Last month PopFront, a blog on culture and politics, published an article titled, “Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor Swift subtly gets the lower case ‘kkk’ in formation with ‘Look What You Made me Do.'” In the article, Megan Herning writes about the new Swift single and music video for “Look What You Made Me Do” and how the alt-right have claimed the song to justify their hateful message.
“Taylor’s lyrics in ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ seem to play to the same subtle, quiet white support of a racial hierarchy,” Herning writes. “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 [sic]. The similarities are uncanny and unsettling.”
Herning also criticized Taylor Swift’s lack of political advocacy against white supremacy, and that in today’s culture, it is essential to take a stand against injustice and inequality. “So Taylor’s [political] silence is not innocent, it is calculated,” Herning said. “And if that is not true, she needs to state her beliefs out loud for the world—no matter what fan base she might lose, because in America 2017, silence in the face of injustice means support for the oppressor.”
In response to the blog post, Swift’s lawyer William J. Briggs sent a cease and desist letter to Herning in defense of his client. The letter reads, “The [PopFront] story is replete with demonstrable and offensive falsehoods which bear no relation to reality or the truth about Ms. Swift. It appears to be a malicious attack against Ms. Swift that goes to great lengths to portray Ms. Swift as some sort of white supremacist figurehead, which is a baseless fiction masquerading as fact and completely misrepresents Ms. Swift.”
After receiving the letter, Herning contacted the American Civil Liberties Union who criticized Swift for threatening to sue the blogger stating her post is “constitutionally protected speech.” The ACLU states, “The blog post is a mix of core political speech and critical commentary; it discusses current politics in this country, the recent rise of white supremacy, and the fact that some white supremacists have apparently embraced Ms. Swift, along with a critical interpretation of some of Ms. Swift’s music, lyrics, and videos.”
Yesterday, Herning published a response to Swift’s letter to her in an article titled, “Taylor Swift tries to silence Popfront with cease and desist letter” where she claims “We will not be silenced” and criticized the troubling precedent Swift and her lawyer are setting in threatening the free press.
“This tactic can set a dangerous precedent because it would mean any public figure could chill any criticism levied at them. 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. The press should not be bullied by legal action nor frightened into submission from covering any subject it chooses.”
As of yet, there has been no public response from Swift or her lawyer on the ACLU’s comments.