On Oct. 24, 2009, Katy Perry celebrated her 25th birthday party. However, it was the young, 19-year-old starlet, Taylor Swift, who was not yet a musical rival to Perry, who made headlines.
Posing next to a fan, the photo of Swift which made rounds in articles throughout 2009 was her smiling face next to a man with a red Swastika painted on his shirt. For many stars, such a photo surfacing would be a career-ending faux pas, not so with Swift. In fact, her response to the event was defensive at best and dismissive at worst, citing that she did not know what was on the fan’s shirt.
In years since, claims of Swift’s connection to Nazism have only grown. The association became more pronounced, Hannah Parry of the Daily Mail writes, in 2013, when teenaged-girl, Emily Pattinson, released memes on Pinterest which jokingly attributed quotes from Adolf Hitler to Swift.
After these memes gained popularity, Swift’s lawyer, J Douglas Baldridge, sent Pinterest a letter demanding their removal: “The association of Ms. Swift with Adolf Hitler undisputedly is “harmful,” “abusive,” “ethnically offensive,” “humiliating to other people,” “libelous,” and no doubt “otherwise objectionable.” It is of no import that Ms. Swift may be a public figure or that Pinterest conveniently now argues that the Offending Material is mere satire or parody. Public figures have rights. And, there are certain historical figures, such as Adolf Hitler, Charles Manson and the like, who are universally identified in the case law and popular culture as lightning rods for emotional and negative reaction.”
Pinterest, however, refused to take the Taylor Swift/Hitler memes down, citing that they were allowed to exist because of laws which allowed celebrity parody.
In 2016, the association of Taylor Swift to Nazism became front-and-center in the media once more, when Neo-Nazis from the white supremacist website, the Daily Stormer, claimed that Taylor Swift was their “Aryan goddess.”
In a bizarre and bold statement to the news source, Broadly.com, a writer for the Daily Stormer, Andre Anglin, said, “Firstly, Taylor Swift is a pure Aryan goddess, like something out of classical Greek poetry. Athena reborn. That’s the most important thing. 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.”
Writers for the Daily Stormer seem to be enamored with Swift, as the Daily Stormer has published, Mitchell Sunderland of Broadly.com documents, 24 posts about her on their website.
While it is arguably not Swift’s fault that so many reactionary members of the alt-right have flocked to her, what many have found disturbing is an utter lack of rejection for these fans. Swift’s consistent silence on specifically condemning her Neo-Nazi fans has once again made news, but this time, it is because Swift is breaking out legal documents.
On Sept. 5 of this year, PopFront Editor, Meghan Herning, wrote a blog post entitled: “Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation,” in which she wrote a scathing critique of Swift, not only for not vocally rejecting her Nazi fan base, but for lyrics and imagery, she argued, that appealed to white supremacists.
An example Herning cites in her post, is a scene from the music video of Swift’s new song, “Look What You Made Me Do,” in which Herning writes, “Taylor lords over an army of models from a podium, akin to what Hitler had in Nazis Germany. The similarities are uncanny and unsettling.”
In response, this Monday, thegrio.com reported that Herning received a letter from Swift and her attorney, threatening legal action if Herning did not retract her post, which Swift and her lawyer deemed defamation.
Consequently, Herning has contacted the ACLU of Northern California to defend herself, as she believes Swift’s threat of legal action is a breach of free speech. In response to Swift’s legal threat, ACLU attorney, Matt Cagle, said, “Not in her wildest dreams can Ms. Swift use copyright law to suppress this exposure of a threat to constitutionally protected speech.”
In defense of herself, Herning said in a statement to thegrio.com, “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.”
After sending Swift a letter regarding the lawsuit this Monday, the ACLU of Northern California has given Swift until Nov. 13 to confirm that she will not proceed with the lawsuit against Herning. Swift has not yet issued a counter statement or confirmation, and the story remains developing.