Taylor Swift, QAnon, and the Political Weaponization of Fandom

Taylor Swift stays inescapable. Tales of her reign are legion, as are her followers. Next to Beyoncé, her energy and affect have reached heights so unbridled it’s nearly unfathomable. Her Eras Tour made nearly a billion dollars in 2023, and the live performance movie of that tour has introduced in nearly $250 million worldwide. When rumors began swirling within the fall that she was dating Kansas Metropolis Chiefs tight finish Travis Kelce, they upended American football. Nonetheless, when Time named her Person of the Year, conspiracy theorists noticed just one clarification. They allege Swift is a psyop.

Should you’ve lived on the web lengthy sufficient, you should have heard this type of factor earlier than. Again in 2016, when she was largely apolitical in her public life, Swift was a hero of the so-called alt-right who some believed was actually red-pilling America to additional a racist, conservative agenda. When she piped up about politics in 2018, some individuals on-line (considerably jokingly) theorized she’d been replaced by an NPC. The newest twist? “The regime has plans to weaponize her simply in time for 2024,” the @EndWokeness account posted on X Wednesday, including that when you didn’t discover this believable “you clearly haven’t been paying consideration.”

@EndWokeness has 1.9 million followers, and, as of Monday morning, the publish had greater than 788,000 views. On Telegram, a QAnon influencer account posted that “we have to wake the following era as much as the occult forces colluding with their favourite celebrities.” Proper-wing commentator Jack Posobiec posted on X that “the Taylor Swift girlboss psyop has been absolutely activated.”

Final week’s Particular person of the 12 months honor was additionally adopted by resurfaced allegations that Swift is performing witchcraft to additional her success and that the left is utilizing her to affect the 2024 US presidential election. Stephen Miller, a senior adviser throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, posted a message on X saying that “what’s occurring with Taylor Swift isn’t natural.”

All of this occurred the identical week WIRED reporter David Gilbert revealed an investigation right into a pro-Russia marketing campaign that used faux Swift quotes in a sequence of Fb and X posts trying to seed anti-Ukraine sentiment, reinforcing—in a very totally different manner—that superstar is a strong instrument for manipulation. Just a few days later, Microsoft researchers revealed a similar effort by an unknown Russian group to change Cameo movies by celebs like Elijah Wooden and Mike Tyson to make it seem like they had been being important of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Swift exists as a novel instance of the intersection of superstar and politics, and the way it operates globally, says Jonathan Dean, a professor of politics at the University of Leeds. “An vital characteristic of tradition and politics over the previous 10 years, definitely within the UK and the US and I believe most likely extra broadly as properly, is that there’s been a major convergence within the grammar and elegance and mode, when you like, of popular culture fandom and political citizenship,” he says, referencing the same methods fandoms and political events can function. “Taylor Swift is attention-grabbing in that sense as a result of I believe she’s an actual embodiment of these convergences.”

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