Brow Beat

“A Celebrity Has to Shake It Off”: ACLU Defends Blogger Who Compared Taylor Swift to Hitler

Taylor Swift in May 2016
If this is a publicity stunt, it’s a weird one.

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for The Huffington Post

Let no one say Taylor Swift’s release of her upcoming album, Reputation, has not been sufficiently dramatic. We just learned that less than two weeks ago, the pop star’s attorney sent a cease-and-desist letter to an obscure local blog called PopFront over a piece linking Swift to white supremacy. In “Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation,” Meghan Herning covers a lot of ground, including Swift’s image, her far-right following, and a brief history of the American eugenics movement. (Yeah, I wasn’t exaggerating about the “covers a lot of ground” thing.) She then offers up this analysis of “Look What You Made Me Do”:

Taylor’s lyrics in “Look What You Made Me Do” seem to play to the same subtle, quiet white support of a racial hierarchy. Many on the alt-right see the song as part of a “re-awakening,” in line with Trump’s rise. At one point in the accompanying music video, Taylor lords over an army of models from a podium, akin to what Hitler had in Nazis Germany. The similarities are uncanny and unsettling.

On Oct. 25, Swift’s attorney sent a letter to Herning, who is also PopFront’s executive editor, demanding that she remove the post from the site on the grounds that it is “replete with demonstrable and offensive falsehoods” and is a “malicious attack” on Swift. Curiously, he also added a note that Herning could not publish the cease-and-desist letter on the grounds that that would constitute “a breach of confidence and a violation of Copyright Act.”

On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union stepped in to defend Herning, painting the case as a David-and-Goliath showdown: “Pop star and attorney send threatening letter to local blogger,” reads the press release. The ACLU also sent Swift’s attorney a letter defending PopFront that disputes his claim that the post is defamatory and his demand that his letter be kept private.

To make matters just a little weirder, the ACLU letter has some cheeky allusions to Swift’s body of work. “Criticism is never pleasant, but a celebrity has to shake it off, even if the critique may damage her reputation,” the letter states. “Applying these fundamental constitutional principles to your four ‘hideous falsehoods’ shows that not even in your wildest dreams can they constitute defamation.”

Whether or not the post about Swift is actually defamatory is almost secondary at this point. The bigger question is, why did Swift’s attorney choose to go after an obscure blog that very few people would even have been aware of in the first place? Everything about the situation has the stink of a publicity stunt, except it’s not clear exactly who would benefit, except perhaps PopFront’s traffic numbers. Not Swift, certainly, given that her new album is already pretty hotly anticipated and the cease-and-desist letter can only reinforce her image as overly litigious.