Taylor Swift is dealing with some more bad blood. Earlier this month, Taylor Swift threatened to sue a blog called PopFront for publishing a post linking Swift's music to the alt-right movement. Swift's legal threats aren't going unquestioned, though. PopFront and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are pushing back, saying that the post is protected as free speech.
On Oct. 25, the singer's lawyer sent PopFront's executive editor Meghan Herning a cease and desist letter for a post she wrote titled, “Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation.” The letter called the piece a "defamatory story," and threatened legal action unless the site pulled the post and issue a retraction.
"The story is replete with demonstrable and offensive falsehoods which bear no relation to reality or the truth about Ms. Swift," the letter read. "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." Swift's legal team did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's request for comment.
The piece in question connects Swift's music to ideals promoted by white supremacists, analyzing Swift's song "Look What You Made Me Do" in comparison to white supremacist ideology. Herning also unpacks the alt-right's fascination with the star, and asserts that the song reads like a "defense of white privilege and white anger."
There has never been evidence that Swift supports the alt-right movement, or condones fans who do. But Swift has certainly been somewhat of a darling for the alt-right movement, at least from their side. The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist website, has made multiple claims (likely in jest) that the singer is secretly a Nazi, and dubbed her a "pure Aryan goddess," according to Broadly. A since-deleted Facebook group called "Taylor Swift for Fascist Europe" also reportedly had over 18,000 likes, with the group's community manager applauding Swift for embodying the "Aryan spirit."
In response to the cease and desist, Herning teamed up with the ACLU, which released its own statement on the matter — complete with some tongue-in-cheek references to Swift's lyrics.
“Intimidation tactics like these are unacceptable,” ACLU attorney Matt Cagle wrote in a Nov. 6 press release. “Not in her wildest dreams can Ms. Swift use copyright law to suppress this exposure of a threat to constitutionally protected speech.”
Michael Risher, an ACLU Northern California attorney, added,
This is a completely unsupported attempt to suppress constitutionally protected speech.
The organization also published the response they sent Swift's legal team, which slammed the accusations that Herning's piece was in any way defamatory. It stated,
Ms. Herning and PopFront will not in any way accede to your attempt to suppress their constitutionally protected speech. 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 embraced Ms. Swift... All of this is core political speech that cannot possibly be defamatory because it is not even about Ms. Swift.
Herning tells Elite Daily that when she first received the letter, she thought it had to be some sort of joke.
"I honestly didn't think it was real," she says by phone. "I read it three or four times... and I thought, 'This is unbelievable.'"
PopFront has a relatively tiny following (1,128 Facebook likes, 159 Twitter followers), which Herning believes Swift's counsel used to their advantage.
"We're a small media outlet," she says. "We don't have a general counsel any of the major outlets. I guess they were just banking on our ignorance."
We'll have to wait to see what unfolds next, but one thing is for certain. Taylor Swift vs. the ACLU might be the most bizarre surprise feud of 2017.