They Yap About Taylor Swift, But They're Telling Us About Themselves
You don’t have to be a follower of Taylor Swift or a fan of professional football to notice the very strange crusade that so-called “conservatives” have been waging against them. Those icons of music and sport, as American as they could possibly be, are suddenly tarred on right-wing media outlets as secret instruments of a plot by powerful hidden forces – in the Pentagon, the White House, or somewhere in “the deep state,” whatever that means.
It is now possible to watch otherwise normal-seeming people on television, including several with their own nightly shows, spreading insane rumors about Swift and her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. In a calmer time, anyone who persistently shouted such lurid nonsense would have been a candidate for long-term residence in what was euphemistically called “a nice home,” without access to sharp objects. With deinstitutionalization, they are now paid astronomical salaries to declaim their fantasies on Fox News and its cable competitors. (This is considered progress.)
For weeks, the airwaves and the digital space have been aflame with attacks on Swift and Kelce, promoting the notion that these two attractive, talented, and amazingly successful people are not what they seem to be. Consider the recent rant by Jesse Watters, a primetime host on Fox News, who insinuated that Swift isn’t a legitimate musical sensation, but merely a tool propped up by Pentagon military intelligence for mass manipulation. Watters called her a “psyop,” jargon for a government propaganda tool or event designed to influence public opinion and political behavior.
“Have you ever wondered why or how she blew up like this?” he asked, questioning her popularity as a musician. "Well, around four years ago, the Pentagon psychological operations unit floated turning Taylor Swift into an asset during a NATO meeting. What kind of asset? A psyop for combatting online misinformation." Of course, like so many other events reported breathlessly by Fox fake news, that never happened. It was just a figment of Watters’ monkey mind, which he tried to pass off with a deceptively edited video clip.
It isn’t hard to see what inspired the vile slagging of Swift and Kelce (who also committed the offense of getting vaccinated against COVID-19, just as all the Fox hypocrites did when the company required it). She appears to be a Democrat and a supporter of reproductive rights, an opponent of racism, and perhaps worst of all, a symbol of female power and independence. She has backed a few Democratic candidates, including Joe Biden in 2020 – and Republicans dread the prospect that she’ll do it again this year. Ominously, from their perspective, she has already prodded tens of thousands of her fans to register as voters.
Indeed, the right-wing loonies are warning that the Super Bowl has long been “rigged” for the Chiefs to win, leading up to a romantic Biden endorsement by Kelce and Swift. Pretty sick and, dare I say, un-American.
The craziness is so stupid that it’s almost funny. Even some conservatives are begging for it to stop, because they fear the political consequences of angering the Swifties, as well they should. But it isn’t funny at all.
What thugs like Watters are telling Swift is that she will be punished for disputing their authoritarian and misogynist ideology. Her adversaries have not only viciously insulted her, but circulated AI-faked explicit nudes. Naturally, Watters seized on the faked photos as another opportunity to mock and shame a female body. (Don’t you hope he gets a chance to meet Travis Kelce in person someday?)
Whether Swift endorses Biden or not, she has performed a great service, simply by impelling the worst people in America to show who they really are – and how their uncontrollable hatred poisons everyday life in this nation. Let’s not forget.
Joe Conason is founder and editor-in-chief of The National Memo. He is also editor-at-large of Type Investigations, a nonprofit investigative reporting newsroom formerly known as The Investigative Fund, and a senior fellow at Type Media Center.