Taylor Swift’s declaration that she plans to vote for Democrats next month fell like a hammer across the Trump-worshipping subforums of the far-right Internet, where people had convinced themselves, for reasons it will take some time to explain, that the world-famous pop star was a secret #MAGA fan.
The news caught 4chan and Reddit trolls mid-post. On the pro-Trump r/The_Donald board, someone had just written out a sexual fantasy in which Swift and Kanye West hooked up because “Trump being the best president is actually something they both agree on.” The author edited the post minutes later: “NVM didn’t realize Taylor sold out to the left.”
Missives about Swift’s perceived betrayal of conservatism clogged far-right message boards. Some simply refused to believe what she had written to her 112 million Instagram followers Sunday evening — a 400-word condemnation of “systemic racism,” homophobia and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the GOP Senate candidate in her home state of Tennessee, complete with Swift’s endorsement of two Democrats: Phil Bredesen, the party’s Senate candidate, and Rep. Jim Cooper.
“This is more than likely from Democratic MK ultra forces from above,” m3Me_Magic wrote on The_Donald. “I highly doubt Swift decided to become political at the 11th hour all on her own.”
That a 28-year-old celebrity — even one who had previously kept her politics private — would weigh in on a potentially crucial midterm election seems much less strange than the story of how the far-right Internet came to believe Swift was their secret ally — “our girl,” as many put it.
The delusion traces back to the middle of the Obama administration, 2011, when a certain fraction of 4chan users convinced themselves that Swift had let them name her cat.
In some ways, it’s not much different from how every other conspiracy theory arises out of nonsense on that anonymous message board:
Among the hundreds of thousands of posts written on 4chan that November, one was a kitten-naming contest. The winning name was Meredith, which — lo and behold — was also the name of Swift’s new kitten, according to a People Magazine article that 4chan users subsequently passed around in astonishment.
The fact that Swift had named her kitten Meredith at least three days before the contest was held made little difference to those who convinced themselves she was a secret 4chan user. Amateur sleuths began sifting through the website in search of more supposed secret messages from the pop star, coming up with a photo of someone’s window blinds that looked like Swift’s and an anonymous message from a “conservative” “entertainer” who claimed to be “one of the 50 most famous people on the planet.”
A myth that began with a kitten took a dark turn a few years later, when a neo-Nazi blogger came across a joke meme that mashed up photos of Swift with quotes from Adolf Hitler. He apparently mistook these as authentic and published them on the Daily Stormer under the headline: “Aryan Goddess Taylor Swift: Nazi Avatar of the White European People.”
Probably not many people believed Swift was a Nazi — but between the 4chan rumors and the Daily Stormer memes, a vague but widespread belief spread across right-wing circles that the star was on their side.
“Swift is very white and very blonde,” Milo Yiannopoulos wrote on Breitbart in 2016. “She was born on, and grew up in, a Christmas tree farm in rural Pennsylvania. You heard me right: a Christmas tree farm. Little wonder the tradition-oriented alt-right are swooning.”
More than swooning — they were expecting.
“Taylor Swift will soon come out of the MAGA closet,” reads a typical post from that era on The_Donald, complete with a doctored photo of the star in a “Make America Great Again” hat.
“Taylor Swift is secretly based,” a user called MrGreggle wrote on Reddit last year, after learning she had sent flowers to a police officer injured in the Las Vegas massacre. “She gets flak all the time for refusing to become a leftist spokesperson and she let 4chan name her cat.”
To be sure, there were warning signs, if anyone cared to look. “I’ve never seen this country so happy about a political decision in my entire time of being alive,” she told Rolling Stone at age 19, after the election of Barack Obama. She came out for gun control in March. She was shown on Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” cover in 2017 as one of the “silence breakers” fighting back against sexual harassment. The cover story cited her legal battle with former radio DJ David Mueller, whom she accused of sexual misconduct.
But hope springs eternal until it suddenly goes dry, which it did abruptly Sunday night.
MrGreggle redistributed his allegiance to the libertarian punk musician Michale Graves after seeing Swift’s Instagram post. Another regular on The_Donald who had once sung her praises claimed he didn’t listen to her.
“I would say 90% of T_D thought she was ‘our girl,’” added dieselnut, who a few hours earlier had been celebrating photos of police “groping” women protesting Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh. “No hard feelings fellas, but let’s not claim them as our own until they prove they love America.”
“GG, you just lost over half of your fanbase, including me,” SwimmingJunky wrote in one of The_Donald’s most popular posts Monday morning, up-voted by thousands of people. (Even the president said Monday that he likes Swift’s music "about 25 percent less now, OK?”)
And where there was not despondency, there was anger.
“Nobody pisses off 4chan,” wrote MartianSpaceCat. “She will regret this move for that reason alone.”
Maybe. Even on a good day, 4chan’s overtly misogynistic /pol/ board is awash in rants from men angry at “feminists” and “social justice warriors” they believe have taken over society.
As you’d expect, the mood was more foul than usual after the forum’s imaginary protege declared her real feelings. The Washington Post’s language policies prevent linking to most of what 4chan had to say.
Suffice to say, a meme of Pepe the Frog openly weeping with a gun to his head appeared in one of the most popular threads, more or less summing up the mood.