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The Hucksterism Behind The Attacks On Taylor Swift — Update

UPDATE: There’s a reason that attacks on Taylor Swift continued throughout the day today: She’s a celebrity guaranteed to drive web traffic, particularly to right-wing media figures advancing ever more outlandish conspiracy theories. For much of today, social media focused on figures like Jack Posobiec and Benny Johnson, who benefit from the attention even if it’s to try to discredit them.

While a Swift endorsement of Joe Biden may very well hold enough sway to be of concern to Donald Trump’s campaign, the fixation on cooking up conspiracy theories about her has more to do with what draws attention in a hyper-competitive universe of voices on the right.

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Erick Erickson, the conservative commentator, wrote on X/Twitter, “Let me explain what is actually going on with these hucksters, charlatans, and grifters on the right. They don’t believe it. They hope you might believe it. They are nihilists who don’t care about the consequences of their lies. Many of the same Swift/Kelce conspiracists were PizzaGate conspiracists — fine when others caused harm. They care about their clout and buzz and how viral they can be online.”

He added, “It’s not a coincidence that many of them are ‘social media influencers’ or ‘social media experts.’ They want to show donors and political campaigns how they can make things viral and generate buzz. They don’t care that you are mocking them. They don’t show that. They show how they trended. They show how they make a topic go viral. Damn the consequences.”

Sports commentator Colin Cowherd noted that Swift’s airtime on Sunday’s game was just 32 seconds. “Judge people sometimes on the silly stuff that bothers them. It will tell you a lot about them,” he said.

PREVIOUSLY: The prospect of a Taylor Swift endorsement of Joe Biden continued to transfix media on the right throughout the day today. Their message: Stay out of the presidential race.

On Fox Business, Brian Kilmeade thinks it would be a big mistake for her to throw her support behind Biden, even though she did so in 2020.

“Why would you tell half the country that you don’t agree with them in this highly polarized time?” KIlmeade asked. “You stay out of it. ‘Hey listen. I am Taylor Swift. I like this guy. He happens to play football for a living. I’m on the stage a lot selling out.’ That’s it.”

“I think it would be the craziest thing ever for her to do it, and Joe Biden’s not worth it. My goodness. If you need Taylor Swift to get you another four years, that’s how bad your first four years have been. You’re done. You’re finished. You’re through.”

Kilmeade did dismiss the conspiracy theory involving rigging the Super Bowl as a way to help Biden, but the whole idea that Swift is a psy op continues to spread in far-right media, including One America News.

PREVIOUSLY: While Joe Biden’s campaign reportedly is dreaming of the possibilities of a Taylor Swift endorsement, there’s some data suggesting that it could have a real impact.

A Redfield & Winton Strategies poll for Newsweek over the weekend found that 18% of respondents said that Swift’s endorsement made them “more likely” or “significantly more likely” to vote for that candidate. That said, 17% said her endorsement would make them less likely to vote for that candidate, while 55% said it would have no impact. The poll had a sample size of sample size of 1,500 eligible voters.

While the poll suggests that a Swift endorsement would be countered by a negative reaction, it also said that it would be particularly motivating to younger voters. That’s a key voting block for the Biden campaign, with concerns that the 18-34 age group won’t be as motivated to go to the polls as they were in 2020.

A caveat: This is just one poll, and it’s difficult to discern the true impact of celebrity endorsements in swaying votes. But campaigns have often turned to celebrities as a way to boost enthusiasm and fundraising, as well as to get people simply to register to vote. In the final days of the 2020 campaign, Biden campaigned with Lady Gaga, boosting crowds.

Swift is everywhere — as was apparent in the coverage of the AFC championship game and aftermath on Sunday. And there is every reason to believe that Time’s Person of the Year will continue to be just as ubiquitous over the next year as Biden and Donald Trump, perhaps even more so.

There is reason for the Biden campaign’s optimism that she will back his campaign. Swift, who is 47 years younger than the president, endorsed his campaign in 2020. Earlier that year, a viral clip from the Netflix documentary Miss Americana showed her determination to speak out against Donald Trump and one of his loyalists, Marsha Blackburn, despite her parents’ worries over her safety. Swift endorsed Blackburn’s opponent Phil Bredeson in the 2018 Senate race, but he lost.

Since then, she’s become even more of a worldwide sensation, with 280 million Instagram followers. She has encouraged fans to register to vote, something that has led to to an immediate uptick in tens of thousands of new registrations, according to Vote.org. Earlier this month, Fox News host Jesse Watters suggested that the Pentagon psy-op unit “floated turning Taylor Swift into an asset” during a NATO meeting as a way to combat misinformation. A Pentagon spokesperson denied the claim in a statement to Politico: “As for this conspiracy theory, we are going to shake it off.” Get it?

Perhaps the best measure of Swift’s influence has been some of the reaction on the right to the notion that she’d back Biden. Her appearance at Sunday’s championship game was the subject of negative commentary on Fox News, while Vivek Ramaswamy, the former presidential candidate, advanced an outlandish conspiracy theory positing that the Super Bowl would be rigged to somehow raise Swift’s profile and then help Biden.

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