer” or “white supremacist” would possibly qualify, according to legal references. Plaintiffs wouldn’t need to show reckless disregard or malicious intent to collect monetary damages.
Briggs warns that “Ms. Swift is prepared to proceed with litigation.”
The ACLU is taking a different tack, chiding Swift to “shake it off.” The letter to her lawyer makes a play on those words and her upcoming album.
“Criticism is never pleasant, but a celebrity has to shake it off, even if the critique may damage her reputation,” it says.
That leaves the ball in Swift’s court. Check out her video below. It’s been viewed nearly 700 million times on YouTube.