By Kellie Schorr

I am not a Swiftie.

I enjoy her music, but I am too lazy to work that hard and examine every video, lyric and picture for clues. I am a writer who has great respect for Taylor Swift’s writing skill and aspires to use words as well as she does. Examples:

Writing: I felt neglected, and you made me feel special.
Taylor Swift: I felt like I was an old cardigan. Under someone’s bed. You put me on and said I was your favorite.

Writing: I can forgive but I don’t forget.
Taylor Swift: I bury hatchets but keep maps of where I put them.

Writing: You pretended to have compassion then used my past hurts to wound me.
Taylor Swift: You drew stars around my scars, but now I’m bleeding.

I am not a member of Chiefs Nation.

If you know the slightest thing about me, you’ll know I am a Black and Gold til I’m dead and cold, Pittsburgh Steelers fan. However, when I have watched the Chiefs play, I enjoy watching Travis Kelce and his dynamic skillset on the field. He’s an amazing athlete.

I am not a Democrat.

I am a registered Independent and I don’t support either party. I make up my mind candidate by candidate based on how much I think they will support and protect the constitution. Frankly, though, most of the time I end up voting for the one I think will do the least amount of damage.  How I long for someone I could actually want in office because I believed in their leadership.

Why tell you all this? Because even though I am not a “Lefty-Swiftie-Chiefy” kind of woman, I can guarantee some poor suffering soul will write comments about the fact I need to, “do my research” (code for: “think the way I do”) or say,  I’m “part of the operation.”

Would that be ridiculous? Yes. Will it happen? Yes. That is why there is suffering.

The Buddha’s Four Noble Truths have been taught in various translations and interpretations. To me, the core intent of them is simple.

  1. All life experiences suffering.
  2. We suffer because of grasping. We cling to things that do not last or are not real.
  3. There is a way to stop suffering.
  4. The Eight-Fold Noble path is the way.

Personally, I like to spend my time thinking about Noble Truth #3—stopping the suffering.  However, when it comes to the topic of the latest Taylor Swift conspiracy theory from Right-Wing Conservatives, Truth #2 is where we need to look.

Secret Agent Swift

The Taylor Trigger got pulled early in her apparent relationship with Travis Kelce with the “Dads, Brads, and Chads” (again, good writing!) howling that she is dominating coverage, ruining their broadcast experience and killing football. (Sexism is interesting. I can’t tell you how many times I see Jack Nicholson shown at Laker games, and it never ruined anything for anyone—but that’s another article).

That was the beginning of suffering, a grasping at things that are not real. As Sports Illustrated pointed out from a data perspective—in the AFC Championship game, a broadcast that lasted three hours and nine minutes, Taylor Swift was shown seven times, for a total of—44 seconds.

That’s hardly “domination.”

Not content with the facts, the next step—a giant leap for conservative kind—was to take that suffering and magnify it into a full-blown conspiracy theory. Championed by Right-Wing Media (you know, the people who brought you such things as “Pizzagate” and “Barbie Burning”) the new theory is this:

The romance between Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce is a plot on behalf of Democrats to take over two of America’s biggest stages—Pop Music and NFL Football—and then use that massive coverage for Taylor Swift to get on the field at the Superbowl and—(*gasp*) endorse Joe Biden. The whole thing is a Psyop (psychological operation), and complicit in it are Swift, Kelce, NFL referees (who are giving the Chiefs calls the help them win), NFL, and “Democrats” (whoever they are). 

It’s so dumb, the whole thing would be hysterically funny, if it weren’t also dangerous. Although Taylor Swift, like most stars, has dealt with stalkers and unfortunate situations before—a media person blathering this stuff to an already unstable audience really could be putting Swift and the people around her at risk. That makes this no laughing matter.

Why all this suffering?

The grasping of all conspiracy theories is founded on fear. Fear is not based on what’s real. It’s based on a narrative or story that is conjured up out of tangential events. Fear is, in essence, the pain before the wound. Conspiracy theories and the people who both sell and believe them are awash in fear.

What are they grasping?

Power: From a pragmatic sense, conservatives watched all summer long as Swift sold out football stadiums across the country. The record-breaking Eras Tour sold 4.3 million tickets in the US. That’s a lot of votes.

Even if you factored out half the crowd as being teenagers too young to vote, it’s still a lot of votes. Republican grousing about Taylor Swift isn’t because she’s ruining football or left country music. It’s because she speaks to a potential game-changing amount of people—it could create a political cataclysm if they have more in common than liking Taylor’s music.

For people afraid of losing their power, a woman who unapologetically speaks her mind can be very threatening.

Profit:  The fractured and fringe part of the Republican party has seen its media empire challenged by reactions to the Big Lie, fallout from the January 6 insurrection, and the Dominion Voting Systems court case where Fox News representatives admitted they didn’t even believe the stories they were reporting as news. Loss of audience and advertisers equals a loss of revenue.  Uniting people by what they fear is a tried-and-true method for gaining ground and greenbacks.

Relevance:  Back in the day, conservatives were able to rally their troops around things like traditional family values, the national debt, and benefitting big business. They still sing those songs, but like one of Taylor’s old country ballads, they just aren’t as popular as the new stuff.

Attempting to engage a younger group and benefit from culture wars, they seek modern targets like Bud Lite, Barbie, and Taylor Swift. If Taylor Swift’s name wasn’t powerful enough to turn heads, they wouldn’t care who she dated or where she went.

What to do?

Because there is a certain desperation that goes with grasping, it’s hard to know what to do when someone starts spouting conspiratorial nonsense. It can make us feel defensive, angry, or helpless. We can show tons of facts and charts, but that just tightens the knot of cognitive dissonance.

We can shrug and walk away, refusing to add more fuel to a dumpster fire of ideas, but it may leave us feeling complacent and unhelpful to the larger dialogue.

The first and most important thing is to realize that what you are hearing is, in fact, suffering. People believe and share conspiracies because they are in a state of internal panic and are reaching for any rope they can reach that promises to steady them, no matter how frayed or false it appears to someone else.

These stories aren’t really about Taylor Swift.  

They are the sad cries of people with little else upon which to hold. Does that make it right? Oh, my Buddha, no. But it can ensure you stay within the Right Intention of the Noble Eight-Fold Path, when you can respond with action rather than reaction, and compassion rather than aggression.

You have every right to share your opinions, walk away, or quietly observe that maybe this is about something different or deeper than Taylor Swift and the discussion should pause for reflection. Then, with a little perspective, it can be seen as more likely that Taylor Swift isn’t a secret ops agent with nefarious intent, but a woman—an incredibly hard-working, talented woman, who has started a relationship with a man, an incredibly hard-working athletic man, and likes to watch him play football.

No one is being forced to like either of them, but it’s okay if they do. It’s not mind control. It’s just life.

Conspiracy theories are always going to swirl around famous people and infamous events, revealing the second noble truth to be active in our midst. Still, we can have peace because the third noble truth is equally as present.

There is a way to stop suffering.


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Editor: Dana Gornall


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