Ah, time. It’s a funny thing. On this day last year, so many of us were dragging Steinway-sized cases of champagne out of Costco in anticipation of a woman making history and changing the course of humankind. Today I am here to tell you that while Taylor Swift’s lawyer is VERY sure that Taylor Swift has nothing in common with Adolf Hitler, the ACLU has explained that Swift can’t sue people for wondering if she does.
Many moons ago, after Tina Fey and Amy Poehler joked about her love life at an awards show, Taylor Swift remarked, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” On Monday we learned that there’s also a special place in constitutional law for women who try to sue other women for comparing them to Hitler. That place is called the first amendment. (Also! There’s definitely a place in hell for people who think Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are going to hell.)
-Two months ago, a blogger for a publication called “Popfront” (179 followers at press time) wrote a post that argued that Taylor Swift’s new song “Look What You Made Me Do”, as well as some of her other works, could be subtle, intentional calls-to-arms for the alt-right, and called for her to denounce white supremacy. She noted what she saw as similarities between Swift and Adolf Hitler.
-Two weeks ago that blogger, Meghan Herning, received a wildly raving three-page, single-spaced letter from Swift’s lawyer, threatening a defamation lawsuit if Herning didn’t remove her post. The letter, which is the kind of extreme close reading of Herning’s article that any pop culture blogger would enjoy under other circumstances, also threatened to sue Herning if she told anyone about the threats, claiming “copyright”.
-Herning contacted the ACLU, and on Monday the group published an article explaining that “ACLU lawyers determined the legal claims were unsupported. The blog post is opinion protected by the First Amendment.”
-The ACLU has given Swift and her lawyer until November 13th to confirm they will not be suing Herning.
.@taylorswift13 Just shake it off. https://t.co/qZIBsbYSK1— ACLU SoCal (@ACLU_SoCal) November 6, 2017
Hilariously, the ACLU letter also pointed out that Swift and her made-up sounding attorney “William J. Briggs II” demanded that Herning retract her story by October 24th, which was one day before they contacted her. Matt Cagle, a lawyer for the ACLU who co-wrote the group’s response, said of the letter, “Intimidation tactics like this are unacceptable. Not in her wildest dreams can Ms. Swift use copyright law to suppress this exposure of a threat to constitutionally protected speech.”
Everything about this is rather spectacular, especially that we now get to wonder — did an ACLU lawyer just shade Taylor Swift using the title of her own (wildly controversial) song, “Wildest Dreams”?
In short, Taylor Swift was accused of being an alt-right sympathist in an article almost no one read, and then paid someone to scare the writer silent (ironically encouraging the idea that she is associated with fascism), and now is being very publicly corrected by the ACLU.
Oh, Taylor! Look what you made us do.
Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny