Britain’s Guardian newspaper, a media outlet that has consistently supported Takfiri sectarianism in Syria and Lebanon, the occupation of Palestine, the fascist regime in Kiev and Hillary Clinton’s losing but nevertheless continuous campaign to become US President, has hit a new and peculiar low.
This time they are not slamming RT, the government of Iran, Syria or China, but Taylor Swift, the American pop star whose music is popular among teenagers and young adults.
What is Taylor Swift’s crime? Her crime is staying out of politics.
The hit-piece on the hit-maker begins in the following way,
“In the year since Donald Trump was elected, the entertainment world has been largely united in its disdain for his presidency. But a notable voice has been missing from the chorus: that of Taylor Swift, the world’s biggest pop star. Her silence is striking, highlighting the parallels between the singer and the president: their adept use of social media to foster a diehard support base; their solipsism; their laser focus on the bottom line; their support among the “alt-right”.
Swift’s songs echo Mr Trump’s obsession with petty score-settling in their repeated references to her celebrity feuds, or report in painstaking detail on her failed romantic relationships (often, there is crossover). The message is quintessentially Trumpian: everyone is out to get me – but I win anyway. Seeded with clues to the identities of her famous associates, her lyrics reel in and solidify a hardcore fanbase – usually young, female followers known as “Swifties” – who passionately defend her honour on social media by attacking her detractors”.
Already, one can see the flaws in the coming argument.
By admitting that Swift’s fan-base is young, which is about the only true point made in the article, all subsequent arguments are rendered increasingly absurd as a consequence.
In the US, those under 18 – a demographic who make up a substantial part of Swift’s fan-base – cannot vote, whilst those just over 18 – also a substantial part of Swift’s fan-base – statistically rarely vote, though they legally can.
The article’s anonymous author then offers a list of offences which attempt to prove that the apolitical Swift is somehow subliminally offering a pro-Trump message. Thus we read of such ‘Trump like’ misdemeanours as:
— Swift refusing to make her new album available on the streaming service Spotify, but instead forcing a one-time digital purchase via Spotify with whom she cut a deal some years ago.
–Integrating her online fan-club with proportional sales for concert tickets, recordings and other items such as meet and greets.
–Winning a lawsuit against another music industry professional for a matter unrelated to party politics.
–Writing songs about initially heartbroken women feeling better after a romantic break-up
–Noting that she once vaguely mentioned that she supports the Republican party, while also noting that she once gave an equally vague statement supporting Barack Obama.
The charges against Swift, like her music, are incredibly unpolitical. It really all boils down to the fact that in an age where the music industry has declined as a commercial force, she has managed to either invent or implement a successful on-line business model and sing the kind of bubble-gum pop songs that have always been popular among girls and young women.
The idea that as a popular singer, Swift has some sort of obligation to be political is not only nonsense; it smacks of Mussolini’s idea of totalitarianism wherein “either you’re with us or against us” (“o con noi o contro di noi”).
The idea that a singer should be forced to adopt a political ideology in a supposedly free country or else be accused of some moral wrongdoing, is a deeply unethical mindset.
But then there is the wider question of political pop. While I am aware that a handful of anti-Trump songs have been produced by major stars, these songs represent a small percentage of the overall pop charts when compared to anti-war songs and pro-civil rights songs of the Vietnam war era in the United States.
As someone whose first ever job was selling records and music playing equipment, I could easily think of several dozen anti-war/pro-civil rights songs from the Vietnam era in a matter of seconds. When it comes to anti-Trump songs, all that comes to mind immediately is Eminem doing a free-style rap in a parking garage. I am aware there are others, but they just don’t seem to be as prominent as the political pop and rock music of the 1960s and 1970s.
Because the United States was a capitalist society in 1968 and remains so today, the fact that anti-war records sold well in the 1960s but anti-Trump songs are not dominating the charts today can only mean that today’s liberal elite have less influence on the tastes of mostly young pop consumers than that anti-war movement did on college and high school campuses in the 1960s.
What’s more, in the Vietnam War era there was no attempt to criticise apolitical musicians on the basis that they did not engage in politics. In 1970, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young released the song Ohio which proclaimed, “Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming, we’re finally on our own. This summer I hear the drumming, four dead in Ohio”. That same year the Carpenters, light pop favourites of the day, released the song (They Long to Be) Close to You, which had entirely zero direct or indirect references to Nixon, but plenty of lyrics about wanting to be near a loved one.
It seems that the western media in the Cold War was more tolerant of those who would rather sing about love than about Vietnam, Martin Luther King or Richard Nixon, and I say this as someone who owns plenty of protest records from the 1960s and 1970s.
To quote the singer of another band once called “fascist” for engaging more in theatricality than in punky politics, Freddie Mercury of Queen, “I’ve done my sentence, but committed no crime”.
In the case of Taylor Swift her sentence is having the wrinkled finger of Guardian “journalism” waved in her face and her non-crime is singing about the kinds of things on teenage girls’ minds, which statistically are not Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton.
For a newspaper like The Guardian that has supported all of the major western led neo-imperialist wars throughout the wider world from Iraq to Syria, maybe someone ought to write an anti-war song about the Guardian?
But that person shouldn’t be Taylor Swift. Swift sings songs made for young people who aren’t interested in politics, and there is absolutely nothing sinister about that.