That’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to writing a BuzzFeed headline. But it’s true! Taylor Swift does have a sizeable and very vocal fan club within the alternative right.
At first glance, there’s nothing much that separates Tay-Tay from a bog-standard, instinctively progressive pop star. She’s a feminist, her music videos are filled with twerking, and her lyrics are often about sex. Surely, any self-respecting alt-righter would reject this as the product of late-capitalism’s decadence and degeneracy?
Not quite. The Daily Stormer, home of the alt-right’s ultra-radical and race-preoccupied “1488” contingent, has an entire category devoted to Swift. One post praises her as the “Nazi Avatar Of The White European People.” Another worries that she may have “Succumbed To the Merchant.” (They mean Jews.)
The majority of the alt-right use Hitler memes and mock antisemitism primarily to provoke and troll Establishment types. But even the worst elements follow Swift with the obsession of a teenage schoolgirl.
Considering the alt-right’s fondness for your present correspondent, a less well-informed observer might be led to conclude that the movement is awash with sublimated camp and repressed homosexual urges. Alas — I guess? — not so. Dig beneath the surface, and the origins of the alt-right Swift obsession becomes clearer.
Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way. Swift is very white and very blonde. She was born on, and grew up in, a Christmas tree farm in rural Pennsylvania. You heard me right: a Christmas tree farm. Little wonder the tradition-oriented alt-right are swooning.
Swift doesn’t look like other pop stars, who are either white people acting black or black people who seem to get whiter every year. She appears more comfortable in her own skin and doesn’t go in for racial ambiguity.
Beyond race, Swift is an icon of quintessentially American culture: she didn’t originally pursue pop music but got her start as a country star, a genre typically associated with white southern conservatives. Very problematic!
The Pennsylvania girl was quickly embraced as a teenage country star, and treated as the embodiment of healthy Southern values. Nice old Presbyterian ladies in Buckhead, sorority girls at SMU, UDC chapters in Richmond and Spartanburg—they all found out who Taylor was in jig time, and bought her records, followed her love life, learned the names of her cats.
According to Metroland, this wholesome country-girl image is something Swift continues to nurture.
No cone-shaped bras or other Mediterranean slut-gear for our Tay; she does like to bare her midriff (good abs from those classes at the ModelFIT studio) but never-ever does she show her navel. A very odd entry indeed in the female pop-star tourney.
She has a point. Compared to her peers in the Babylon that is modern pop music, Swift has kept her aesthetic… well, decidedly conservative. She wears long dresses, eschews piercings, and, as Metroland points out, carries her handbag like a 1950s housewife. Most people miss those little details, but the alt-right does not. They’re convinced she’s signalling.
Swift isn’t very forthcoming about her political or religious views, so fans are kept guessing as to where she really stands. However, at the peak of her country music days, she performed at the Republican National Convention. Somehow I doubt Miley Cyrus would do the same.
The alt-right can be given to conspiracy on occasion — hardly surprising, given how often they are lied to and about — and the thought that Swift is covertly “red-pilled,” concealing her secret conservative values from the progressive music industry while issuing subtle nods to a reactionary fanbase, delights them.
It also helps that Swift is regularly and absurdly accused of “racism” by progressive elites. Following the release of “Shake It Off”, Swift was accused of “mocking black culture” for including hip-hop tropes and a troupe of twerking black female dancers in her music video.
Camille Paglia, in a rare moment of agreement with the progressive left, infamously branded her “Nazi Barbie.”
That probably didn’t hurt, either.
Then there was the backlash over “Wildest Dreams”, a music video depicting Swift in Africa as an actress wearing colonial-era clothing. The video was meant to tell the story of an actress who falls in love with the leading man while filming a movie in Africa.
The outrage-mongers of the media, of course, saw it differently. NPR’s headline read: “Taylor Swift is Dreaming of a Very White Africa.” Doubtless there are a couple of people in the alt-right who would not have objected even if this had been true.
To the vast majority in the alt-right, Swift is simply an opportunity for mischief. Manipulating internet searches to turn unsuspecting public figures into neo-Nazis is a favourite pastime of internet miscreants and has little to do with politics or race. It’s all about the memes.
The most famous victim is Ben Garrison, a libertarian cartoonist who has had his signature repeatedly applied to racist and anti-semitic caricatures, and his name continually associated with white supremacists. People who google “Ben Garrison” today typically leave with the impression that the poor man is a race warrior.
And so, inevitably, we find pictures of Swift with Hitler quotes superimposed upon them and attributed to her — and, bizarrely and perhaps even more amusingly, pictures of Hitler with Taylor Swift quotes.
There was once an entire Pinterest account called “Real Taylor Swift Quotes” dedicated to attributing Hitler quotes to Swift. She’s too famous to get “Garrisoned,” of course, but there’s not much that can come between the internet and a good trolling campaign.
Finally, of course, there is the 16,000-strong “Taylor Swift for Fascist Europe” Facebook group, previously banned by Facebook but up again.
Like the alt-right itself, the far-right internet’s love affair with this pop star is predominantly sincere but with a heady whiff of satire and troublemaking. That’s the alt-right for you: white nationalism, yes — but also frog memes, anime, and Taylor Swift.