Taylor Swift threatens critic, ACLU says just ‘shake it off’

By @chelean on
Taylor Swift performs "Out of the Woods" at the 58th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California February 15, 2016.
Taylor Swift performs "Out of the Woods" at the 58th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California February 15, 2016. Reuters/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo

Taylor Swift is under fire from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for apparently trying to silence a critic. The US nonpartisan organisation slammed the Grammy Award winner for threatening an online publication for daring to criticise her.

Last month, PopFront Magazine posted an article titled “Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation,” which suggests there might be a connection between Swift’s music and the white supremacy. The article cites Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” as seemingly playing to subtle white support of 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 model from a podium, akin to what Hitler had in Nazis Germany. The similarities are uncanny and unsettling,” the post reads.

“Quiet racism only needs subtle encouragement, and it seems that ‘look what you made me do’ fits the criteria perfectly. The song ‘Look What You Made Me Do” evidently speaks to the lower case kkk; and they have embraced it.”

The article goes on to say that the song’s lyrics became the voice of white supremacy silent supporters. “…and Taylor’s sweet, victim image is the perfect vehicle and metaphor for white supremacists’ perceived victimisation.”

Swift did not appreciate being compared to a hate group and so she had her legal team sent PopFront Magazine a legal letter demanding that the article be taken down immediately. Her lawyer condemned the magazine for allegedly perpetuating the “sickening lie” that the songstress supports white supremacists.

“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 you apparent animus and malice toward Ms Swift, the intent to cause harm to Ms Swift is clear,” the letter reads.

It also threatens litigation should PopFront decline to issue a retraction no later than Oct. 24, remove the article from all media sources, and cease and desist the article from further dissemination or publication. It also claimed that the threatening letter was protected by copyright and the magazine would be violating the Copyright Act should it publish the letter in whole or in part. PopFront refused to do any of the above.

The ACLU, a non-profit organisation that aims to defend individual rights and liberties in the US, stepped in and wrote back to Swift’s legal team. It published its reply online as well as Swift’s legal team’s letter.

The organisation claims Swift and her team were attempting to suppress constitutionally protected speech, answering every point in the legal letter. ACLU basically says what PopFront wrote was all protected opinion, and Swift was infringing on the magazine’s right.

“In short, your claims that the blog post has defamed Ms Swift are completely unsupported. If the blog post’s interpretation of Ms Swift’s lyrics were defamatory, your letter’s slanted interpretation of that post would be, too (and more so, since you misquote the post). The First Amendment and our nation’s ‘profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open’ prevents these types of differences of opinion from being censored by the threat of defamation lawsuits.”

It also condemns the Swift’s lawyer’s parting shot that threatens further legal ramifications against PopFront should the magazine publish its letter. It says the demand was odd particularly coming from a lawyer. “You cannot really expect that a person who receives a letter like this will feel any duty to keep this matter a little secret between the two of you.”

The ACLU also had to insert Swift’s own song to its reply, saying, “Criticism is never pleasant, but a celebrity has to shake it off, even if the critique may damage her reputation.”