Stop whatever you’re doing right now because odds are that you’re not operating out of free will. That’s right. The Taylor Swift tune you’re mindlessly humming while scrolling past Super Bowl ads on the way to checking your email isn’t just a harmless earworm, at least according to the MAGA Mediaverse.

It’s all part of a nefarious plot to subvert the 2024 election and hand it to Joe Biden.

In a triangulation of paranoia, politics and pop music, right-wing influencers warned this week that superstar Swift and her co-conspirators, the NFL, are part of a widespread scheme to tank Donald Trump’s chances of winning back the White House.

This carefully constructed web of deceit has been uncovered/fabricated by misinformation agents from Fox News to OAN to regional talk radio, many of whom have also spent the last few months convincing their followers that Swift is a Trojan Horse for the Democratic Party ... and an undercover Pentagon operative.

Fox News anchor Jesse Watters suggested earlier this month that Swift might be “a front for a covert political agenda.” Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh responded to Watters’ claim using a song title and lyric from the singer’s hit repertoire: “As for this conspiracy theory, we are going to shake it off.”

Now Swift’s recent-ish romance with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is being held up as proof that the NFL is involved in a deep-six operation to sink the GOP come November. The football organization will supposedly do so by rigging the upcoming Super Bowl in favor of Kansas City, therefore giving Swift the perfect moment — the halftime show! — to announce her endorsement of the Democratic candidate.

Big pharma also has their hand in the malfeasance, or is it the Clintons? Or both? Hard to keep track, but if we were to ask a Magic 8 Ball, as reliable a source as any on Fox, “It is decidedly so.”

No matter that it doesn’t exactly require “Mission Impossible” coordination to make the above predictions come true: Swift, along with three-quarters of the entertainment industry, endorsed Joe Biden during the last election cycle and probably will do so again.

The Chiefs won the 2023 Super Bowl, and this year’s game marks their fourth appearance in five years. Yet on Sunday after the Chiefs’ victory against the Baltimore Ravens, conservative media personality Mike Cripsi took the bold step of “Calling it now: KC wins, goes to Super Bowl, Swift comes out at the halftime show and ‘endorses’ Joe Biden with Kelce at midfield. ... It’s all been an op since day one.”

That’s “op” as in “psy-op,” a favored right-wing term for psychological manipulation. Former GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy posted similar psy-op sentiments on X, to which the platform’s owner, Elon Musk, replied, “Exactly.”

The idea that Swift and Kelce are players in a covert stratagem against Republicans is so facile that it feels generous to even label it a conspiracy theory on the same plane as, like, Area 51 and the staged moon landing. Yet folks have bitten, and now I’m writing about it.

But choosing Taylor Swift as the figurehead of this imaginary attack on MAGA world is a curious about-face given that the billionaire songstress was one of the few pop sensations embraced by the right.

The innocuous, feel-good singer emerged out of country music two decades ago and for much of her career was embraced by middle America as a wholesome, safe alternative to Beyoncé and other leading ladies who don’t resemble the Swiss Miss cocoa girl.

So what changed? Just about everything, including the sad truth that everything is up for polarizing politicization when issues and policy are no longer at the core of a campaign or a party’s goals.

Real issues — from the lack of affordable housing to a potential world war erupting out of the Middle East to the multiple criminal trials of the Republican front-runner — requiring discernment and serious thought. And since Trump’s GOP appears short on both, they’ve turned to another tried-and-true red herring: Attacking a powerful woman.

Sports pundits and conservative personalities have been grousing for months about legions of Swifties suddenly attending Kansas City games, and even donning Kelce’s “87” jersey. How dare they!

Kelce already was a questionable figure among right-wing sports fans for his role in a campaign promoted by Pfizer that encourages people to get a COVID-19 and flu shot at the same time. Now he’s dragged pop culture — a realm often criticized by conservative pundits as a Petri dish of woke ideologies — into the sacred world of sports, barely covering his tracks from apolitical player to undercover leftist operative.

Despite the latter narrative, it’s Swift’s fame that launched Kelce onto the worldwide stage. Her record-breaking Eras tour, and a blockbuster film enshrining the concerts, catapulted her from an omnipresent musical sensation to a global force. Her boyfriend of the moment naturally become part of the phenomenon.

Sometimes a pop star really just is a pop star, and a football player really just is a football player. Even in an election year where fear of psy-ops and pop stardom collide.


(Ali is the Los Angeles Times news and culture critic.)


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