Shake it off: Taylor Swift is not a secret Pentagon agent after all

One in five Americans believe conspiracy theory that singer is a pro-Biden covert operative

Taylor Swift and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce celebrate the Chiefs victory over the 49ers on Sunday. EPA
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Americans need to calm down: Taylor Swift is not part of a shadowy US military plot to help President Joe Biden win re-election in November, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

It was responding to a national poll that found almost 20 per cent of respondents believe Swift is a government asset.

The unusual denial comes after right-wing conspiracy theorists and Fox News have spent weeks pushing a claim that Swift is part of a Pentagon psychological operation to help Mr Biden.

Travis Kelce, her American footballer boyfriend, who helped propel his Kansas City Chiefs team to Super Bowl glory at the weekend, is also supposedly somehow in on it.

“We know all too well the dangers of conspiracy theories, so to set the record straight – Taylor Swift is not part of a [Defence Department] psychological operation. Period,” Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said.

“I’m sure she has other chief priorities, as do we,” Ms Singh told me, before continuing with the footballing pun: “Which is why we continue to urge Congress to complete the passage of a budget and our supplemental request so we can move the ball down field and across the goal line in support of critical national security priorities.”

According to a Monmouth University Poll released on Wednesday, just under one in five Americans (18 per cent) believe the Swift conspiracy exists.

Most of these respondents (83 per cent) said they would probably support Donald Trump, the presumed Republican nominee, in November's presidential election.

The claim appears to be rooted in a Fox News segment during which host Jesse Watters played a 2019 clip of a US official, who was speaking at a Nato meeting, floating the idea that social influencers such as Swift could be encouraged to counter covert misinformation from foreign adversaries.

“I like her music. She’s all right. But have you ever wondered why or how she blew up like this?” Watters said.

“Well around four years ago, the Pentagon’s psychological operations unit floated turning Taylor Swift into an asset.”

Fox News is well known for pushing conspiracy theories and framing even routine stories as having some sort of “Deep State” connection.

Fox patriarch Rupert Murdoch last year acknowledged that some of the commentators on his network endorsed former Mr Trump's debunked claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged, even though the news channel knew they were false.

In April, Fox was forced to pay voting machine maker Dominion $787.5 million in damages after the network knowingly spread misinformation about the company and its supposed role in the 2020 election.

The Republican animus against Swift also stems from her historic contempt for Mr Trump, who she called a racist and potentially violent white supremacist in 2020.

From an overseas perspective, its easy to shrug off the Swift saga as weird America just being weird, but in an age where lies spread faster than the truth, it is worth reminding that the fever dreams of the far-right can have real-world impacts.

I happen to live close to Comet Pizza in Washington, a great family spot for ping pong and pies.

In 2016, it fell victim to another far-right conspiracy theory that set the tone for the years to come, as groups such as QAnon pushed claims that devil-worshipping Democrats feast on the blood and hormones of children as a way to stay forever young. (A look at the gerontocrats running the country should be enough to laugh that one off).

The Pizzagate conspiracy theory posited that kids were being groomed for Democrats in the restaurant's basement.

It was all nonsense, of course, and Comet doesn't even have a cellar. But that didn't stop a true believer driving up from North Carolina to “self-investigate” the madness.

He ended up opening fire with a semi-automatic rifle as he sought to rescue the purported children from the supposed basement. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

The fact that the Taylor Swift theory is so readily believed is a sad reflection of our times.

Even those who should know better are happy to spread nonsense. Elon Musk, for instance, has frequently pushed racist and anti-Semitic claims on his platform X.

The Monmouth University poll does have one less sinister finding, however: Two-thirds of the American public approves of Swift encouraging her fans to vote in the coming election.

In September, she posted a message on Instagram, encouraging her fans to vote. More than 35,000 did so.

Mr Biden's team appears to be trying to capitalise on all this, posting a message on X suggesting the great Swift conspiracy was going to plan after the Kansas City Chief's Super Bowl win.

Published: February 14, 2024, 8:41 PM