How Dangerous Is Taylor Swift?

(Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens had an audience of 55.473 million, making it the most-watched AFC title game in NFL history. The viewing number peaked with an astounding 64.022 million people watching in the second half.

I was one of those millions. Still smarting from the Eagles being out of the playoffs and like many Philadelphians, I still hold a grudge against Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid for never getting the Eagles Super Bowl rings during his complicated tenure as coach here. I wrote for the Baltimore Sun for 17 years, so I could claim a minor stake there. But the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce is brother to the Eagles’ beloved Jason Kelce, so I was torn.

Sadly for my friends in Baltimore, the Ravens played like they were running the Eagles’ final game playbook and lost badly. But Chiefs’ tight end Travis Kelce had a spectacular MVP-esque game. Jason Kelce and Travis’s girlfriend Taylor Swift were on the field post-game and it was impossible not to feel the love.

Unless you were team MAGA, that is. The Trump crowd lost their minds when the Chiefs — the reigning Super Bowl champs — won. My live-tweeting of the game to my 159,000 followers extended into post-game tweets. Posting two pics of Travis and Taylor kissing and making love eyes at each other, I wrote: “MAGAs absolutely hate seeing vaxxed Super Bowl winner Travis Kelce and billionaire Democrat performer Taylor Swift happy and in love, so please don’t upset them by sharing these pics.” Cue the outrage! That post got 130K views, 7K likes and more than 1K replies — among them some totally wild MAGA conspiracies and some gross misogyny. That prompted me to post a photo of Taylor Swift in a black off-the-shoulder evening gown and query, “All joking aside, can someone explain to me why MAGA men hate Taylor Swift so much?”

That post went even more viral than the other one with 900K views and 13K replies — mostly from MAGA men going out of their way to prove they exemplify toxic masculinity at its absolute worst. Some were low-level trolls, but others were Twitter/X accounts with as many as one million followers, all of whom wanted me to know that Swift was awful and so was I. The language was raw, vile and deeply misogynistic, peppered with the C and B words and some with AI-generated images of Swift and of me. 

It was, as the kids say, batsh*t crazy. A theory had developed and spread throughout Twitter/X that Taylor Swift was — wait for it — a psyop. 

This particular psychological operation was stated succinctly by a myriad of not just anonymous MAGA troll accounts, but GOP politicians and right-wing radio and podcast hosts. The conspiracy theory took over not just social media but Fox News, Newsmax and OAN. The claim is that Swift, a bona fide global superstar, leads a psyop plot staged by the NFL and Democratic Party to subvert the vote so President Biden wins the 2024 presidential election. 

Philadelphia-born Fox News host Jesse Watters had already pushed the theory that Swift was a “Pentagon asset” on his show, saying Watters on Tuesday told viewers that “around four years ago, the Pentagon’s psychological operations unit floated turning Taylor Swift into an asset.”

This forced the Pentagon to respond after Watters said Swift could be “a front for a covert political agenda.” As reported by Politico on Jan. 10,  Watters showed a clip from a 2019 conference organized by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence, where a presenter appears to name Taylor Swift merely as an example of a powerful influencer — which as a global superstar with millions of followers on social media, she is.

Watters said, “It’s real. The Pentagon psy-op unit pitched NATO on turning Taylor Swift into an asset for combating misinformation online.”

On Twitter/X, Watters asked his millions of followers to ponder “Is Taylor Swift a Pentagon PsyOp asset?”

Well, no. But like so many Fox News conspiracies, including that the 2020 election was stolen, the craziness over Taylor Swift has become an entity unto itself. About Watters assertions, the Department of Defense issued a denial. “As for this conspiracy theory, we are going to shake it off,” Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh told Politico, using a few references to Swift songs as she did so. “But that does highlight that we still need Congress to approve our supplemental budget request as Swift-ly as possible so we can be out of the woods with potential fiscal concerns.”

Fast-forward to the latest theory that the NFL fixed the game for Swift and Biden, the latter of whom joked about Swift supporting him, adding fuel to the conspiracy fire that was tearing up my Twitter/X feed with increasingly unpleasant, even threatening, messages. The New York Times published a story Monday “Inside Biden’s Anti-Trump Battle Plan (and Where Taylor Swift Fits In)” which said Biden was hoping for Swift’s endorsement.

On Tuesday, Fox News host Sean Hannity lamented that Swift wasn’t team MAGA, saying, “Maybe Taylor Swift just bought into all the lies about Republicans that they are racist and sexist and homophobic and xenophobic and transphobic and Islamophobic and they want a total ban on abortion… If she believes all that she is believing a lie.”

But as I responded to Hannity on Twitter/X, “Well, I’ve reported on literally hundreds of stories which reveal all of this to be true, so Taylor Swift was reading actual reporting as opposed to what Fox does. Also, Trump is a rapist. His first action as POTUS was to delete the LGBTQ page from the White House website.” And there was that pesky Muslim ban he instituted the first week as well.

The right is worried about Swift’s influence on voting. The star has previously endorsed Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and in 2020, Biden. Exclusive polling conducted for Newsweek by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found that 18% of voters said they’re “more likely” or “significantly more likely” to vote for a candidate endorsed by Swift in the 2024 presidential election. And Swift first made the right’s watch list for registering 35,000 voters via her website.

In an exclusive on Tuesday, Rolling Stone published a story titled “Trump Allies Pledge ‘Holy War’ Against Taylor Swift” which stated “Trump is already privately grousing he’s ‘more popular’ than her.” The story explains “Trump aides have geared up for a war against the singer” while Trump/MAGA supporters are preparing for a “holy war” against Taylor Swift.

That “holy war” is turning increasingly ugly with language tinged with violence, as my Twitter/X feed illuminates. It also highlights the problems Democrats have in this election year. Biden may be fighting a messaging war on the economy and discontent among Black and youth voters over Israel’s war on Gaza, but he’s also fighting half of America that can invent in a matter of hours a narrative in which the right-leaning NFL throws the Super Bowl for a pop star to endorse Biden on the field in Nevada post-game.

While the Pentagon’s Singh may have joked about the Fox News claims, the fact is, she was forced to issue a statement — one Fox News viewers couldn’t care less about nor will they believe.

On Tuesday night, a Levittown man, Justin Mohn, beheaded his father, Michael, a federal employee. Mohn shared the event on his YouTube channel. In a 14-minute rant in which he referred to himself as Commander of Mohn’s Militia, he talked about “Biden’s regime,” the LGBTQ+ community, Black Lives Matter and problems at the border. He referenced the “woke mob” and urged those watching to kill federal employees, referring to his father as a traitor to the country. 

Taylor Swift isn’t a psyop, but in a country so politically polarized and with one side so driven by disinformation and increasingly dangerous conspiracy theories, the DOD may want to shake it off, but haters are going to hate, hate, hate and the battleground is not the Nevada playing field, but closer — ever closer — to home.

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