Taylor Swift is threatening legal action after a blogger accused her of being a closet racist, claiming that her recently released track “Look What You Made Me Do” is chock full of “dog whistles” to white supremacists. However, in a weird twist, Swift’s warnings of legal retaliation have earned her a stern rebuke from the American Civil Liberties Union, claiming she’s trying to quash free speech.
In the blog post on the PopFront site, Herning accuses Swift of loading the lyrics of “Look What You Made Me Do” with secret “dog whistles to white supremacy,” and quotes a “white supremacist blogger” from the reviled website The Daily Stormer, who wrote: “It is also an established fact that Taylor Swift is secretly a Nazi.”
In addition, the blog post claims that the chant of “you will not replace us” during the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville echoes Swift’s “I don’t like your kingdom keys, they once belonged to me” lyric in “Look What You Made Me Do”, and ponders whether the song is meant to serve “as indoctrination into white supremacy” for teenage girls.
“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,” Herning writes, adding that “there is no way to know for sure if Taylor is a Trump supporter or identifies with the white nationalist message, but her silence has not gone unnoticed.”
In response, Swift’s team threatened the website with legal action unless PopFront took down the blog post, characterizing it as a “malicious attack” against the star “that goes to great lengths to portray Ms. Swift as some sort of white supremacist figurehead.”
In a cease-and-desist letter sent to the website, Swift’s lawyers write: “One thing is certain: you are requiring Ms. Swift, but not any other celebrity or musician, to loudly denounce white supremacy and you do not accept her previous condemnations as good enough. Given your apparent animus and malice toward Ms. Swift, the intent to cause harm to Ms. Swift is clear.”
The website, however, is defiantly refusing to remove the blog post, issuing the following statement on the matter: “At a time when the press is under constant attack from the highest branches of government, this cease and desist letter is far more insidious than Swift and her lawyer may understand,” reads PopFront’s statement. “The press should not be bullied by legal action nor frightened into submission from covering any subject it chooses. Swift’s scare tactics may have worked in the past, but PopFront refuses to back down because we believe the First Amendment is more important than preserving a celebrity’s public image.”
Meanwhile, the ACLU is backing the website, noting that a blogger’s opinion about the underlying meaning of song lyrics doesn’t constitute defamation while pointing out that Swift’s threats of legal retaliation are actually an attack on Americans’ constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech
“Intimidation tactics like these are unacceptable,” said ACLU attorney Matt Cagle in a statement. “Not in her wildest dreams can Ms. Swift use copyright law to suppress this exposure of a threat to constitutionally protected speech.”
The final word on the subject, however, goes to Joseph Kahn, director of the “Look What You Made Me Do” video, who took to Twitter to point out that Swift has never publicly endorsed Donald Trump — unlike her nemesis, Kanye West: