Steve M., who briefly and generously cross-posted his pieces at Booman Tribune, is one of the best and most indefatigable bloggers ever born, and he’s written another great post, this time on the right’s freakout over the relationship between Taylor Swift and professional football player Travis Kelce of the Super Bowl-bound Kansas City Chiefs. I’ll say up front that I don’t love Steve’s effort to dub this phenomenon “Tay-Anon,” but I suppose it’s significant enough to warrant some kind of name.
One reason Steve chose to use an “Anon” moniker is that he’s making a larger point that Donald Trump dominates discourse on the right but he absolutely does not drive or encompass the totality of crazy. It’s a subject he also touched on in a previous post titled “It’s a Cult, but Is It a Trump Cult?“. As he notes, Trump has dabbled at times with QAnon language and themes, but he didn’t originate or really drive the movement.
Whether it’s extremism or conspiratorialism, the right seems to be led not by Trump exclusively, but by whoever is the edgiest edgelord. Often it’s a group of edgelords — for instance, there’s no single leader of the COVID denialist movement, but it drives Republican thinking on the virus, in defiance of Trump’s continued support for vaccination. Trump echoed QAnon for a while, but he wasn’t its leader, or even one of its main propagandists. And now we have Tay-Anon, which is independent of Trump.
If you don’t know the term, Merriam-Webster defines an ‘edgelord’ as “someone who makes wildly dark and exaggerated statements (as on an internet forum) with the intent of shocking others.” In that sense, Donald Trump used Twitter to become the biggest edgelord on the planet, but he’s far from the only one working in the service of America’s reactionary right.
The latest conspiracy is that NFL games were fixed to ensure that the Kansas City Chiefs appear in the Super Bowl. The reason is because Swift supports the reelection of Joe Biden and since she has been conspicuously attending most of the Chiefs’ games this year, this will allow her a huge platform to endorse Biden, perhaps at halftime of the big game. In the fuller version, the San Francisco 49ers were selected as the opponent specifically because the city’s former mayor and California’s current governor, Gavin Newsom, is going to be substituted for Biden at the Democratic National Convention as the party’s presidential nominee.
I wouldn’t be completely shocked if Newsom does wind up substituting for Biden, but that’s not why the Detroit Lions blew a 24-7 halftime lead to the 49ers and lost their chance to oppose Kelce’s Chiefs in the Super Bowl. I’ll also note that the Chiefs are the defending NFL champions and they don’t need help winning football games. But the theory that this matchup has been manufactured to help the Biden ‘regime’ only has plausibility because Swift is influential enough to affect the outcome of the presidential election.
A survey by Morning Consult said 53% of American adults are Swift devotees. There are almost as many men as women, almost as many Republicans as Democrats. And they include baby boomers, millennials, Gen Xers and young adults from Gen Z.
An analysis of Google Trends data for 2023 found that Swift had dominated Google searches more than anyone. Yes, including Trump.
She was Newsweek magazine’s “Person of the Year.” She has more than 500 million social media followers worldwide, 279 million on Instagram alone…
…Last year, in a single Instagram post, Swift suggested that her fans register to vote and directed them to the nonpartisan nonprofit Vote.org. According to the organization, that single post brought in more than 35,000 registrations.
Last summer, the Federal Reserve actually credited Swift’s concert tour with significantly improving the national economy. Republicans are terrified of her reach for good reason. As for the misogynist men’s rights faction of the right, they’re just appalled that Swift is dating an NFL player. And Kelce isn’t just any NFL player. He’s a future first ballot Hall of Fame football player who had a monster game to help the Chiefs reach this year’s Super Bowl. Even worse, he’s done a commercial encouraging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, which has earned him the nickname “Mr. Pfizer” in the anti-vaccine crowd. It’s too much to handle for many of Biden’s opponents which is why the edgelords have gotten to work.
It’s particularly galling that Swift is canoodling with a football player (and a pro-vaccine football player at that), because right-wingers tell themselves that they have a monopoly on masculinity, and that men who hang out with liberals and feminists are beta males and soy boys. Kelce’s Chiefs can’t possibly have made it to the Super Bowl on their own merit.
Many people, including EJ Montini of the Arizona Republic, believe attacks on Swift will backfire.
The dumbest thing the MAGA cult and its media enablers have done (this week, anyway) is to turn against Taylor Swift.
Most recently, they’re pushing a looney conspiracy that the AFC Championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens was rigged to make the Chiefs win as part of some Democratic propaganda plan in which Swift and her Chiefs’ boyfriend, Travis Kelce, will somehow use the Super Bowl to promote the campaign of President Joe Biden.
This follows other wackadoodle notions, like when a Fox News host suggested Swift could be “a front for a covert political agenda.”
This kind of venom is just … not smart.
For Steve M. the point isn’t whether or not it’s smart to attack Swift and Kelce, but rather that this kind of insanity exists independently of Trump and so can be expected to outlive his political career. It’s a depressing argument, but Steve is not wrong.